14 Apr 2009
So the National Union of Teachers' annual conference has, hardly surprisingly, backed the move towards a boycott of the 2010 SATs. Now the focus turns to the head teachers' conference at the start of next month.
That will be the real crunch. While teachers do not appear to have a legal duty to carry out the tests, head teachers would be considered to be in breach of contract if they failed to ensure the tests go ahead.
This could turn really nasty. I suspect the NAHT conference will back the move towards a ballot in the autumn. And I cannot see the government backing down from its insistence that some form of external testing is required at age 11 as a measure of school accountability.
Oddly enough, I could see this confontation coming. At the start of the year, in separate private conversations with the leadership of the NAHT and with those very close to ministers, it was apparent that each side misunderstood the other.
The NAHT leadership clearly thought that SATs were on their way out. Those in government were surprised to hear that this was the NAHT's expectation. Much of this has flowed from loose language by government, particularly Ed Balls' statement that 'nothing is set in stone' when it comes to the tests. However, I don't think he ever meant that the tests could disappear altogether.
Incidentally, it is odd that we still talk about SATs when they have not been called that for years. More properly they are the national curriculum tests. But SATs caught the public's attention and so, I suppose, that's what they will remain, until such time as tests disappear altogether.