Dear Teachers… please vote to boycott!

Dear Teachers,

Every year around this time we hear that your profession is desperate to get rid of high stakes tests like SATs.  Every year we are reminded that these tests are NOT good for our children, that they serve them no purpose and that they are pointless and damaging to children, to teachers and to schools.  Every year we read stories which fill us with sorrow and anger that this system has not yet been fixed.

Every year parents contact us with stories centred around mental health – children self harming or being diagnosed with school related anxiety. Every year there are accounts of children being asked to sit tests with sick buckets at their side or whilst infected with chicken pox or even in a hospital bed. This year the most heartbreaking headline must be of a family told to bring their 11 year old into school to sit SAT tests in isolation following a funeral of a close family member. This has to stop.

Every year the evidence mounts that high stakes tests in primary are causing untold damage to our children, to our schools and also to the reputation and respect of the teaching profession itself.  Every year more teachers and children are damaged by this system. Every year caring professionals say ‘enough is enough’.

We know that these tests are forced upon you. We know you try your very best to minimise the damage they cause and we thank you for that. But we need you to stop hoping Nick Gibb is going to suddenly wake up to the damage being done… while this government is in charge SATs are here to stay. This government is unwilling to accept the possibility of change – it is time to trust the teachers, the heads and the unions to work together with Ofsted, the government and parents to create a better system. This is our chance to change things.

The National Education Union is the biggest education union in Europe. On June 4th eligible members will be asked to vote as to whether to boycott primary school high stakes tests in 2020. Trade Unions laws in our country mean that the vote will not be valid without a 50% turnout. Of that 50% turnout, 80% must vote to boycott. Those are big numbers. Every vote counts. Your vote counts.

We urge you please to vote. We urge you to vote to boycott. We urge you to be part of the solution not the problem. We urge you to be part of this education reform.

Reform could mean Ofsted having to widen its accountability measures, to meet Amanda Spielman’s promise of less focus on data – relieving pressure on schools and children, allowing teachers, government and experts in children’s development to work together to establish a better, more successful and joyful way forward:, improving outcomes for children with real world skills, knowledge and resilience.

Reform could mean secondary schools returning to setting realistic targets for their students’ GCSEs, relieving the pressure placed on secondary students, teachers and schools by unrealistic Progress 8 expectations; relieving pressure on children up until the age of 16; hopefully meaning a reduction in the current dangerously high levels of mental health concerns amongst our young people.

Reform could mean that play based learning could return to the early years and Key Stage 1 – currently dominated by a test driven curriculum.

Parents want reform. Parents have led boycotts, removed their children from school during SATs weeks; they have taken part in a huge ‘Kids’ Strike’ day, campaigned through petitions and via MPs. This has done wonders to raise awareness of the damage SATs cause but it can’t fix the system.

Many parents are teachers; Many parents know teachers; Many parents talk to teachers. Our petition to say that parents support teachers to boycott the SATs currently has almost 55,000 signatures proving just that. In addition, our recent poll, following the decision to ballot for a boycott at conference, showed 96% of patents DO SUPPORT teachers to act and to act NOW.

We thank the brave headteachers who have risked their positions to stand against what they know is wrong for the children in their care, but there is little even the bravest heads can do if they stand alone.

This year teachers have the chance to act, as part of a powerful union and with support from parents; a chance to say enough really is enough. Teachers have the chance to bring back power to the teaching profession.

On behalf of parents across the country, please vote YES to boycotting high stakes tests in 2020. We stand with you. Together we CAN make change happen.

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