Ed Ball’s letter to governors regarding the SATS boycott

Ed Balls has written (belatedly in my humble opinion) to school governors regarding the NAHT boycott of the SATS. Unfortunately the pdf of the letter on the governornet site is a scan, and the text of the letter isn’t available anywhere. I think the actual text needs to be indexed and made available, so I have included it below.

Dear Colleague

You will be aware of the NAHT and NUT decision to take industrial action to frustrate the administration of this year’s Key Stage 2 National Curriculum Tests. We are deeply disappointed that they are pursuing this action when the clear majority of heads and deputy heads do not back this action – over two-thirds of union members did not vote to support disrupting the tests.

The unions have been clear they have no problem with testing, but they do not want to see the results being made public. While we have proposed different ways in which information about school performance is made public in the future, including the report card, we believe it is unacceptable to deny parents a full picture of the progress their child is making and information about their local schools. Schools should be fully accountable to the public and communities they serve.

We are also introducing changes to KS2 tests following discussions with NAHT in order to place more emphasis on teachers’ own assessments of pupils’ progress, which is an objective we know heads and teachers share. From this year, teachers’ assessments of pupils’ progress will be published alongside KS2 test data and we will introduce locally based, light touch moderation from 2011 to ensure that standards are applied consistently. But we know that the great majority of parents value the information currently provided by the tests and that Governors of both primary and secondary schools, and local authorities use externally validated test data for planning and accountability purposes.

It is not simply that heads have a legal duty to oversee the tests: even more importantly, they have a professional and moral duty to pupils and parents. Pupils and teachers have been working hard all year, have been preparing for the tests and pupils are now expecting to sit them. They should all be given the opportunity to demonstrate their achievements in tests which are set and marked properly. It would be very unfair if some children were prevented from doing so at the last minute. Parents will also be concerned about the effect of any test boycott on the information that secondary schools will be expecting to receive for their children this year. We hope that those head teachers who voted for action will think hard before disrupting children’s learning, confusing and inconveniencing parents, and damaging the profession’s reputation. We believe that it is vital that this year’s tests take place as planned between the 10th to 13th May, as children and parents are expecting.

Advice to Governors

As you will know, alongside the head teacher’s statutory duty to administer the tests, Governing Bodies have a statutory duty to ensure that the tests take place. We recognise that you will be placed in a very difficult position if your head wishes to frustrate the administration of the tests and this advice is designed to help you.

Firstly, you should of course find out whether the head teacher intends to administer the tests. If a head does not intend to do so, you should remind them of their statutory duty to administer the tests.

If a head teacher still does not intend to administer the tests themselves, it would be wrong for them to frustrate another competent person from administering the tests, and you should establish that they would not do so.

When you have established this, we recommend that you speak to your local authority and/or diocesan authority about next steps. If necessary, you may consider whether to instruct the head teacher to remain absent from school at times when the tests are due to take place, while another person administers the tests.

You should be aware that staff belonging to other trade unions and those members of NUT who are not in leadership positions are not part of the industrial action, and should be carrying out their duties normally, including in relation to supervising tests or handling test papers. However, those staff cannot be expected to take on any duties which heads are specifically responsible for but are refusing to take on.

In addition to ensuring that parents understand whether the tests will be taking place, Governing bodies should ensure that the QCDA’s National Curriculum assessments help line on 0300 303 3013 is informed of any instances where it is known that tests will not be administered.

Further advice, including Frequently Asked Questions can be found on the GovernorNet website: http://www.governornet.co.uk and you can also speak to
Governorline, the national governor helpline on 08000 722 181.

Where to now?

This is an amazing turn up. Ed Balls has admitted that what these teaching unions want is to turn back the clock.Gorbals Mick Brookes ‘Gorbals’ Mick Brookes is making the same mistake as his namesake did as speaker. Ed Balls has candidly admitted – for the first time as far as I’m aware – that the NAHT are okay about the tests themselves. They just want the results hidden from the public which pays for them. This recidivist attitude just won’t wash in the 21st century, no matter how much lobbying Mick Brookes and Co. does over beer and sandwiches at Great Smith Street. Has Mick never heard of Freedom of Information or the Information Commissioner? Ed Balls recognises that parents want this information.  He hasn’t talked about parents’ right to information, although undoubtedly they have serious rights.

If Mick Brookes isn’t careful, he’ll find his members don’t have time to administer SATS for answering FoI requests from parents for things like the SEF, SDP, SIP Reports, etc, all of which ARE public documents and should be available to all as public documents.

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