By Duncan Morrison, Assistant Secretary Lewisham NEU
After a meeting with the National Education Union’s Action Committee, school workers in Lewisham hope the committee will allow us to have another indicative ballot on boycotting high stakes testing in primary schools in December.
That should be followed by a formal ballot in January. We hope to be boycotting the preparation for the tests by the beginning of March. We hope other Districts will follow our lead.
In the national indicative ballot on boycotting, in June, of National Education Union, members over whether to boycott high stakes testing in primary schools, around 12 Districts beat the anti-union law turnout thresholds, suggesting they could also beat them in a formal ballot.
Another 10 or so were within striking distance.
Shortly after the indicative ballot closed, the National Executive agreed to consult with Districts who had met or got close to the thresholds. In fact that consultation was risible — one email to District Secretaries from an unknown employee entitled “Assessment campaign – message from the Joint General Secretaries”.
The email focussed on the difficulty of getting head teachers and Year 6 teachers to support the boycott, despite the fact the boycott was deliberately constructed to include all school workers and all the tests. It was also designed to remove the veto of heads on a boycott (head teachers are the most conservative part of the union).
Unsurprisingly, only eight districts responded, and only Lewisham responded saying we could get a boycott.
General Secretary, Kevin Courtney then wrote to Lewisham asking for a meeting to discuss the boycott. He wanted over one-third of our year 6 teachers present.
Lewisham District had already unanimously agreed to write to the Action Committee, asking to be balloted on a boycott. We had also unanimously agreed to write to the 20 districts with the highest vote in the indicative ballot. From our one email putting the case for the boycott we received four positive responses, rather shaming for the official consultation.
Lewisham school workers believe the only plausible way to force replacement of an assessment system which 97% of our members think is broken is to rely on our collective action and boycott it.