New secondary pupil assessments cause union to hold ballot for industrial action


A leading teaching union in Northern Ireland is embarking on a series of industrial action ballots in protest over new assessments for secondary school pupils.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) is taking “concrete action” over end of key stage assessment arrangements.

Northern Ireland is moving away from a system in which most moderation is carried out internally in schools.

A new approach is designed to be more robust and involves a greater degree of external checks. However, this means there are additional demands on teachers to keep pupils’ work.

A pilot was criticised as “unworkable and burdensome” but the system was rolled out last year.

Other unions, including the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation, are instructing members to boycott all aspects of the arrangements.

Education minister John O’Dowd plans to shake-up the assessments in response to feedback from teachers.

Now, the ATL is proposing that its members refuse to co-operate with the changes. Ballots have been sent to members in 10 post-primary schools across the North.

ATL director in Northern Ireland, Mark Langhammer, predicts these will be the first of dozens of such ballots.

The union previously wrote to headteachers indicating that the new arrangements were not fit-for-purpose.

Mr Langhammer says ATL members in Northern Ireland are making the case for industrial action “loud and clear”.

The union argues that the arrangements are “ultra-bureaucratic”, have not been tested for their impact on workload, and are “unsustainable, in human terms”.

In addition, they claim they are “both a system check and a pupil diagnostic tool. In our view, they can’t be both”. They also “distort teaching the revised curriculum”.

Mr Langhammer said: “The assessments are educationally unsound, but are also in contractual breach and have not been workload-proofed.”

“This represents but the first wave of schools where our members have pressed for industrial action. Having met members in schools around the region, I would estimate that dozens more schools will join them. There’s absolutely no grasp of reality in the revised proposals. The two substantive issues – the workload on teachers and the reliability of the level as an indicator of pupil progress – are, if anything, made worse.”


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