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Test boycott backed

Wednesday, 14th April, 2010

By Andrew Robertson Local parents were likely to support a decision by teachers to boycott next month's literacy and numeracy tests, according to Barrier Teachers Association president Maureen Clark.

The executive of the NSW Teachers Federation is due to meet on Friday to discuss the Australian Education Union's (AEU) decision on Monday to boycott the national tests. The AEU claims that data from the exams will be used to rank schools unfairly on the government's My School website.

Mrs Clark said that she was "fairly confident" the Teachers Federation would be "following the direction" given by the AEU, and undertake a policy of non-co-operation. She also suggested that local parents would be unwilling to help ensure the National Assessment Program Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) tests went ahead, as the federal government has suggested. Education Minister Julia Gillard has said that if teachers do boycott the tests the government would consider using parents to assist with supervising.

"No, I can't see that happening here, and in fact the State Federation of P&C has said they will not cross the picket line and act as scabs ... and I say good on them," Mrs Clark told the BDT. Even if the federal and state governments were able to enlist parents, Mrs Clark said that "the logistics of it are incredible". "You can't just have anyone coming into a school ... and they won't have the co-operation of the Federation to do this."

NSW Premier Kristina Keneally has threatened to take teachers to the NSW Industrial Relations Commission if they boycott the tests. But Mrs Clark said that Ms Gillard's refusal to change the My School website left it "open to abuse" that would damage schools. She said that "simplistic" comparisons provided through the My School website could lead to a "knee-jerk reaction" from parents to remove kids from school.

While she has yet to see any evidence of that occurring in Broken Hill, Mrs Clark said league tables may pose the greatest risk to towns with only a few schools. "It could well be a bigger issue in country areas."If it goes on it could impact on us locally, we do not want that to happen." Mrs Clark said teachers weren't opposed to the NAPLAN tests."The NAPLAN tests can certainly give us valuable information, and it is certainly good that parents can get some basic information about their kids.

"We're opposed to the misuse of information which is provided to the government by schools and then placed on the My School website and misused by organisations who produce league tables which are based on the results of one test. "We see that the ethical responsibility rests firmly with the government and they must meet this responsibility.

"We want the federal government to assure us that this data is not going to be misused. Julia Gillard has refused to do that."

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