When David Blunkett experienced the wrath of militant teachers at the NUT conference in 1995, the NASUWT's then general secretary Nigel de Gruchy ensured that the shadow education secretary had a standing ovation the following week when he turned up at their conference. So it was no surprise to read tongue-in-cheek reports today that NASUWT would strike if the tests for 11 year-olds went, a neat juxtaposition with the NUT's rallying call for a boycott of the tests by its members.
But behind the headlines there are two problems. The first is a headache for Ed Balls. He wants to move to a system of testing when ready, which would probably involve teachers in more work than the current tests, as there would be several testing opportunities each year; though the NASUWT objections are also to the NUT's absurd idea that the tests should be marked by the teachers themselves. There are good arguments for the Balls change, as well as the status quo.
There is a second problem that should worry us all. Keep tests, but scrap tables, say NASUWT. DCSF doesn't itself publish league tables. Its search engine directs you to individual school results. You can also see in an alphabetical list how those results compare with other schools if you search by local authority. Newspapers compile the tables using discs supplied by the DCSF. What NASUWT is demanding is that the government censors the information it supplies newspapers and the public. That is no more tenable than ditching the tests.