The fairly predictable decision of the National Association of Head Teachers to ballot its membership on a boycott of national tests for eleven year-olds is nothing to do with the absurd notion that a single set of externally marked and set tests in the first fifteen years of a young person's life is 'damaging' and everything to do with the view of some professionals that it is impertinent of parents and taxpayers to wish to have a degree of accountability that is independent of individual schools. After all, it is up to individual NAHT members to decide how much they want to 'pressure' their pupils, and to pretend this is all the fault of the tests is not only disingenuous but is disproved by the many successful schools that manage to get the balance right.
The issue here is not whether the existing tests might be improved; they can. The Government is already reviewing them, and it is likely that the conclusion will be more tightly focused English and Maths tests. There is also merit in doing much of the testing online. Rather it is the growing view that professionals should be accountable to nobody but themselves, despite the fact that the taxpayer foots the bill (the Tories have already swallowed this view in their plans to leave doctors free of any patient-focused targets).
Having seen what happens with excessively light-touch regulation in the private sector, it is extraordinary that public servants should demand the same for themselves. Politicians of all parties should make clear that anybody boycotting the tests is in breach of their legal obligations and their duty to parents; they should do so quickly and without equivocation, and explain the consequences. Otherwise, all the gains in openness in our schools system over the last two decades will be endangered, and parents will once more find themselves excluded from a secret garden in which their enquiries are unwelcome and there is no external check on the assessments being made by teachers about their child's progress before GCSEs.