Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the NEU, said: 

“The Schools White Paper, Opportunity for All, has disappointingly little to say about the need to change the models of curriculum and assessment that Michael Gove established, with little consultation, nearly ten years ago.

“Today’s resolution mandates the Union to continue to address the problems of this model, and to develop alternatives to current systems of assessment, both primary and secondary. 

“In this work the Union is part of a growing movement for change. Recent reports have demonstrated that there is support across the political and educational spectrum for the replacement of outdated assessment systems.

“The Government’s late action on contingencies for teacher assessed grades during the pandemic caused educators unmanageable workload and the approaches implemented in 2020 and 2021 are not a model for the future. Secondary teacher workload is unsustainably high and must be reduced. Improving the assessment system must encompass manageable expectations around workload. However, using assessments that go beyond written tests does not have to cause the burden government created during the pandemic, if planned properly. Using a more varied approach is something that is already embedded in the systems of many other countries around the world. Even in England, many qualifications in the Vocational and Technical sector already do so.

“That which is measured or assessed is invariably that which becomes prioritised and as such the ability to memorise and regurgitate facts should not be the only way in which we allow students to show what they’re capable of. It does them an injustice, entirely dismisses the professional expertise of educators and deprioritises skills which will be important for life and work in the 21st century.

“Through setting up the Independent Assessment Commission on qualifications in secondary education, the NEU has worked with others - including parents, the Chartered College of Teaching, the Edge Foundation and the CBI - to lay the basis of a consensus for change. The Union has now initiated the Independent Commission on Assessment in Primary Education, which will produce practical alternatives to the high-stakes testing which afflicts almost every year group in primary schools. 

"By narrowing the curriculum and promoting teaching to the test, our current assessment systems lower the quality of education.”


Note to editors

We are currently in Bournemouth for our Annual Conference (11-14 April), during which time you will receive a higher number of press releases than usual.  

The Conference Press Office can be reached on 07879 480 061. You can also email the press officer at caroline.cowie@neu.org.uk  

Our conference agenda is available here

The hashtag for Annual Conference is #NEU2022 

  • The National Education Union stands up for the future of education. It brings together the voices of more than 450,000 teachers, lecturers, support staff and leaders working in maintained and independent schools and colleges across the UK, to form the largest education union in Europe. 
  • It is an independent, registered trade union and professional association, representing its members in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. 

The National Education Union is affiliated to the Trades Union Congress (TUC), European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE) and Education International (EI). It is not affiliated to any political party and seeks to work constructively with all the main political parties.