TEACHING union representatives in the region last night backed renewed calls to abolish compulsory tests for primary school pupils.

The newly-formed Primary Education Alliance wants the Government to abandon the Key Stage One Standard Assessment Tests (SATs).

The pressure group claims the tests put youngsters under undue pressure, rendering them "disillusioned, demotivated and disaffected".

Schools should be able to carry out their own assessments in partnership with parents instead of continuing with tests set by central Government, it said yesterday.

Trevor Blacklock, National Union of Teachers (NUT) divisional secretary for County Durham, said it was already leading the push to abolish SATs - and advocated the abolition of all three key stages, from the age of seven to 14.

Mr Blacklock, who likened the tests to the manufacturing of cars in a factory, said SATs were "testing for testing sake".

NUT members are planning to boycott SATs from Easter 2004.

Mr Blacklock said: "Internal assessments by staff are as good as these tests which terrify the kids. The Government uses them to create league tables and then punish schools based on their results.

"SATs also cut away the whole learning experience for the very young because there has to be so much concentration on doing well in them."