Literacy and numeracy tests toughened for new teachers

Hand writing fraction on blackboard The test for would-be teachers include fractions, percentages, spelling and grammar

Students will not be allowed to enter teacher training in England if they fail basic numeracy and literacy tests three times, under tougher rules to raise teaching standards.

At present students are allowed to take unlimited re-sits while they train.

The Department for Education said one in 10 trainees takes the numeracy test more than three times, while the figure is one in 14 for the literacy test.

The National Union of Teachers said it considered the tests "superfluous".

The aim is to improve the standard of students entering teaching.

From September 2012, candidates will have to pass the assessments before they are permitted to begin their training courses.


  • Q: Teachers organised activities for three classes of 24 pupils and four classes of 28 pupils. What was the total number of pupils involved?
  • A: 184.
  • Q: There were no " " remarks at the parents' evening. Is the missing word:
  • a) dissaproving
  • b) disaproveing
  • c) dissapproving
  • d) disapproving?
  • A: d
  • Q: For a science experiment a teacher needed 95 cubic centimetres of vinegar for each pupil. There were 20 pupils in the class. Vinegar comes in 1,000 cubic centimetre bottles. How many bottles of vinegar were needed?
  • A: 2
  • Q: The children enjoyed the " " nature of the task. Is the correct word:
  • a) mathmatical
  • b) mathematical
  • c) mathemmatical
  • d) mathematicall
  • A: b

The tests are the same for both primary and secondary school teacher trainees, who must also have achieved a grade C or above in GCSE maths and English.

'Toughening up'

The numeracy tests cover reading graphs and tables, as well as mental arithmetic questions including percentages and fractions.

Grammar, punctuation, spelling and comprehension are covered in the literacy tests.

The government is expected to publish details on Monday of changes to teacher training.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said the proposals would "emphasise our commitment to boosting the status of the profession by toughening up the recruitment process and ensuring that all new teachers have a real depth of knowledge in their subject".

But the NUT said candidates who needed several resits to pass the tests were dyslexic, had English as an additional language, or were less familiar with the on-line testing system.

"The NUT has always argued that the entry requirements for initial teacher education, which include GCSE passes grade C or above in English and maths, should be sufficient and make the additional skills tests superfluous," said General Secretary Christine Blower.

Michael Gove: "I think you need to raise the bar right at the beginning and to say we'll have a tough literacy and a tough numeracy test."

The National Association of Head Teachers said it was right to have "demanding expectations" of recruits to the profession.

But the union's general secretary, Russell Hobby, said: "We should not fall into the trap of thinking, however, that academic excellence necessarily makes someone a great teacher. We want smart people, but we also want visionary, caring, energetic, creative and thoughtful people."

And he warned that pay levels and cuts to pensions were deterrents to new entrants.

The Department for Education has already said that training bursaries, available for sciences, maths and languages, will only be available for candidates who have a 2.2 degree or above.

It also plans to develop a network of "teaching schools", which will focus on training teachers, in conjunction with universities, as well as professional development for more experienced staff.

The first 100 are due to launch in September 2011, with another 400 expected in the following three years, the DfE said.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 332.

    Maths is just so important that perhaps nowadays every teacher should have a Higher at B or above. They should also be able to work out everything without a calculator i.e. long division, multiplication of decimals and nasty fractions etc. If the teacher can't do the arithmetic how do we expect children to learn it ? Come on ! How long can we allow this maths avoidance culture to perpetuate ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 323.

    We need good recruits, but it is more complex than it first appears. Teachers need hard work, detirmination, empathy, adaptability, enthusiasm, a sense of humour, and good "people skills". Not all teachers work in "chalk and talk" situations. Originally I was an art teacher ; today I would not be allowed to teach, because of mild discalculia , but I ended as a succesful head of a special school.

  • rate this

    Comment number 311.

    Being more academically gifted doesn't always make a better teacher, however these tests appear basic, many of the students that some of the teachers will teach will be at a higher level than this. If you can't pass these tests then you shouldn't be a teacher. Allowing three attempts is actually quite generous if standards were pushed down further you could end up with barely literate teachers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 303.

    I trained 4 years ago and I passed the tests first time. I have no problem doing them in principle but I think that it is a major indictment of the current GCSE system, if it is deemed necessary by the 'educational establishment' that such tests are necessary. I do find it rather ironic that the same establishment constantly waxes lyrical about how standards are improving- major dichotomy I feel?!

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    I'm currently taking these Numeracy and Literacy tests so I can progress on to the Cert Ed. qualification in September. I would understand doing these tests if I was in my thirties as my GCSE's would have been fairly old but it hasn't been ten years since I've completed mine. I had to have GCSE Maths and English C or above to be able to get into University and I teach Art so it seems silly to me.


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