Trainee teachers to face tougher entry tests

Primary school teacher Currently trainees face basic literacy and numeracy tests once courses have started

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Entry tests for people wanting to become teachers will be more rigorous to raise the quality and standing of the profession, the government says.

Teacher trainees in England face tougher tests in English, mathematics and reasoning from next September.

They were developed by a panel of heads and experts following complaints current tests were too easy.

Education Secretary Michael Gove says the "rigorous selection" of trainees is key to raising standards.

He added: "These changes will mean that parents can be confident that we have the best teachers coming into our classrooms.

"Above all, it will help ensure we raise standards in our schools and close the attainment gap between the rich and poor."

Limited retakes

The move follows a government-commissioned review by a panel of heads and educationists of the current skills tests for people wishing to become teachers.

The new exams replace simple arithmetic with more complex mathematical problems without the help of calculators.

And there will be longer written exercises rather than straightforward word identification. In English, as now, candidates will be tested on spelling, grammar and punctuation.

Start Quote

We also want teaching to be a real choice for top graduates”

End Quote Charlie Taylor Teaching Agency

The pass mark has been raised and there are also questions in verbal, numerical and abstract reasoning.

These will take the form of on-screen and verbal tests to assess the candidates' ability to solve problems, recognise patterns, think laterally, evaluate and analyse issues.

But, perhaps most importantly, from September 2013 anyone wishing to train to be a teacher must pass these tests before attending a training course. Currently trainees sit these later on in their course.

Candidates will also be limited in the number of times they can retake the test, being allowed to sit it three times. Anyone who fails three attempts will not be allowed to take the test again for a further two years.

But unions have expressed concerns about the move - saying it places too much emphasis on those who are new to teaching.

Undermining profession

Association of Teachers and Lecturers past president Julia Neal said: "If you're going to raise standards it's not just about recruiting teachers in the first place, it is actually keeping them and retaining them.

"I do think that sometimes there's a message going out which is really just undermining the profession. Are we saying that teachers at the moment aren't good enough because they haven't passed these tests?

"I do worry about the message that's going out about the profession."

Charlie Taylor, chief executive of the Teaching Agency, and Joe Grant, a prospective trainee teacher, discuss the planned changes

The current tests were introduced between 2000 and 2003, amid concerns about the standard of teachers' literacy, numeracy and ICT.

The government says the plans are part of wider measures to raise the quality of teachers in England to match the best-performing countries in the world.

Charlie Taylor, chief executive at the Teaching Agency, which is responsible for administering the new test, said it was part of his strategy "to create an outstanding workforce of teachers".

"This is what parents expect and children deserve.

"We also want teaching to be a real choice for top graduates and by raising the bar on entry, we will further raise the status of the profession."

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said all teachers needed strong literacy skills and a good grasp of mathematics.


"It is however surprising that Michael Gove is showing such interest in the entry requirements for teacher training courses, while at the same time advocating that schools should be free to employ unqualified teachers.

"The real issue is the training and support that teachers are given once they have entered into teaching training."

Shadow schools minister Kevin Brennan said Labour supported efforts to raise the quality and status of teachers, but that other measures were needed.

"We need more high flying applicants, and Labour has set out plans through our New Deal for Teachers to expand schemes like Teach First, improve training and on the job development and incentivise bright graduates to teach in less well off communities.

"However, the government continues to insult teachers and damage morale with its extreme policies and out of touch rhetoric.

"Michael Gove called teachers 'whingers' and 10,000 teachers have left the profession. That is putting school standards at risk."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 1090.

    Was just paraphrasing info given by ex-colleague now teaching science at University rather than those teaching at the more intense junior/secondary educational level.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1089.

    Much as it pains me to say this but I agree in principle with what Mr Gove is trying to do. However, if you want the best people to teach then you must reward them. Who in their right minds would work and 50 hour + week and then be told that you're inadequate because the students you teach are not interested. Demand the best, yes, but reward them as well with money, respect and prestige.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1088.

    1086: usedtobe Bill

    For example: 9 more in class 27 last year, 36 this; a group of six who are more able than any in the class last year; four with special needs, none last year; one boy exceptionally good at maths, at least two years ahead; then there's the Polish girl who doesn't have much English yet. Teach the same lesson year after year? Probably not. This is my daughter's class by the way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1087.

    1086. usedtobeBill

    '... lessons in maths and grammar, punctuation etc are surely just a repeat of the the previous years ...'

    To paraphrase a discussion between a poor teacher and a Head.

    'But I've taught for twenty years'

    'No, you've taught the same year twenty times. It's not the same thing'

    You couldn't be more wrong usedtobeBill.

    Also Governors don't get involved at that level.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1086.

    Sorry. I have previous posts supporting the stupidity of inappropriate tests / the hard work of teachers.
    Reading a few of the excuses of teachers time spent preparing for lessons.
    The context of the lessons in maths and grammar, punctuation etc are surely just a repeat of the the previous years ad nausea. A few tweeks to gain acceptance from the governors doesn't take that much time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1085.

    This is great news. I am friends with qualified teachers who can't spell, and struggle with mental arithmatic. Who can argue that this is unacceptable? Of course, if we make it impossible to pass GCSEs without being able to spell, then part of this problem is solved for future teachers. Luckily for my young daughter, all of her teachers seem fantastic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1084.

    'What qualifications does an MP require?'

    None but remembering to tax and insure your car may be a bonus !

  • rate this

    Comment number 1083.

    Giving them much more difficult IQ tests is long overdue but they still need to be assessed for wisdom, mental stability and ability to teach. But in return they should also be allowed to administer corporal punishment to classroom thugs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1082.

    I find this very frustrating. I am a young teacher who goes through a daily battle to teach pupils who have little motivation and often have a poor attitude to learning. I work hours after school for very little money considering the time I spend preparing lessons. I feel that we need more support in schools to raise pupil aspirations rather than blaming teachers yet again!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1081.

    Oh dear - I think these posts are running out of steam. Teacher bashing season may be over for another week. Face it, teachers do their very best in the circumstances. Parents do too. We need to sit down and decide what kind of education children need. It isn't even up to the government. It's up to parents and teachers to decide what children need. Not some distant Whitehall politisckspeak.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1080.

    How exactly is a working knowledge of algebra going to help someone who teaches art, or PE? Or 4-year-olds, for that matter?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1079.

    Perhaps the problem is with the teaching profession in general rather than the teachers.

    With so many new teachers dropping out of the profession after just one or two years and with so many more newly qualified teachers who have little or no job satisfaction, something is working as it should.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1078.

    I have learnt as much as a teacher from my pupils( thousands of them over the years) as they have learnt from me. That's as it should be.

    Rapport in the classroom enhances the essential magic that allow teachers to communicate with their pupils. And they become OUR pupils, that we defend and love as teachers. Gove - you have NO idea what teaching involves but involves the heart.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1077.

    I do not know which is the biggest joke to be honest! Gove and his cronies suggesting "tougher tests for teachers" and then at the same time saying that academies can employ non qualified teachers?? So which is it to be then? The profession is dying on its feet with incompetent Head teachers and ignorant politicians. "Bravo Mr Gore" !

  • rate this

    Comment number 1076.

    The govt seek to blame rather than give teachers the conditions to do their jobs to the highest standards; can a teacher really teach 6 x1-hr lessons PLUS attend meetings AND plan AND mark to a high standard (plus other duties)? Have the critics experienced what this is like? Effective planning takes time. Effective marking takes time. Effective teaching uses high alertness/performance energy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1075.

    Might we also have similar tests for those who wish to stand for parliament?
    Literacy in order that they may understand the regulations on parliamentary expenses.
    Numeracy lest they claim to much for their rent.
    Integrity - lest we have someone with high office who is known to have broken regulations on expenses.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1074.

    Repeat - teaching is a vocation, a calling if you like.

    You become a good teacher by wanting to pass on knowledge that you have - to others, and share the passion.
    The government wants to stop this by unnecessary testing . The best teachers, whatever their qualifications, will FIND OUT what pupils need to know and guide them towards that knowledge. It's a learning process - for everyone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1073.

    For those who need some help there is a new QTS course you can book on to help prepare for the test. It's called 'QTS Numeracy Exam Workshop' on 15th December 2012 at University of West London, Brentford.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1072.

    Aha, another Teacher bashing session. Our kids have been to several schools owing to us moving, the Schools we have seen have always had good Teachers who are committed to quality education but you cannot make a silk purse out of a Sow's ear. There are lots of lousy parents that will fail their children, will convince them that education isn't important and will never support their Schools.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1071.

    3 Minutes ago
    1067 David H

    Apologies if raising a few of the many, many examples of problems caused by payment by results in the private sector
    FYI, I have never worked in any those areas.
    I worked in ennvironments where people looked at solutions/alternatives
    and didn't bang on about a myriad of problems and reasons why we can't do it like.....


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