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 350.


    You can check out any school in the country. Obviously as an average salary there will be teachers on less than this but then again there must be a few on considerably more (I believe the head is on in excess of 100K but there are 61 teaching staff). My point is that you can't use the peanuts/monkeys analogy

  • rate this

    Comment number 349.

    338. Icabod. My wife is has a degree and earns much less than me with my 4 O levels. She leaves for work at 0800 and returns at 1800. She has some food and then works to 2100. Then she tells me of the worries that she has as she is regularly falsely accused of different things in different languages. Then she is reminded by the TA's that she should not be a teacher as they are better. Brain Damage

  • rate this

    Comment number 348.

    the only way to find out if anyone can teach anything is to put them in front of a secondary school classroom of childre, year 9, and see if they can hold their attention for an hour.,,,keep them engrossed etc. And then do this 5 times in a day.
    Okay, but you've not actually taught the children anything yet, a party magician can do what you've listed, that's not teaching!

  • rate this

    Comment number 347.

    I am applying for the 2013 PGCE intake. I have had a look at the questions and they are not difficult. Examples include

    1)16% of 120
    2) Teachers organised activities for three classes of 24 pupils and four classes of 28 pupils.
    What was the total number of pupils involved?

    These are basic maths questions and so I am not surprised they are increasing the difficulty of it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 346.

    Great idea, however it shouldn't just be limited to new teachers. Why aren't teachers reviewed for suitability to the job 5-10 years down the line?

    Rarely are teachers ever sacked for poor performance. I can point the finger at several dreadful teachers I had who were responsible for my grades suffering when I could have got that B instead of the C I was awarded.

  • rate this

    Comment number 345.


    Also get teachers to have worked in business/industry BEFORE commencing TTC's. They may have a better understanding of how the real world works rather than the narrow band of "education"

    The best "teachers" I ever had were always the ones who came into the job from other areas not through just education.

  • rate this

    Comment number 344.

    326 Hastings

    Maybe your child's teacher understood better than you seem to the issues around teaching the concept, rather than just the mechanics, of decimal place value to young children. It's a bit like saying my five year old can count to ten so he shouldn't find the concept of millions too much of a problem.

  • rate this

    Comment number 343.

    John 304 All politicians fail us - oh and Johnny 305 You are spot on - the Tories are destroying the school system to widen the class divide. Great but expensive teachers are being bullied by heads and got rid of and people with little or no subject knowledge are being put in class to cover.

  • rate this

    Comment number 342.

    Oh goody; and are they going to introduce tougher tests for people wanting to be in Government? No worries with Michael Gove, of course. I heard that he has at least one Degree in child development and educational psychology. Not to mention his outstanding achievements in public relations.And the rest of the government too. Keep banging the rocks together, guys.

  • rate this

    Comment number 341.

    If parents or guardians disagree with the actions or comments of a particular teacher, then they could (first of all take) up the issue by asking for an interview with the teacher concerned. If that proves unsatisfactory, then they could contact the Head Teacher of the school in question. Was this the first course of action taken by your nephew’s guardians?

  • rate this

    Comment number 340.

    Dumb ideas from these MPs , makes me think that maybe a tougher qualifying test for them. Obviously having 10 friends and £1000 is not enough. There they are shooting their mouths off one week about transport , and then hey presto next week they are "experts" on the economy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 339.

    Education is the responsibility of parent , teachers , the state and pupils themselves . I can understand the governments sentiment but I think they should make parents and pupils understand their responsibilities and ensure the curriculum and examination standards are right . They should also ease the life of teachers from bureaucracy and interfering parents as well as creating aspirations .

  • rate this

    Comment number 338.

    Re high rated 145
    You omitted the £12k benefit value of the pension scheme.
    The weary teacher you mention does have an option - go and do another job. After all, the 'private sector' pays so much more money, doesn't it?
    But if on only £32k then she hasn't been promoted much so maybe like most of us she has just reached the ceiling of her ability.

  • rate this

    Comment number 337.

    If that number is correct then problem is overpay by at least two times! Such high pay is delivering the wrong sort of person. Smart Alecs, not communicators.

  • rate this

    Comment number 336.


    Were you a school bully ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 335.

    It 'strikes' me that teachers have a really tough time, hate their jobs, get paid next to nothing, are resentful and generally lead miserable and demeaning lives.
    However, there's a simple solution to all your problems :


  • rate this

    Comment number 334.

    Can't waste any more time on this subject but the only way to find out if anyone can teach anything is to put them in front of a secondary school classroom of childre, year 9, and see if they can hold their attention for an hour. If they can deal with lost pens, children who've lost books, disruptions from late arrivals, take a register, keep them engrossed etc. And then do this 5 times in a day.

  • rate this

    Comment number 333.

    There are many reasons why state education is not good enough. Poor parenting, meddling from politicians, lack of funds, quack theories, social breakdown, etc. We need to address all of these but at the same time it is clear to me as both a manager in the education sector and a parent that too many teachers (and managers) can't read, write or perform simple calculations and this has to be tackled.

  • rate this

    Comment number 332.

    I got 8A*, 2A, 1B at GCSE, 4A at A-Level, a 2:1 in Natural Sciences from a top University. I decided to go into teaching for a rewarding, secure career and to 'give back' but found that secondary science was an exercise in crowd control. Kids fighting, swearing, ripping up worksheets and telling me to "GET LOST" after planning for HOURS! Respect to those who stick it out. Parents, do your job.

  • rate this

    Comment number 331.

    Those who have always found it easy to learn do not necessarily understand the difficulties of those who struggle. My mathematics teacher was such a person. If we didn't understand the first time she explained a concept she just repeated the first explanation again instead of trying a different approach. Being a top graduate does not mean that you will be a good teacher.


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