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 630.

    I fail to understand how tougher tests will attract better candidates? Surely the idea is to attract people who will be good at&enjoy teaching and are able to work with children.
    It's the governments attitude towards teachers with constant interference which undermines the standing of the profession.

    And why does Gove want stricter tests when his free school teachers do not have to be qualified?

  • rate this

    Comment number 629.

    Bashing teachers as lazy good for nothings who only went into the job for the long holidays is a good way to raise standards in education isn't it? In the world of party politics children mean nothing, it's all about divide and rule. The priorities of this government are the rich, the rich, and the rich and setting the plebs at each others throats is a good way to keep them in their place.

  • rate this

    Comment number 628.

    Dance dance wherever you maybe
    I am ' Lord' Gove you must listen to me.
    Promotion is mine but I'm an MP
    And your just an idiot with a PGCE.

    Teachers are uneducated, lazy, not fit for purpose and what they teach is rubbish etc. This man has such fabulous leadership skills just what teachers need.

  • rate this

    Comment number 627.

    So the Government are deflecting attention from their own failings in education and blaming teachers. Labour also did this. I hold teachers in high regard. They have become victims of the Government induced public sector bashing and have to put up with yobs every day. From an engineer in the private sector (in case you question my motives).

  • rate this

    Comment number 626.

    @620.Il Pirata
    How very liberal of you. State education will always be poor whilst BOTH parties use it as a political football.

    Lets make the nation completely egailtaria:. No one is allowed to buy their own car, clothes or food. Everyone has to wear sackcloth, eat porridge and drive motor bikes with side cars, all provided by the gvt to a gvt in return for our obedience.

  • rate this

    Comment number 625.

    Take heart, teachers. In about 10 years there should be a few less of the screaming, foul mouthed louts and loutettes making your lives misery, if the government proposal to limit child allowance to 2 children gets the go ahead.

  • rate this

    Comment number 624.

    Raise standards by rigorous selection and tougher tests? I graduated with a 1st from a top 5 uni, went on to do a PGCE. Spent one year working 7 days a week, 9-10 hours a day, disrespected by both staff and pupils and given very little support for not very much money. Left teaching, returned to academia where I am respected and paid better. 'The best' will go elsewhere without better incentives!

  • rate this

    Comment number 623.

    Good! Sorry teachers, I'm sure many of you are excellent and competent, but we're the only country in Western Europe where one can become a teacher with a 3rd class degree. And it shows. (And don't tell me I can't start a sentence with the word "and." :p)

  • Comment number 622.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 621.


    Ah, you don't like tories then? How typical, you think you can accuse someone of generalising and in the very same sentence you do so yourself but thats ok?

    Shouldn't you be at an anti government conference somewhere?

    Or better still, how about in the classroom!

  • rate this

    Comment number 620.

    A big problem is that most of the decision makers and politicians have no personal interest in the state school system - It's just a political football for the Tories. Let's ban private education and raise standards for ALL with everyone including the rich and powerful having a vested interest in ONE system.

  • rate this

    Comment number 619.

    I am doing my profession accountancy exams. They are tough exams. In my line of work though, just because people pass these exams doesn't mean they are good accountants. I have met plenty of qualified accountants who don't have a clue on the basics yet I have learnt a great deal off people who are not qualified. In short, its a con and the institutes use it to extort money out of trainees.

  • rate this

    Comment number 618.

    Just to clarify the answer is 12 not 210 as some have commented.

    I was joking with Ashley as i mentioned @573


    611. Counterpoint
    #600 Galaxy
    BODMAS is taught but it is not been called that for many years. The pupils also have to know the underlying Mathematical principles and not apply the rule by rote.

    OK cheers, i still feel the level of maths has fallen

  • rate this

    Comment number 617.

    I worked with some teachers who had a very poor grasp of any maths. And this was in a science subject! The tests are a good idea. Also, I've come across teachers who were not very literate and allowed their students to get away with shockingly bad errors in language...

  • rate this

    Comment number 616.

    @594, Do you have any quantitative evidence that test make teachers better? May I ask what you do for a living?
    Also are you saying the GCSE, A Level AND degree system isn't rigorous enough if we require further tests?

  • rate this

    Comment number 615.

    Meddling politicians are the biggest problem. Perhaps the politicians should be made to take a stiff test before being allowed loose on the country.
    And no the test shouldn't include.
    How to fiddle expenses
    How to lie, cheat and cover-up
    How to line one's pocket from priviledged information

    Get the message yet? We're all sick of your incompetent and dishonest ways.

  • rate this

    Comment number 614.

    Dear oh dear, it make you wonder where on Earth these semi literate teachers received their training.

  • rate this

    Comment number 613.


    In response I say this, having taught myself in the public sector, private sector and now in FE, FE is by far the most challenging environment.

    You say companies have difficult people to manage this is true, however how many companies do you know that would allow this to happen

  • rate this

    Comment number 612.

    Education Secretary Michael Gove thinks it is time to tell the EU to "give us back our sovereignty or we will walk out".

    He thinks he is right yet again!

  • rate this

    Comment number 611.

    #600 Galaxy
    BODMAS is taught but it is not been called that for many years. The pupils also have to know the underlying Mathematical principles and not apply the rule by rote.


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