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 650.

    From what I understand, trainee teachers in the rest of the UK do not have to do these tests and yet are considered to be qualified to teach in English schools. Correct me if I am wrong, but I am sure that this is the case.

  • rate this

    Comment number 649.

    Look closer!

    Very Clever... Gold star!

  • rate this

    Comment number 648.

    The problems will not be resolved until society as a whole values education.

    As for the argument that we only want teachers who do it for love, not money: why, as long as they are good? Should we apply the same argument to doctors, Generals, politicians?

  • rate this

    Comment number 647.

    I have taught Mathematics, Science and IT and I am perfectly familiar with algebra etc. and I think that my English skills are reasonably good, in fact better than many. I am confused by this demand though, as I can understand the English requirement but what does a history teacher or an Art Teacher or Drama teacher need with algebra? Thank goodness I have now retired.

  • rate this

    Comment number 646.

    Has anyone noticed the modern teachers refrain?

    When children are bad or fail, it is always blamed on "bad parenting"

    Yet when they are good and succeed, it is always down to "good teaching"

    The teachers of previous generations never had to take this stance.

    Teaching, like policing and the NHS, is, I have to tell you, not what it once was.

    Stop whingeing.



  • rate this

    Comment number 645.

    Mr Gove tells us you don't need any formal qualifications or training to teach in an academy or similar "independent" school. Now he plans to make it even less likely that anyone will bother to try for a proper teaching qualification, which you will only need in order to work in State schools. Coincidence? Or... State schools will wither due to lack of staff leaving independents the only choice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 644.

    @613 mikeaa101.

    I fully agree . when I was into second year of high two pupils beat a PE instructor badly . I can still see the carnage now . blood everywhere . the two 15 year olds were suspended for a while but the teacher never returned.

  • rate this

    Comment number 643.

    to 635 name number 6
    -if all teachers are useless,why do some pupils get a run of straight A's before going to medical school?Did they learn at home? No.
    Did their parents come shuffling to the school gates in their pyjamas with a fag hanging out of their mouth? No to that too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 642.

    @611. Ah.. BODMAS - that takes me back a few years. My mad maths teacher telling me my calculator was rubbish because it gave an answer of 12 when I input 1+2x4. I must use that one in the 10 items or less queue at Tesco!

  • rate this

    Comment number 641.

    @635 Brilliant!!! :-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 640.

    How about, for starters, teachers being able to speak fluent & coherent English ?
    My brothers 2 boys come home speaking urdu & punjabi. Their class teacher is an Indian woman. They cannot understand her. She even speaks to the mainly 'asian' kids in their own language. My brother got branded a racist when he went to the school to find out what was going on as the boys were falling behind ??

  • rate this

    Comment number 639.

    I'm sure teachers do a good job, but nobody should be a teacher with poor spelling and grammar. How are children expected to observe high standards in these matters if teachers don't? Proficiency in English is not some sort of frippery dreamed up by pedants; it is a tool that will help you work more efficiently and effectively.

  • rate this

    Comment number 638.

    Good Egg

    Equality in the basic human right of education or a better education for the offspring of the wealthy? Do they sell moral compasses?

  • rate this

    Comment number 637.

    Can we have tougher tests for the Rich Lords of this country who live in a vaccumn commanding us like serfs while they get away with abuse and criminal tax theft?

    Tests tests tests. We need a test on the class system with those at the top facing the toughest of tests to see if they belong to society or are out of touch and hence not 'fit for practice'

  • rate this

    Comment number 636.

    Seems like pointless paperwork to me. Before being accepted onto a PGCE course in secondary science I was required to prove that I had a science degree and GCSE's in maths and English. Then I had to sit tests in them anyway !!

  • rate this

    Comment number 635.

    All teachers are useless, anyone who hasn't set foot inside a classroom for 30 years knows that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 634.

    if you have the money then go private.
    my school was filled with the dross of the rhondda,from broken homes.
    Parents have a lot of responsibility that they are happy to pass onto the state.they don't provide for themselves,nor do they raise their kids to a high enough standard to act many lazy,entitled,obese unemployable jokers who are allowed to breed.
    Anyone seen idocracy?

  • rate this

    Comment number 633.

    Chopseygirl; quite apart from the fact that your comment makes little sense (before politics?!!) - 'performance-related pay'? so teachers should be punished because parents can't rear their children? I'm sure grades would be higher if the educator wasn't dealing with feral kids. But does the blame lie solely with the parents? No. it lies with everyone looking to blame the WRONG PEOPLE. Think.

  • rate this

    Comment number 632.

    Shame this will never apply to the crims at No.10.

  • rate this

    Comment number 631.

    622 Lord Raiden

    Cheers, there's nothing like criticising a post by confirming it. I was right the first time 'Lord' Raiden.


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