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 670.

    Surely all teachers need a degree in their main subject plus an A or B at GCSE in Maths, English and Science? If they don't insist on this for their postgraduate course, perhaps they should - rather than administering a whole new raft of tests that will take time and money (and for many new teachers, won't even be challenging). Or is the government saying that they don't trust the exam results?

  • rate this

    Comment number 669.

    Can't believe I'm reading this, so what is it all about in the academies?
    Non qualified teachers are to be welcomed while Gove wants the "right" kind of teacher.
    Methinks he actually means what he says, bit like hitler youth there.

  • rate this

    Comment number 668.

    @659 et al

    Assuming the 30 years reference was in response to my earlier post, I guess the possibility that I myself might be a parent (indeed grandparent), and therefore heavily involved in my own daughters' schools, as a PTA member, never crossed your minds? Can't say I'm surprised.

    Funny, I had to correct maths workings during parent evenings too, at a supposed 'Top 10 in UK' comprehensive...

  • rate this

    Comment number 667.

    @Paul G.apologies if I took it the wrong way but my daughter is a teacher and she works upto 12-14 hours a day marking and preparing lectures. And this includes so called 'Holidays'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 666.

    I've always wanted to be a teacher, and graduated with an English degree in 2009. I'm married so can no longer sponge off my parents, & could never afford to stop working for a year to go back to uni to do a PGCE - I'm already £17k in debt! Instead I have moved to Spain where I teach small class sizes (no more than 10) and have an extremely supportive head. I don't think I'll be coming back...

  • rate this

    Comment number 665.

    A bit stupid but nice bureaucracy. They'll have to start paying teachers a bit more if wanting to attract them to the profession. I can't even imagine who'd want to be a teacher these days with the risk of abuse, violence against which teachers have no defense; no discipline, recalcitrant pupils who'd sooner not be at school - but worst of all Ofsted and its perpetual interference.

  • rate this

    Comment number 664.

    I agree that teachers should have a good grasp of english, maths and IT use. In my (nearly) ten years of teaching I have taught a variety of subjects apart from the one I qualified to teach in and this has included maths. I also have to use computers extensively in school. Perhaps lack of ability should not be prohibitive, but training could be offered for those who may not be adept in one area.

  • rate this

    Comment number 663.

    #635 Pray tell Name Number 6, what is your chosen vocation?

    Perhaps someone can also enlighten me as to the qualifications and training required to become one our political masters, ahem, sorry, servants? After all, becoming an MP / Cabinet Member is little more than a popularity contest.

  • rate this

    Comment number 662.

    @656 I think you have missed the sarchasm in their comment

  • rate this

    Comment number 661.

    @638.Il Pirata
    I've no problem with the principle of egalitarianism you suggesting the lowering of standards & opportunity across the board in order to achieve this.

    A likely result of the realisation of your proposal is kids whose parents could afford it being privately educated in foreign private institutions. My view is that this would reduce egalitarianism, not increase it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 660.

    Academies can hire who they want, experienced teachers are routinely replaced by newly qualified teachers because they are cheaper and teaching assistants are taking on roles that teachers should be doing. It doesn't matter how much 'rigour' you introduce if there is no enforced standard on the use of QTS teachers in ALL schools.

  • rate this

    Comment number 659.

    @643 Umm, they were being sarcastic......The 30 years bit.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 658.

    The inconvenient truth is that so-called British education is not about raising standards, but rather about lowering it to the basic level just enough for the work units to operate in their given roles. Why would any hard right capitalist system want a populace educated enough to absorb, analyse and critique/question a government's policies designed to act to the detriment of the average person?

  • rate this

    Comment number 657.

    I wonder how long Micheal Grove would last teaching a class of 14-year-olds.

  • rate this

    Comment number 656.

    @635. What a worthless plonker you are. Your on a different planet to most people and probably are a parent who does not support the teachers of your offspring. The teachers need support not some useless idiot like you sprouting off.

  • rate this

    Comment number 655.

    285. Al

    How many teachers do you actually know?

    What you described sounds nothing like reality.

  • rate this

    Comment number 654.

    "He who withholds his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently."
    Soft parenting and teaching and mamby pamby laws. We are all in part responsible and no one is entirely blameless.
    Add to that TV's, Laptops, mobile phones, internet, drugs & alcohol and you have a growing band of out of control, unfulfilled, disrespectful and underperforming teenagers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 653.

    I was a teacher for eight years. Worse, I actually became a teacher because I wanted to be one - which included a 50% pay cut.
    What did I find? Colleagues who were obsessing about their mortgages, NUT dimwits, dung being piled on me on a daily basis in the press, whilst having to take on a second job to subsidize my work because of my pathetic budget . I quit and quadrupled my salary, worry-free.

  • rate this

    Comment number 652.

    'been internally assessed at least 27 times'

    I'm impressed - once was enough for me as the consultant had fingers like pork sausages - and it turned out it wasn't appendicitis after all that !!

  • rate this

    Comment number 651.

    I'm glad the the entry requirements are getting tougher. I would also hope that given the importance of the job teachers are independently assessed at least once a year.


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