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 830.

    Lord_Raiden, you miss the point completely. Are we to expect people in society to devote themselves to a profession and not pay them an appropriate salary? You are typical of the 'I pay your wages' Tory, we also pay taxes. Teachers work during the holidays and standards are failing because of government interference in the classroom. Furthermore, the pensions were offered to us when we joined.

  • rate this

    Comment number 829.

    "Ted Wilcock (85) - Morecambe"

    You don't need to tell us your IQ Ted, everyone is welcome.

  • rate this

    Comment number 828.

    I would like Mr. Gove to take these tests , and at least try to teach
    just for one month in a comprehensive school.

    Theoretically scoring marks on a paper and passing the test will not make an excellent classroom teacher.

    Having excellent subject knowledge and delivering this to the students to their level of understanding/engaging the students in the classroom makes a good teacher.

  • rate this

    Comment number 827.

    Basic literacy and numeracy should be a requirement for teachers. The definition of 'basic', however, is not quite clear-cut.
    I'd also advocate minimum standards of literacy and numeracy at each school transition point (nursery to primary, primary to secondary, to A-levels, to further education, etc.) If you don't make the grade, you don't progress.
    It's this way in real life, after all...

  • rate this

    Comment number 826.

    @818 Sonya
    "Making the test tougher in English or Maths will not necessary help to recruit an excellent Science teacher".

    Hmm...I don't see how you could teach science well without a good grounding in maths. And you can't communicate well with pupils without a good grounding in English.

    Difficult to see how you could be an excellent science teacher without either of them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 825.

    Schools by their definition are supposed to be for the educating of children, unfortunately they have become in some cases drop in centres for teens, and child care for the younger ones, if companies provided childcare, schools could go back to their intended purpose which is education, I am not saying teachers do not care, but schools should not be used as day care

  • rate this

    Comment number 824.

    I do find it really interesting how a man with no teaching experience, no first hand experience of how education should be managed, lead, delivered etc. is leading this countries Education department. Not to mention also, a man who has never been educated by the state but by his parents income alone.

    It would be like asking a journalist to become a Head Teacher... WAIT!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 823.


    Kebab, don't let me down ~ we were forging such a beautiful relationship. Tell me you don't believe that schools are there for day care/baby sitting?! Surely they are there to support, encourage, enlighten ..?

  • rate this

    Comment number 822.

    What do Teachers teach, My granddaughter has been told on numerous occasions at school to look on the internet if she wants to know something, that is not teaching. Yes I was taught at secondary school but my god the teachers were very very good at there job they took time with you, not now find out yourself seems to be the trick.

  • rate this

    Comment number 821.


    Excellent comment - too many in society (from all sides) look to blame others for their woes when in fact all they often need to do is look at themselves more closely.

  • rate this

    Comment number 820.

    I have every sympathy for teachers. I regret to say there really is an underclass where education is not only undervalued but actively discouraged. We must take whatever measures necessary to counter this stupidity. Wringing hands and blaming class divisions is outmoded, last century and condemns victims to eternal failure.

  • rate this

    Comment number 819.


    Teaching should be vocational and not simply about how much you're "payed".

    Lots of teachers in here bemoaning their terrible pay and conditions that the rest of us have to fork out for, from 13 week holidays to unaffordable final salary pensions. Truly obscene.

    All this against a backdrop of a demonstrably failing profession with plummeting standards according to the OECD et al.

  • rate this

    Comment number 818.

    Making the test tougher in English or Maths will not necessary help to recruit an excellent Science teacher
    The tuition fee and the teachers salary are less appealing
    The class room discipline issues have made situation for teachers worse to carry on
    The 3 assignment tasks set for a PGCE trainee did not help
    None of the above have helped , how would
    a though entry exam to teachers will?

  • rate this

    Comment number 817.

    Teaching begins at home. If. as parents we do not give our kids some moral values, teach them how to show respect to others and to earn respect...Then we have failed as parents.
    Its a cop out to blame it just on teachers...We all know that the standard of education in this country has gone down in the last few years, but we as parents must stop being apathetic and ask ourselves why this is ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 816.

    @756 terryd
    So what? The point here is that teachers should have a basic understanding of both maths and English before they can even begin training as teachers; that's a laudable aim and can only be good for the children, all other things being equal.

    Flaunting your BS Hons in this and Mensa score of that is irrelevant. FWIW my MSc and Mensa score (169) trump what, who cares?

  • rate this

    Comment number 815.

    The govt should respect teachers before they expect students to do so. Pay them well like bankers as it is they who teach the would be bankers and politicians the moral and intellectual lessons. Make teaching performance based and not a charity or social service to bring the best out of teachers. I have seen some working from 8am to 5pm.

  • rate this

    Comment number 814.

    805 Matthew

    It seems such an obvious idea, especially given all the legislation related to family friendly hours etc ~ it would be nice if Gove would spend his time devising new solutions rather than rehashing tried, tested and tired ideas.

  • rate this

    Comment number 813.

    Before they start blaming the teachers, they should take a look at the behavior of the kids, which is often caused by very bad parenting, letting kids run wild, no discipline, no respect. doing away with punishment does not help. My son is a teacher, i tried hard to persuede him not to be. why should teachers have to face the threat of violence against themselves from these kids.

  • rate this

    Comment number 812.

    Bravo Mr. Gore - With mediocre teachers undermining the excellent work
    carried out by competent teachers, our children have been denied a good
    all-round education for too long. The kids need the best for the sake of
    their futures and our Country. Sir - stick with your plans - no watering down.
    Ted Wilcock (85) - Morecambe

  • rate this

    Comment number 811.

    @806 really so a hung parliament resulted from everyone believing both are very different, quite the opposite i imagine, with other reasons factored in.


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