Trainee teachers' literacy and number tests called for

lecture Trainee teacher applicants could face literacy and numeracy tests

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A government commissioned report into teaching standards in Scotland has recommended trainee applicants undergo basic literacy and numeracy tests.

The report, by former chief inspector of education Graham Donaldson, is due to be published on Thursday.

However, the BBC understands it suggests prospective teachers should face reading and writing tests when they apply for training places.

It comes amid concern that incompetent staff are entering the profession.

In February last year the Scottish government asked Mr Donaldson to undertake a review of teacher education in Scotland.

The report was presented to Scotland's education secretary Michael Russell.

The call to introduce competency tests for teachers is one of 50 recommendations.

Other proposals include giving would-be teachers more practical experience in schools, creating "hub schools" for training placements and the opportunity for teachers to gain a masters qualification during their career, as well as increasing the range of training courses to attract a range of people to the profession.

Analysis

Putting teachers to the test in basic literacy and numeracy is more controversial than it sounds.

Since the late 1960s a focus on these skills has been viewed by education professionals as pedestrian and possibly obstructive to the development of real intelligence.

Many believe these skills are more than ever a low priority since calculators and computer spell checkers now tackle many tasks.

Most of us - certainly those under 55 who missed the era of systematic teaching - are prone to errors.

Research indicates school leavers who have particularly poor skills have a high chance of struggling to find work throughout their lives.

Few employers prefer to take on staff who may embarrass their organisations by exposing to public view phrases passed by a spell checker e.g. "the isle of white" and "scull" - in the context of a report on graves. (True examples.)

Expect more controversy if the Donaldson review out tomorrow suggests any kind of fast track training scheme for star graduates with big personalities.

The concept championed by President Obama is that putting high achievers into sink schools injects a little more dynamism and higher expectations of the children.

Critics say short training courses leaves these teachers short on skills.

Lindsay Paterson, professor of educational policy at the University of Edinburgh, said that as things stood, teacher training courses were "simply not intellectually challenging enough".

He said: "We know from research evidence that the numeracy of trainee primary school teachers leaves a great deal to be desired.

"This has to be addressed rather urgently."

Professor Paterson said it was vital that screening was put in place to ensure trainee teachers had competent levels of literacy and numeracy.

He added: "At the moment that is not being done adequately or systematically. A lot is left to chance and is left to the education that these students themselves got at school.

"That's not satisfactory and a lot more has to be done during the university phase to develop their numeracy and literacy to much higher levels."

He added: "We have to have a great debate about exactly what numeracy and literacy are, what levels are required and so on, and of course, they have to be interpreted in a broad way that's not just about grammar, not just about doing sums.

"It's a much deeper understanding by teachers of how language works and how numbers work."

The Universities' Council for the Education of Teachers (Ucet) welcomed the move to introduce literacy and numeracy tests for trainee teachers.

Though executive director James Noble-Rogers warned the tests should be implemented in such a way that ensured "potentially good teachers were not put off from entering the profession".

The membership organisation also praised a number of other elements in the report including the central role for universities in teacher training, and the need for close collaboration between schools and universities.

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