Press release

Expert panel to toughen up tests for trainee teachers

Tests for trainee teachers are to be reviewed so that all new teachers have the basic skills needed.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

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Around one in five fail current basic literacy and numeracy tests first time round.

The tests that trainee teachers have to sit are to be reviewed by a panel of outstanding head teachers and education experts so all new teachers have the basic skills needed to be great teachers.

Trainee teachers currently have to pass skills tests in literacy and numeracy. However, they only take the tests after starting their training course and they are allowed unlimited re-sits.

New figures show that around one in five trainees fail either of the basic tests first time round. Around one in 10 trainees has to take the numeracy test three times or more to pass.

The Government set out last year, in the ‘Training our next generation of outstanding teachers’ strategy, its plans to raise the quality of trainee teachers in England to match the best-performing countries in the world. In order to attract top graduates into teaching, they will be offered bursaries of up £20,000 to train as teachers.

In line with this, the skills tests will be strengthened so that they are testing candidates to meet rigorous standards of literacy and numeracy. The new tests will be introduced in September 2013 for trainees who are starting training from 2014.

The review will be undertaken by the Skills Test Review Group, chaired by Sally Coates, Principal at Burlington Danes Academy in west London, who chaired the Review of Teachers’ Standards. They will also seek the views of advisers from across the world of education on how these tests should be developed to be more demanding. The Review Group will report to Ministers by the end of June 2012, in time for the introduction of new tests in September 2013.

While the tests are being reviewed, from this September the pass mark for the current tests will be raised. Trainees who fail one or both of the skills tests at the first attempt will be limited to two re-sits for each test. They will also have to pass the test before starting their course, so those without the right skills cannot start the training.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said:

International studies show that rigorous selection of trainee teachers is key to raising the quality and standing of the teaching profession. It helps ensure trainees are committed to becoming teachers.

Strengthened trainee tests and an end to constant re-sits will mean parents can be confident that all teachers have the basic skills needed.

Teachers not only need great subject knowledge, they also need high levels of literacy and numeracy, strong interpersonal and communication skills, a willingness to learn and a motivation to teach. All these are characteristics of effective teachers.

The current tests include questions such as:

  • For a practical task a primary teacher needs 25 millilitres of liquid for each pupil. There are 28 pupils in the class. How many millilitres of liquid are needed? [Answer: 700 millilitres]
  • Teachers organised activities for three classes of 24 pupils and four classes of 28 pupils. What was the total number of pupils involved? [Answer: 184 pupils]
  • Nadine was _____ that she had passed her Geography examination. Is the correct word: releived, relieved, releaved or realived? [Answer: relieved]
  • Apart from the _____ details, the art lesson was truly inspired. Is the correct word: administrative, adminstrative, administretive or adminstretive? [Answer: administrative]

Sally Coates, chair of the Skills Test Review Group, said:

It’s important for all teachers to have high standards of literacy and numeracy themselves, whatever they teach.

That’s why I’m delighted to lead this review of skills testing, to make sure that all new teachers have these vital skills.

Stephen Hillier, chief executive at the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) said:

The review will identify the core skills and knowledge that all teachers need if they are to deliver high quality lessons and progress in their careers.

The new tests build on our strategy to create an outstanding teaching force, which includes large bursary payments for top graduates and courses to boost trainees’ knowledge. This is what parents expect and children deserve.

Details of the Department for Education’s plans to reform initial teacher training can be found from training outstanding teachers .

Notes to editors:

  • Remit of the Skills Test Review Group: To advise Ministers on the development of more demanding tests for entry to teacher training so that all candidates must demonstrate the rigorous standards of literacy, numeracy, and other intellectual skills necessary to become a teacher. Recommendations should cover the content, level of difficulty and means of assessment for the new tests. The review should bear in mind the need for cost effectiveness in any new testing system introduced. It should report to Ministers by the end of June 2012, in time for the introduction of new tests in September 2013.

  • The Initial Teacher Training Strategy and implementation plan.

Literacy test re-sits data supplied by the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA):

Total number of candidates taking test 2003/4 2004/5 2005/6 2006/7 2007/8 2008/9 2009/10 2010/11
Passed skills tests by number of attempts: 33838 34396 34695 35282 33986 33517 36366 36064
1 28864 26930 27438 28942 27320 26814 29266 30474
2 3003 4411 4204 3713 3758 3892 4141 4724
3 or more n/a n/a 2508 2271 2492 2734 2483 297
Total pass 32,723 33,902 34,150 34,926 33,570 33,440 35,890 35,595
Failed at least once and are yet to pass 1,115 494 545 356 416 77 476 469

Numeracy test re-sits data supplied by the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA):

  2003/4 2004/5 2005/6 2006/7 2007/8 2008/9 2009/10 2010/11
Total number of candidates taking test 33516 33965 34290 34922 33603 33517 36669 36002
Passed skills tests by number of attempts:                
1 27341 26964 26791 26811 26163 26029 29287 29378
2 2814 3314 3427 3516 3263 3190 3118  2952
3 or more n/a n/a 3160 3843 3483 3527 3313 3492
Total pass 31,306 33,247 33,378 34,170 32,909 32,746 35,718 35,822
Failed at least once and are yet to pass: 2210 718 912 752 694 771 951 180
  • Biographies of Skills Test Review Group:

Sally Coates is Principal of Burlington Danes Academy, west London. The school mostly serves the very deprived White City Estate and its results in the last two years have almost doubled with 75 per cent of students achieving five A* - Cs at GCSE including England and maths. She is now also acting as Executive Principal at Evelyn Grace Academy in Brixton. Sally was previously Head of Sacred Heart School, an Ofsted ‘Outstanding’ VA school in Camberwell, London Borough of Southwark. She has always worked in inner city schools in London and has been in teaching since 1976. Sally started work as an English Teacher in Peckham Girls now The Academy at Peckham. Sally recently chaired The Review of the Teaching Standards and has also served as a member of the Key Stage 2 Test Review Committee under the chairmanship of Lord Bew.

Joan Deslandes is head teacher of Kingsford Community School, a secondary comprehensive school with specialist language college status in Beckton. She has twice been named in London’s 1000 most influential people by the Evening Standard.

John McIntosh OBE retired in December 2006 after nearly 30 years as the headmaster of The London Oratory School, a voluntary-aided Catholic school in central London. He was a member of the Health Education Council from 1985 to 1988 and the National Curriculum Council from 1990 to 1993, and is presently a member of the National Curriculum Review Advisory Committee. He was a pioneer in the introduction of the Licensed Teacher Scheme in 1989, the predecessor of the Graduate Teacher Scheme; more recently he has been a tutor on the PGCE course at the University of Buckingham. He has been actively involved in several think tanks concerned with education throughout his career.

Dr Dan Moynihan is CEO of the Harris Federation of Schools, a thirteen Academy chain rising to 19 Academies in September. Of nine Harris Academies inspected, eight have been judged to be outstanding. Dan was previously headteacher of two highly successful London Schools. He serves on the DfE Ministerial Advisory Group.

Professor Anthony O’Hear is Professor of Philosophy and was head of the Department of Education at Buckingham University, where he co-founded the Buckingham University PGCE. He also serves as Director of The Royal Institute of Philosophy. He was a Government special adviser on education for almost a decade under Margaret Thatcher and John Major’s Governments, and has sat on the boards of the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority, The Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education and the Teacher Training Agency.

Ann Slater is the Dean of the Cass School of Education and Communities at the University of East London. Ann has worked in teacher training for nearly 20 years and prior to this was an acting headteacher of a primary school. Ann has worked as an Ofsted inspector for schools and as an additional inspector for Initial Teacher Training. Ann has been involved in a number of advisory groups with the TDA, the National College and the DfE.

Greg Wallace is Executive Principal for the Best Start Federation in Hackney which comprises four schools - London Fields, Mandeville, Whitmore and Woodberry Down. He is also executive headteacher at Burbage Primary School. He has sat on a number of reviews including the Bew Review and the review of Teacher Standards.

  • From April 2012, the Teaching Agency, a new executive agency, will replace amongst other bodies the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA). It will be responsible for ensuring the supply of high quality teachers and training, and for teacher regulation. This is subject to getting all necessary approvals, including Parliamentary approval of related legislation.

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Published 27 March 2012