Press release

New tougher tests for trainee teachers

From 2013 prospective teachers will have to sit new tougher tests in English, mathematics and reasoning before they can start training.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
  • More rigorous pre-entry tests to raise status of profession.
  • New challenging English and maths tests from September 2013.
  • Calculators to be banned from maths tests.

Prospective teachers will have to sit new tougher tests in English, mathematics and reasoning before they can start training.

The changes - recommended by an independent review group of leading head teachers and education experts - would see calculators banned from the new mathematics tests and pass marks in English and mathematics raised.

This comes as part of the government’s efforts to raise standards in the education system. It will also help Britain compete and thrive in the global race and spread privilege across our country.

Trainee teachers currently have to pass basic skills tests in literacy and numeracy. Until this September, they took the tests only towards the end of their training course and were allowed unlimited re-sits.

Latest figures show that around 98% of trainees passed the tests, calling into question the level of challenge. Candidates have already been limited to two re-sits for each test from this September, and the pass mark has been raised.

Chaired by top head teacher Sally Coates, the Skills Test Review Panel has now recommended that:

  • the current tests are strengthened with tougher questions and approaches - for example, banning calculators and testing candidates’ use of English through their writing of continuous prose;

  • the pass mark for the English and mathematics tests is raised again, to the equivalent of GCSE grade B;

  • a new test for verbal, numerical and abstract reasoning is introduced, recognising that good teachers need to respond quickly and appropriately to often unpredictable demands.

Candidates will have to achieve separate passes in English, mathematics and reasoning in order to be able to start teacher training. The review panel also proposed that the new tests could be used alongside degree class as a factor in determining the level of bursary to which a trainee teacher would be entitled. The government has today accepted the review panel’s recommendations in full.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said:

The evidence from around the world is clear - rigorous selection of trainee teachers is key to raising the quality and standing of the teaching profession.

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.

Sally Coates, chair of the Review Group and the Principal at Burlington Danes Academy in west London, said:

In carrying out the review, we wanted the tests to send a strong signal about the quality of teachers we all want to see.

We believe that the whole selection process needs to be sufficiently rigorous to ensure that anyone who gains a place on a course of initial teacher training would be highly likely to succeed in that training, and go on to make an excellent teacher.

Charlie Taylor, chief executive at the Teaching Agency, which is responsible for administering the new tests, and a former headteacher said:

The new tests are part of our 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.

Today’s announcement is part of wider plans to raise the quality of teachers in England to match the best-performing countries in the world. The government set out last year its reforms in the ‘Training our next generation of outstanding teachers’ strategy, which include:

  • offering graduates particularly those with first-class degrees in physics, chemistry, maths and modern foreign languages significantly better financial incentives to train as teachers - up to £20,000;
  • extra financial incentives for trainee primary maths teachers and trainee teachers who work in the most challenging schools;
  • encouraging more primary specialist teachers to be trained through specialist training programmes;
  • the new School Direct programme allowing schools to lead their own high-quality teacher training;
  • giving schools a stronger influence over the content of initial teacher training, as well as the recruitment and selection of trainees;
  • weeding out poor-quality initial teacher training providers.

Notes to editors

This press notice relates to England only.

  • The Skills Test Review Group report, the government’s response and further details on the review can be found on the Department for Education’s website.

  • The current tests include questions such as:

  1. (Calculator allowed)

An ICT teacher compares the cost of building a paper-based ICT portfolio with the cost of using commercial e-portfolio software. The number of pupils on the course is 125. On average each paper-based portfolio includes 75 printed pages.

Costs are: printing - 2.5p per page;
ring binder - 75p.

The total cost of the e-portfolio software is £250.00 per year.

How much money would the school save by using the e-portfolio software? Give your answer to the nearest pound. [Answer: £78]

  1. (Spell the missing word in the sentence, heard through headphones)

Nadine was _____ that she had passed her Geography examination. [Answer: relieved]

Apart from the _____ details, the art lesson was truly inspired. [Answer: administrative]

  • Further examples of the current types of questions trainee teachers are asked on literacy and numeracy in the skills tests can be found on the Department’s website.

  • The review panel has proposed more demanding questions such as:

(No calculator allowed)

The cost, £C, of advertising in a newspaper is worked out using the formula: C = 0.4n + 0.75 where n is the number of words in the advertisement.

a) The cost of an advertisement is £11.55. How many words are in the advertisement? [Answer: 27 words]
b) If I have only £9.00, how many words can I afford? [Answer: 20 words]

The mean age of the 11 members of a football team is 22 years.

a) When one member of the football team was sent off, the mean age of the rest of the team was 21 years. How old was the player who was sent off? [Answer: 32]
b) The modal age of the 11 players is 17 and only the 3 youngest players are aged 17. The median age of the 11 players is 20. What is the maximum possible age of one of the players? [Answer: 41]

Continuous prose question: ‘Every teacher is a teacher of English. Discuss.’

Further example proposed questions can be found in the annex B of the Skills Test Review Group report.

  • Latest skills test re-sits data supplied by the Teaching Agency:
  2007/08 2008/09 2009/10 2010/11
Total number of candidates taking test 33,988 33,902 36,366 36,358
Passed skills test by number of attempts:
1st 27,322 26,814 29,266 30,624
2nd 3,756 3,892 4,141 3,448
3rd or more 2,492 2,734 2,483 1,903
Total pass 33,570 33,440 35,890 35,975
Failed at least once and are yet to pass: 418 462 476 383
  2007/08 2008/09 2009/10 2010/11
Total number of candidates taking test 33,607 33,517 36,669 36,616
Passed skills test by number of attempts:
1st 26,166 26,029 29,287 29,531
2nd 3,260 3,190 3,118 2,967
3rd or more 3,483 3,527 3,313 3,329
Total pass 32,909 32,746 35,718 35,827
Failed at least once and are yet to pass: 698 771 951 789

DfE media enquiries

Central newsdesk - for journalists 020 7783 8300


Updates to this page

Published 26 October 2012