Press release

Toughened up skills tests ensure only the best train to teach

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

New more demanding rules ensure only high-quality candidates with good levels of literacy and numeracy go on to train to be teachers.

Teachers writing

New figures show that changes to toughen up the skills tests taken by prospective teachers have raised the quality of those entering the teaching profession.

New more demanding rules introduced in September 2012 have ensured only high-quality candidates with good levels of literacy and numeracy go on to train to be teachers. This will raise standards in schools. As a result, the Department for Education will not be bringing in new tests.

Since 1 September 2012 applicants:

  • must sit and pass both skills tests (literacy and numeracy) before starting a teacher training course - previously they did not have to sit and pass the tests before starting teacher training
  • must clear a higher pass mark on both tests - this has raised the standard for entry into teaching
  • are limited to 2 resits per test - previously they could take the tests an unlimited number of times - this change has ended the excessive resit culture of previous years; candidates who fail to pass after 2 resits cannot reapply to teacher training for 2 years

Under the previous system, the proportion passing was very high - 98% of candidates in the 2011 to 2012 academic year passed both skills tests and so could progress to qualified teacher status.

In 2011 to 2012:

  • 1,050 candidates had not passed the numeracy test after 5 attempts
  • 270 candidates had not passed the literacy tests after 5 attempts
  • 20 candidates had not passed both tests after 20 attempts

Results of the first cohort of applicants to teacher training sitting the tests under the new rules show that 88% passed both tests within 3 attempts. 12% did not pass both skills tests in 2012 to 2013. Almost 3% failed 3 times and cannot progress to teacher training for at least 2 years.

Candidates taking both skills tests (literacy and numeracy)

  Teacher trainees* taking tests in academic year 2011 to 2012 Teacher trainees* taking tests in academic year 2012 to 2013 2012 to 2013 applicants to teacher training (taking pre-entry skills tests for courses starting 2013 to 2014)
Number of candidates taking skills tests 35,724 39,567 44,069
Number of candidates passing both skills tests 35,087 (98%) 35,059 (89%) 38,657 (88%)
Failed three times and are unable to proceed N/A 574 (1.5%) 1,188 (2.7%)

*Teacher trainees also includes those who have completed their training but had yet to pass the tests.

A Department for Education spokesperson said:

The robust changes to the skills tests have had the desired effect, raising the bar for entry into teacher training and ensuring that high-quality graduates are entering the profession. This is raising standards in schools.

We will continue to evaluate the skills tests to make sure even more brilliant teachers are entering the classroom.

DfE enquiries

Published 26 October 2013