Department for Education
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New tougher tests for trainee teachers

- More rigorous pre-entry tests to raise status of profession
- New challenging English and mathematics tests from September 2013
- Calculators to be banned from mathematics 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 per cent 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; and
     
  • 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; and
  • weeding out poor quality initial teacher training providers.

This press notice relates to England only.

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