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Call for scrapping of online testing

The Government should abandon the online literacy and numeracy tests new teachers must pass before they can get jobs, a teacher trainers' leader has urged. Professor Mike Newby, chair of the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET), said the tests have been "creating havoc".

Several PGCE students have contacted The TES to complain of computers crashing while taking the tests, forcing a retake. Each test takes 45 minutes to complete and must be done at a special centre. Students must pass both to obtain the Qualified Teacher Status needed to work in a state school, but will have four chances to pass each from May.

Mary Russell, UCET secretary, said there had been a lot of difficulties with the tests and the complaints were not isolated incidents.

The tests are being delivered online by NCS. A Teacher Training Agency (TTA) spokesperson said there had been about 50 cases of crashes while students took the tests.

CD-Roms with practice tests were reissued by production firm 3T after technical glitches were found.

One student called for a boycott of the tests and claimed this year's 27,000 PGCE students were "guinea pigs". She also said some questions were inaccurate and that conditins in test centres were unsatisfactory.

The situation vindicates Ms Russell's pleas to the TTA to pilot the online tests this year: "It's not fair on the students to use a system that has not proved itself," she said.

A Department for Education and Employment spokesperson said the tests aimed to raise the skill levels of newly qualified teachers. "Ninety-three per cent of trainees who took the numeracy skills tests last summer passed. This reinforces our strong view that the introduction of the tests was right."

Some students said the tests put excessive pressure on candidates and do not relate to the classroom situation. "When would a teacher have to assess data in 12 seconds or analyse more detailed data in two minutes?" asked one.

The PGCE student said potentially good teachers would be lost due to an inability to "react under the pressure of this false and meaningless exercise". Her fears were echoed by Professor Newby, who said the "insulting" tests would deter existing graduates from considering a teaching career. A similar test for ICT was postponed until September last year after trials revealed software problems.

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