Scrapping QTS skills test is 'not dumbing down'

Tes understands that the DfE is set to scrap the computerised literacy and numeracy skills tests

teacher with kids

Scrapping the skills tests will not “dumb down” standards, the organisation representing scores of teacher training providers has said.

Tes understands that the Department for Education is set to scrap the computerised literacy and numeracy skills tests, which have to be passed before teachers can gain qualified teacher status (QTS).


Quick read: Teacher training providers call on government to scrap skills entry test

Viewpoint: 'Unlimited resits for pre-entry tests for teacher training are a step forward – but are the tests even needed at all?'

Insight: Error in skills test led to prospective teachers being failed


The reports have been welcomed by teacher training providers, who have long called for the government to scrap the “badly managed” and “redundant” skills test.

Today Emma Hollis, executive director of the National Association of School-Based Teacher Trainers (NASBTT), said that fears that scrapping the skills test would be a form of  “dumbing down” were misplaced.

“We were really pleased the DfE were reviewing them and listening to what we were saying and giving us the opportunity to let them know why we think they are not fit for purpose.

“The skills tests are an unnecessary additional burden which doesn’t give us anything extra, we are gathering that information in a much more nuanced and sophisticated way.

"No one is going to put someone in front of the children who doesn’t have a basic level of literacy and numeracy. We are talking about people with GCSE maths and English, and who have a degree. They are intelligent, well-educated people before they walk through our doors.”

It comes after the number of would-be teachers affected by an error in the skills test was revealed to be more than three times higher than originally estimated.

In April, the government admitted that there had been an error in the skills test, which had led to an estimated 200-plus would-be teachers being failed when they should have passed.

Since then, new information published on the Standards and Testing Agency website reveals that in fact 696 candidates were affected by the error between 2014 and 2017 – of which 528 subsequently went on to pass the test.

Last year, the DfE changed the rules to allow unlimited resits for the literacy and numeracy skills tests, which have to be passed before a would-be teacher starts initial teacher training.

Previously candidates had three attempts to pass the tests and, if they failed, they would be locked out of the system for two years.

But there were claims that the “lockout” period was preventing capable candidates from entering teaching and putting them under too much pressure on the final resit.

Both James Noble-Rogers, executive director of the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET), and Ms Hollis have argued the tests should be scrapped, arguing that would-be teachers must already meet literacy and numeracy requirements.

In 2017-18, around 3,750 candidates, just less than 10 per cent of all trainees, failed at least one test.

The latest figures for applications to postgraduate teacher training courses beginning in September 2019 show applications were down slightly in June, with 36,470 applicants in June 2019, compared with 36,870 in June 2018.

A DfE spokesperson said: “We expect graduates entering the profession to have the literacy and numeracy skills that parents and pupils rightly expect from teachers but we’ve heard from both training providers and applicants that the skills tests in their current form could be improved upon.

“That’s why we are working with universities, schools and school leaders to analyse and gather insight into the most effective way to assess the skills required by newly qualified teachers, including the role of the skills test.”

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