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‘A teacher skills test error shows a lack of care’

A decade-long unnoticed error in a skills test for teachers shows a lack of care, Tom Starkey writes

An error unnoticed in the teachers skills test for ten years is unacceptable, Tom Starkey writes

Personally, I don’t have any particular problem with having a skills test for teachers. It doesn’t really bother me that there’s a basic standard to reach if you want to successfully participate in teacher training.

Some people see it as an unnecessary burden (which I also get) but then I think there has to be at least something that gauges the skills in English and maths that a teacher should have.

Whether those skills are relevant, whether it means that good people are being denied a spot in a job they’d be perfect for otherwise or whether it’s just a way of creating revenue for the suppliers are all valid discussions to have, (so I might save them for another column, lucky readers).


Read more: ‘The best form of CPD? Give teachers time to talk’

More news: Exclusive: Fears skills test delays will deepen recruitment crisis

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


But for the moment the skills tests are a thing that teachers have to do before they start their training, so therefore they’re pretty important in the grand scheme of things, whatever you think about them.

So important, in fact, that there’s been a mistake in the mark scheme for at least 10 years.

Yep, you heard me right ladies and gentlemen, the skills test is so critical in a teacher’s journey to competency that no one’s bothered to check whether it’s actually accurate FOR OVER A DECADE.

Now, let’s put aside the relevancy of the test for a moment and look at the underlying implications of having a pretty much borked assessment that went unnoticed for more time it takes for two World Cups to roll around or a reception child to go through their entire school life and achieve a degree (if that is, indeed, their chosen path). I mean, 10 years ago N-Dubz was number one in the charts – that’s how long ago it was.

There’s a message here. One that says something about the import that’s placed on the development and training of teachers and how that can come second fiddle to box-ticking exercises that supposedly prove something but crumble to dust if someone can be bothered to hold them up to the light for more than a minute.

For me, it’s not the fact that there’s an error in the skills test (years of having to contact exam boards and point out that their questions don’t make a jot of sense after the red flag of a kid coming out of a GCSE befuddled as all heck has hardened me to such heinous errors, unfortunately) it’s just that it went unnoticed for so long.

The lack of care and attention regarding teachers learning their incredibly important trade sends a signal that actually, it’s not all that important.

Two hundred teachers failed when they should have passed. Perhaps it’s a small number in the grand scheme of things – I don’t rightly know. But it’s a number that, if the proper checks were in place and an underlying ethos that the steps teachers take are vital for them to be the best they can be, probably wouldn’t have happened. But it’s “only teachers”, so why bother?

Tom Starkey is an education writer and consultant

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