Teacher training providers call on government to scrap skills entry test

Director of body representing university teacher trainers says abolishing professional skills test could save £15 million to invest in CPD

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Two bodies representing teacher training providers have called on the government to scrap a "badly managed" and "redundant" skills entry test.

The leader of the organisation representing university teacher trainers said the move could free up £15 million to be ploughed into teachers' continuing professional development, while his opposite number representing school-based trainers said many providers currently "disregard" the test. 

Earlier this month the government announced it would be allowing unlimited resits of the professional skills tests that must be passed before anyone can enter initial teacher training.

The move was viewed as an attempt by the government to encourage more entrants into teacher training after figures released last month showed that applications for training were down by 29 per cent compared with the same time last year.

Speaking at an event in London this morning, James Noble-Rogers, executive director of the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers, welcomed the change. However he said the government should go further by "getting rid of skills tests altogether".

Mr Noble-Rogers said the tests deserved to be abolished because there were "badly managed".

"A couple of years ago the system was in near meltdown - there weren’t enough places in skills test centres to accommodate all the people that wanted to take them," he said.

But Mr Noble-Rogers also said the test was "redundant" because initial teacher training providers already have entry criteria relating to literacy and numeracy.

"We already have GCSE entry requirements in maths and English for entry to ITT. If the government has confidence in their own GCSEs then the skills test are redundant.

"Most ITT providers don’t have that much confidence in what the skills tests are measuring anyway and carry out on course assessments of trainees, so why not just make that a requirement for ITT?" 

He said that scrapping the tests would save £15 million "right away to invest in CPD for new teachers".

The call was backed by Emma Hollis, executive director of the National Association for Schools Based Teacher Trainers. 

"I fully support the removal of skills tests entirely and putting those in the hands of accredited training providers," she said. 

"We already, to a large part, disregard the skills tests and start again with genuine diagnostic tests.

"The skills tests are not diagnostic, they don’t help with where the gaps are. We diagnose gaps and we make sure that by the end of the teacher training year they are ready to hit the ground."

She added: "No teacher educator wants people in front of our children who do not have the basic literacy and numeracy skills that you would expect, and that’s what a year of teacher education is for."

The intervention by Ms Hollis and Mr Noble-Rogers builds on a blog they wrote for Tes earlier this mont questioning the usefulness of the test

While the UCET and NASBTT have called for the test to be abolished, such a move could fuel claims that the government is "lowering the bar" for entering teaching. 

Last weekend the chief executive of the Chartered College of Teaching, Dame Alison Peacock, told Tes that she would be "worried" if a maths teacher had not managed to "pass an initial test for a number of times".

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