The DfE has today announced it is to replace the existing skills tests on teacher training courses with a new system.
School standards minister Nick Gibb has made a written ministerial statement today in which he states: “I am introducing a new approach for assessing the numeracy and literacy of prospective teachers, which will replace the existing skills tests.
Quick read: Scrapping QTS skills test is 'not dumbing down'
“From October, teacher training providers will become responsible for ensuring that prospective teachers meet the high standards of literacy and numeracy required to be a teacher.
"Under this new system, trainees will be benchmarked against a defined set of skills they will be expected to have by the end of their initial teacher training."
Scrapping the skills tests will not “dumb down” standards, says the National Association of School-Based Teacher Trainers (NASBTT), the organisation representing scores of teacher training providers, which has campaigned against the tests for a number of years.
Emma Hollis, executive director of NASBTT, said the tests were known "barriers to recruitment," and that scrapping them could save approximately £15 million per year which could instead be spent on continuing professional development instead.
She said: “We are thrilled that the DfE has removed the outdated skills test system which is no longer fit for purpose. It is a known barrier to the profession and does not reflect the way we teach and assess children and therefore is not representative of how we want the profession to behave.
"There may be fears from some quarters that this may be seen as ‘dumbing down’ the profession, but we think those fears would be misplaced.
"We have had too many cases of either ‘false positives’ or candidates missing out by just a few marks, often as a result of technical issues or difficulties with the false test situation, which does not accurately reflect their understanding.
"The decision also removes the practical barriers that have been an issue – location of test centres and difficulty booking appointments – and is more inclusive as accessing the test centres (including the need to fund travel to get to them) were more of a barrier to some candidates than others.
"ITT providers will now be able to take a developmental approach to a candidate’s functional literacy and numeracy which will allow gaps to be identified and filled. Going forward, this will ensure quality and consistency as providers will have a more rounded understanding of the functional literacy and numeracy requirements of a cohort."
In 2017-18, around 3,750 candidates, around 10 per cent of all trainees, failed at least one test.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said the move could help encourage people into teaching.
“We welcome the government’s plans to scrap the numeracy and literacy skills tests which prospective teachers are currently required to take," Mr Barton said.
"They are unnecessary and are a potential barrier to recruitment at a time when we have an acute shortage of teachers.
“We need to be encouraging people to become teachers rather than finding ways of putting them off, and the government’s announcement is a step in the right direction.”
James Noble-Rogers, executive director of the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET), said: "The skills tests have been expensive, ineffective and poorly administered. Initial teacher education providers are much better placed to carry out on programme assessments of student teachers literacy and numeracy skills.
"UCET has been arguing for the tests to be abolished for many years and we are pleased that the government has taken note."