Diagnose talent by all available means

22nd February 2008 at 00:00
We noted with interest the response last week to Sir Tom Hunter's suggestion that psychometric testing of teacher applicants might be worthy of consideration.

Notably, none of your respondees, Bill McGregor, Ronnie Smith or Iain Smith, offered a cogent argument as to why psychometric testing should not form part of an overall recruitment process to the profession.

Instead, as many do, they revert to arguing for the status quo, or doing something later on in the process when costs have already been incurred.

Tom was simply arguing that, if you can add psychometric testing into the mix alongside rigorous interviews and exams, you may end up with better candidates in initial teacher education and, ultimately, in our classrooms.

The analogous argument from the two Smiths is: if a doctor has a stethoscope, why add in an X-ray? The answer is: because you may make a better diagnosis. Our argument is that initial teacher education should use "all" means at their disposal.

Ronnie Smith's analysis is incorrect. As the Tennessee study cited in your article proves, a great teacher can overcome the impact of poverty and deprivation. Of course, these are "urgent issues", as Mr Smith notes, but ducking the enormous impact a great teacher has in overcoming those problems seems troubling from a man in his position.

It is important, as ever, that our thoughts are not taken out of context. Our driving ambition in all of this is to enable all children in Scotland to be all they can be and, as we never tire of saying, the teaching profession has a brilliant role to play there. Indeed, teachers, in our view, are hugely undervalued in our society.

Perhaps the Smiths and Mr McGregor could put pen to paper and explain why we should avoid using the X-ray machine.

Ewan Hunter, Chief executive officer, The Hunter Foundation.

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