Failing the joined-up government challenge

1st November 2002 at 00:00
A GOVERNMENT agency publishes 46 questions for a numeracy skills test which teachers must pass to enter the profession. How many relate to tasks which no teacher, according to ministers, should do?

The answer, The TES can reveal, is 28. A quick glance at the Teacher Training Agency's website will have many professionals wearily savouring, once more, the delights of joined-up Government.

Last week, as the culmination of a four-year campaign to relieve teachers of unnecessary admin, ministers published a list of 25 jobs which all qualified staff will be freed from by next September.

Number 18 reads "ordering supplies and equipment". Eyebrows might be raised, then, at question 1 of the TTA's "benchmark test for numeracy" practice tests. It reads: "Maps cost pound;3 each for the first 20 purchased and pound;2.70 for each additional map. What was the cost of purchasing 22?"

Another says: "A supplier offered schools a 5 per cent discount on all furniture purchased. How much was saved on a furniture order of pound;700?" One for the new army of bursars being sent into schools, surely, rather than teachers?

Teachers have also been told they should never analyse attendance figures. Yet the skills test asks prospective teachers for their analysis of a graph of pupil absence.

Many questions are in the same vein. Several ask complicated arithmetical questions about exam results and targets, all of which could probably be done by support staff.

The tests have faced criticism since their introduction in 2000. Last year, former education secretary Estelle Morris bowed to complaints by ensuring that teachers had unlimited chances to pass them. This week's news might prompt the profession to offer its own, familiar, question, for ministers. Why do these tests exist?

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