Got the personality for it?

8th June 2012 at 01:00
Non-cognitive tests will assess prospective teachers' suitability

Aspiring teachers have long had to prove that they have the necessary qualifications and enthusiasm to join the profession. But, according to the government, this is no longer enough - their personalities are also to be tested to make sure they are suitable for the job.

Assessments will be introduced in September to test the social skills of candidates hoping to gain a place on a teacher training course. The tests will gauge the "non-cognitive" ability of applicants, including their interpersonal skills and other personality traits.

Psychometric tests for trainee teachers have been piloted in the past, but this will be the first national roll-out of the assessments. However, teacher-training providers have warned that their introduction might deter people who could make successful teachers from applying to train.

Currently, about 35,000 trainee teachers are accepted to initial teacher training (ITT) courses each year, with more than double that number reaching interview stage.

Officials at the Teaching Agency, the arm of the Department for Education responsible for organising teacher training, say the assessments will "complement" existing selection processes used by teacher trainers.

Although it will not be mandatory for those who run training courses to use a test to help them select applicants, the Teaching Agency expects them to be "used by most" institutions. In future, Ofsted inspectors will assess the quality of ITT providers' recruitment and selection processes.

James Noble Rogers, executive director of the Universities' Council for the Education of Teachers, said he was concerned that the tests would "become indirectly compulsory, in that Ofsted will expect to see their use when inspecting initial teacher training".

Alison Kitson, director of initial teacher education at the University of London's Institute of Education (IoE), said she would use the assessments if they "significantly added to the range of evidence" that already exists about choosing trainee teachers.

"What is critical in raising the bar of the quality of teachers is getting those people to apply in the first place," she added. "The more obstacles we put in people's way, the more we might put them off. If someone has a good degree, experience of teaching in schools and a real passion, in some regards it seems odd to ask them to sit a battery of tests."

Dr Kitson recently carried out research, together with IoE director Chris Husbands, that found no evidence to suggest that countries with high- performing education systems used personality tests to select those who gain a place on a training course.

Martin Thompson, chair of the National Association of School-Based Teacher Trainers, warned that only a "small proportion" of unsuitable candidates would be identified through the personality tests.

"Most people who leave courses do so for other, personal reasons - health or economic," he said. "I'm concerned about anything that will lengthen the already lengthy recruitment process. We will look to see if these tests are usable, and spend several years looking at data to see if these tests are predictors."

A spokeswoman for the Teaching Agency said the tests would "reinforce what is already a rigorous selection process".

Testing times

2009: The Labour government asked the Training and Development Agency for Schools (now closed) to design a test to screen applicants for "a range of attributes considered essential to good teaching".

June 2011: The coalition government said all providers of initial teacher training should assess "interpersonal skills" before accepting anyone to a course.

November 2011: The Department for Education said training providers should "have access to a range of high-quality tools to assess non-cognitive skills such as self-organisation as part of selection for entry on to ITT courses".

September 2012: Non-cognitive assessments will be available to teacher trainers for the first time.

Original headline: Got the personality for it? We'll be the judge of that

Photo credit: Paul BoxReport Digital

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