How was it for you? Our testers reveal all

26th January 2001 at 00:00
Former teacher Trevor Millum, development and communications director of the National Association for the Teaching of English, was less than impressed by the literacy tests.

"I can see that the grammar questions will trip a few up but I haven't worked out how to do the spellings yet and time has run out," he said, after a quick look at the benchmark tests.

"I am far more concerned that we should have teachers in front of children who like young people and are capable of imbuing them with a love of language and of literature."

TES journalist Amanda Kelly, who has considered a career in teaching, scored an impressive 100 per cent on the mental arithmetic questions, and was wondering what all the fuss was about. "If someone can't multiply 6.03 by 100 then, frankly, I'm not sure that they deserve to be a teacher.

"But my cockiness backfired when I started on the second batch of questions which involved tricky calculations involving all sorts of weird and wonderful charts. These were definitely more testing and I could see why they might be the cause of many a ruined career.

"Although I only made three mistakes, I went way over the 45-minute time limit and it was only towards the end that I realised I was allowed to use a calculator, so I deserved several more black marks for failing to read the instructions properly."

The literacy test proved easier for Amanda.

Stephen Abbott, deputy head of Claydon high school in Ipswich and president of the Maths Association, said of the numeracy tests: "The questions being asked are the sort that you would hope any teacher would could cope with.

"Some refer to test results and interpreting percentages. Teachers are expected to do these sorts of things, bt not necessarily expected to do them as mental arithmetic, and they have always got the support of colleagues if they are a bit unsure.

"However, people feel insulted that the level of the questions is no greater than grade C GCSE maths - which they are required to have anyway."

Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, worked his way through the benchmark tests on a flight back from Brussels.

"The idea that you've got to know all these things is a real corruption of the idea of teaching," he said. He skipped through the mental arithmetic tests, scoring 11 out of 12, but found himself bogged down by the literacy exercises, particularly a "boring" passage about beacon schools used to test grammar and comprehension.

"They were so pedantic and aren't really testing the meaning of sentences, just seeing if you can recognise the verb.

"They also take a long time. I found the whole exercise depressing."

Bob Doe, editor of The TES, also tried out the tests while in transit.

"I did them on the train going home. Not exam conditions but they were marked independently by my utterly scrupulous secretary," he said.

"I missed two points on the punctuation test which shows that those who read proofs for a living can still slip up. So can test setters, as two errors in the comprehension passage show.

"A few questions seemed matters of opinion rather than objective tests.

Teachers should be able to pass. But then so should doctors, education ministers, nurses, policemen and journalists who are not tested in this way. So why are they just picking on the teachers?" See www.canteach.gov.uk for benchmark tests and answers.


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