Psychometrics for all trainees

7th January 2011 at 00:00
In global first for England, personality tests will be used to weed out `unsuitable' teaching applicants

England is to become the only country in the world where all teaching hopefuls face psychometric tests designed to reveal whether they have the right personality for a career in the classroom.

From 2012, all training applicants will face the psychological assessments that examine whether they have "a blend of empathy, communication and resilience" that is suited for life as a teacher, The TES can reveal.

Following a successful pilot, the "diagnostic tool" will be rolled out nationwide from 2012 and will become the latest weapon used by universities to spot students who are not cut out for the chalkface.

The tests are a recruitment tool favoured by many blue-chip companies, and in recent years top universities have started experimenting with them on highly competitive courses.

The tests for prospective teachers were successfully piloted at Edge Hill University and London University's Institute of Education (IoE) last year.

These pilots were commissioned in 2009 to see if they could help reduce drop-out rates. Graham Holley, chief executive of the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA), said at the time that the changes could stop public money being "wasted" on training those who were not fit for the classroom.

Speaking to The TES this week, the TDA's outgoing leader, said: "We have been working with universities to ensure we have a suite of very good tests; they will really show us the aptitude, capability and capacity of those applying for teacher training courses.

"By 2012 England will be the only country in the world to have a system like this, and every university will use them."

Professor Debra Myhill, dean of the graduate school of education at Exeter University, developed the psychometric tests. The TDA asked her team to identify the personality traits of good teachers such as empathy, resilience and aptitude.

"I don't think we should accept students based purely on these tests, but they will be just one set of tools we will have to inform decision- making," she said.

"It's important to remember that some of the best personality traits of teachers can be learned through experience."

James Noble-Rogers, executive director of the Universities' Council for the Education of Teachers, said: "Psychometric testing will be a useful tool combined with the admissions procedures we have already got."

"But it must not undermine the scope of an academic's own judgment - otherwise some unfortunate people might slip through the net."

The TDA has already used psychometric testing for entrance to fast-track courses run by the IoE. The tests were part of a two-day assessment process, and were supervised by Barry Cripps, head of the British Psychological Society's tests centre.

"Psychometric testing has worked well in industry for 50 years and it will work well in education provided the tests are handled by chartered psychologists," Dr Cripps said.

"They need to be supervised very carefully, and also standardised throughout the country. I would concentrate on verbal reasoning and emotional intelligence."

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