Test panic grips trainees

8th June 2001 at 01:00
I am the induction tutor at the school where Janet Vinci ("Exams out of this real world", TES, May 25) is starting as a teacher. Thanks to the ridiculous haste with which skills tests were introduced for students who completed their postgraduate certificates last year, I face having a failing teacher on my hands, simply because of a maths test. She failed a previous one by just one mark.

Janet has good discipline, enthusiasm and plans lessons well. She is a valued and popular member of staff. But for this test, there is no way that she would otherwise fail her induction year.

I can see the point of the tests. They are not that hard, particularly for those like myself (of similar age to the Education Secretary) who were taught tables by rote, to convert yards into feet and inches, or pounds and ounces into hundredweights at an early age!

But such skills have become unfamiliar to younger people since "modern maths", decimalisation and the use of calculators were introduced in the 1970s.

Combine this with tests that are stressful, reying on a disembodied voice and short reaction time (a bit like a famous TV programme hosted by Anne Robinson!), and I suspect it is the panic factor that causes many to fail.

The support the school is giving Janet is expensive. We are paying for supply cover so that she has time to practise and her training budget is being spent on a maths tutor. Passing the test is now her only target for her induction year. There is no point in having any others, despite the requirements in her first year of teaching.

Despite all the support, Janet is stressed and panicking badly. This is the worst thing that she could do at this stage, but if your whole future depended on one mark, wouldn't you?

She should by now be feeling secure in her job and enjoying the fruits of her previous five years' hard work by finally achieving qualified teacher status. As it is, she is becoming thoroughly anxious at the prospect of no longer having a career to look forward to, but joining the ranks of the unemployed instead.

Janet Hill Address supplied

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