Trainees try and try again at tests

19th August 2005 at 01:00
Some NQTs need more than 10 attempts to pass skills exams.

Helen Ward reports.

Some newly-qualified teachers are taking basic tests in literacy, numeracy and ICT more than 10 times, the Teacher Training Agency has revealed.

Of the 31,306 would-be teachers who passed the numeracy skills test in the academic year 200304, 87 per cent (27,341) did so at their first attempt and 9 per cent (2,814 ) on their second.

In the literacy test, 88 per cent (28,864) passed the first time and nine per cent (3,003) the second.

ICT was passed by 88 per cent (l29,002) on the first attempt and 10 per cent (3,281) after a retake.

But 1,151, or one in 27, had to take the numeracy test at least three times, 856 (2.6 per cent) took the literacy test at least three times and the 678 (2 per cent) took the ICT test more than twice. These include some people who took a test more than 10 times.

Passing the numeracy test has been a requirement of qualified teacher status since 2000. The requirement to pass tests in literacy and ICT was introduced a year later.

Sara Bubb, an induction consultant, knows of one teacher who took the numeracy test 15 times. She said: "The tests per se are not incredibly hard, but they are an exam situation, in a test centre with an unfamiliar computer.

"Primary teachers don't find them too difficult, but they can be difficult for people such as arts teachers who may not have done maths for many years and then just scraped a GCSE. Their numeracy skills may not be up-to-date and they can get into a real state." The skills tests were introduced by the Government amid concerns that eacher-training did not guarantee every new teacher had a thorough grounding in literacy, numeracy and ICT skills.

But some universities and teacher unions believe the tests are a waste of money and an inappropriate way of testing skills. A spokeswoman for the National Union of Teachers said: "It seems an unnecessary expense for the Government and a waste of time and energy for the trainees.

"Every trainee has to have English and maths GCSE. If you are going to be an art teacher, then why take a maths test? If you are going to be a maths teacher then you already have a qualification in maths."

Originally, trainee teachers had four or five attempts to pass the tests, but the Government scrapped that rule in June 2001 and gave trainees unlimited attempts at the tests. The change was in response to concerns from universities and teacher unions about drop-out and failure rates among stressed trainees. While 95.8 per cent of those who had sat them to that point had passed the literacy test, the figure fell to 87.6 per cent for numeracy.

Since last September 31,900 candidates have passed the standard, making a total of 140,823 to pass since the tests were introduced.

Starting pay for an unqualified teacher is pound;13,938 to pound;22,041 compared to pound;19,161 for a qualified teacher. The Government has said that schools should consider paying trainees who have not passed the skills test, the equivalent of a qualified teacher's salary. But it is up to the school whether the full rate is paid.

* helen.ward@tes.co.uk

Skills test questions

Spelling: 1. It will not be ........... to set half-term tests this year a) neccessary b) necesaryc) necessary d) neccesary

2. The new .............will be ready next term.

a) acommodation b) accommodation c) accomodationd) acomodation

Mental maths: 1. Two-fifths of a class of 25 pupils were girls. What percentage were boys?

2. It is possible to seat 40 people in a row across the hall. How many rows are needed to seat 432 people?

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