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Trainee tests wreak 'havoc'

'Chaotic' organisation fuels opposition to online numeracy and literacy exams for new teachers, report Karen Thornton and Chris Johnston

The numeracy and literacy tests that trainee teachers must pass before they can get a job are "creating havoc" and could deter graduates from joining the profession, according to training providers.

Professor Mike Newby, chair of the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers - which represents teacher-training institutions - said the tests should be scrapped. He called the exams, taken by 27,000 students, insulting, saying they should not have to go through this ordeal when they already have degrees.

Students have also protested about technical difficulties with the online tests. Some have written to The TES describing the tests as a nightmare because their computers crashed while they were completing them. Others have complained that the revision guides supplied by the Teacher Training Agency are inaccurate and difficult to understand.

Ninety Hertfordshire University postgraduate certificate in education students have sent a letter to Ralph Tabberer, the agency's chief executive, claiming the tests are adding to the pressure of their studies.

Mick Brookes, president of the National Association of Head Teachers, has backed their case. He said any tests should be carried out when entering the profession, not while students are still at university.

Students must book sessions for the two 45-minute exams at one f 44 test centres. Some have said there are not enough slots available and that centres are too far away.

The tests must be done by the end of August to gain the qualified teacher status for working in a state school. Each one can be taken up to four times.

Mary Russell, universities council secretary, said the TTA had rejected pleas to pilot the online tests this year. "It's a new system and has never been tried on this scale before," she said. "It's not fair on students to use a system that has not proved itself."

Hertfordshire student Amanda Pickett said the tests had been chaotically organised: "We didn't get any support materials until a few weeks ago, and there were two mistakes on the numeracy sample test."

TTA chief executive Ralph Tabberer apologised for the problems on a live webcast this week and said students hit by software problems would be given another opportunity to retake them.

One webcast contributor said none of the 18 people taking tests at Oxford Brookes' Westminster site had been able to complete them.

Department for Education and Employment spokesperson said the tests aimed to raise the skill levels of new teachers and were crucial to improving the quality of initial teacher training.

A similar test for information technology has been postponed until September after trials revealed serious software problems.

Sample Qualified Teacher Status tests can be found at:

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