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Unqualified staff to start work

Many student teachers who fail the skills tests will take up posts this September, reports Karen Thornton.

Heads expecting student teachers to fill posts this autumn could find many arriving without qualified teacher status, because they have not passed the controversial skills tests in time.The Government announced last week that trainees would now have an unlimited number of chances to pass the computer-based literacy and numeracy tests. Those who completed training last summer and are in their first year in schools can seek a one-term extension of their induction period to take the tests. Those who complete training this year must pass them before they can start their induction year.

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 have sat them so far have passed the literacy test, the figure falls to 87.6 per cent for numeracy.

Forty per cent of Brighton university's students were not recommended for QTS at its exam board meeting last week, because they have yet to pass the tests. Other universities are in the middle of making similar decisions, and some have rewritten their regulations to allow students to graduate with their classmates but without QTS, pending test results.

Most of the Brighton students have jobs lined up for the autumn and some will still not have passed the tets by then, said Diana Brightling, the university's initial teacher training co-ordinator. "I don't know what heads will do in September, but I'm quite certain there will still be students who won't be qualified by then. My guess is heads will be taking on the not-quite-qualified teachers on unqualified pay scales. Or they will pay the full rate but the trainees won't be able to start their induction year. The Government has some thinking to do."

She and others in the universities and teacher unions believe the tests are a waste of money and an inappropriate way of testing trainees' skills, saying they should be abolished.

But Ralph Tabberer, the Teacher Training Agency's chief executive, said:

"We want to be fair to all individuals. By removing the maximum limit of four opportunities, we believe we are offering a practical solution while maintaining the standard of the tests themselves."

By the end of last year, the tests had cost pound;2.45m to introduce. The Teacher Training Agency has been unable to update the figures since then. It has yet to decide whether to continue to run support workshops for students taking the tests.

Gill Close, PGCE director at Kings College, London, said: "It's important that the TTA carries on running support workshops for people who have failed three times. The trainees still need that assistance. Who is going to offer support once they've left us?"

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