Trainee teachers failing basic maths and English tests

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The Independent Online

Passing the tests - in literacy, numeracy and information and communication technologies (ICT) - is a requirement of becoming a teacher.

Figures released by the Government's Teacher Training Agency show that more than 1,500 teachers who finished their postgraduate certificate of education (PGCE) course last year had to sit the numeracy course at least three times. A total of 856 had to take the literacy test three times, and 679 the ICT.

These figures include some teachers who had to take one or other of the tests 10 times. One teacher sat the numeracy test 15 times before passing.

The skills tests were introduced by David Blunkett when he was Education Secretary because of concerns that completing a teacher training course did not guarantee that every new recruit had the basic groundwork in literacy, numeracy and ICT skills. Originally, trainee teachers could only take the tests four or five times before they were barred from entering the profession. But ministers relented on this because of concern over drop-out rates.

The introduction of the tests coincided with a period of acute teacher shortages - particularly in secondary schools and trainees are now allowed to take the tests as often as they like - although they may be paid as an unqualified teacher until they pass.

The figures show that 87 per cent of the 31,206 who completed their PGCE course in 2004 passed the numeracy test on the first time - and 9 per cent on their second.

In literacy, the figures were 88 per cent and 9 per cent respectively. ICT was also passed by 88 per cent the first time and 10 per cent on the first retake.

Senior teacher training staff say that - while the questions are not that difficult - many of the trainees falter because they have to take them in exam conditions at an unfamiliar centre on a computer they have not used before.

The figures have sparked a new row between ministers and teachers' leaders who claim the tests are a waste of time and money.

A spokeswoman for the National Union of Teachers said: "These tests are unnecessary because young people have to have a good grade GCSE pass in maths and English before they can enter teacher training.

"The whole question of these extra tests is irrelevant if, for instance, they are going on to teach art or religious education.

"Arrangements for taking the tests are being reconsidered but we would suggest they should be stopped.

"We had one person who was at college in Brighton who had to keep coming in to the centre in Croydon to take the test - only to find the time had often been shifted, sometimes to the day before and she had not been notified."

Ministers insist the tests are necessary because trainees may not have studied the basics since GCSE - and need to refresh their skills. They have suggested that schools could pay staff the rate of a fully-qualified teacher pending passing the tests - but that the decision was up to individual heads.

Sample questions

1 It will not be ... to sit half-term tests this year
(a) neccessary
(b) necesary
(c) necessary
(d) neccesary

2 The new ... will be ready next term
(c) accomodation.
(e) acomodation.

3 Two-fifths of a class of 25 pupils were girls. What percentage were boys?

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

Answers: 1.necessary. 2. accommodation. 3. Sixty per cent. 4. Eleven