Trainee teachers to face tests in the three Rs

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The Independent Online
New primary school teachers will have to pass spelling, grammar and maths tests before being let loose in the classroom, under plans to be announced next week.

A new national curriculum for primary teacher training will require student teachers to prove their competence in the basics of English and maths, as well as demonstrating that they can control classes and keep lessons interesting.

The curriculum, details of which leaked out ahead of schedule yesterday, disrupting a planned series of pre-election announcements, specifies for the first time what aspiring teachers should learn. It replaces less prescriptive government-set criteria.

Gillian Shephard, Secretary of State for Education and Employment, launched outline plans for the largest ever shake-up of teacher training last September amid growing concern that newly qualified teachers were entering the classroom lacking vital teaching skills.

She called for a curriculum specifying an essential core of what must be taught to trainee teachers, including knowledge of their specialist subject, what their pupils should be taught, effective teaching and assessment methods and the standards of achievement they should expect from pupils.

Under the new curriculum, trainees will be expected to demonstrate understanding of English language basics, including spelling and punctuation. They will also have to show that they have mastered structure, word derivations and the sound system underlying speech.

Trainees must learn how to get pupils to sound out words and write sounds as letters, and to be articulate and coherent in expressing meaning. Students must also be able to teach standard English.

In maths, students will learn how to teach mental arithmetic, and how to spot common mistakes. They will also be required to develop a specialist subject to A-level standard.

The curriculum will include firm guidance on teaching methods. It will require trainees to prove ability in "interactive" whole-class teaching - the method used in Pacific Rim countries which have a strong track record on basic skills.

The Department for Education and Employment and the Teacher Training Agency, which developed the curriculum, refused to comment on the content until the official announcement.

The Labour Party claimed that Mrs Shephard had hung on the coat-tails of its education spokesman, David Blunkett, who called last year for teachers to be given more training in how to teach effectively, including whole- class teaching.

The party said it would go further than the Government and consider reintroducing the probationary year for new teachers immediately after completing their training, allowing them to consolidate skills and ensure they had chosen the right career.

Mr Blunkett also hit out at the Government for "taking 18 years to reform teacher training".