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The BBC's James Westhead
"The government says the tests are vital to ensure teachers reach minimum standards"
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Tuesday, 29 May, 2001, 16:34 GMT 17:34 UK
Teacher numeracy tests 'too hard'
PGCE students
Teachers must pass the test to qualify
By BBC News Online's Katherine Sellgren at the NAHT conference in Harrogate

Numeracy tests, which would-be teachers in England must pass to gain qualified status, are too hard and should be revised, head teachers claim.

Trainee teachers have just four chances to pass the controversial online tests in literacy and numeracy - universities estimate more than a quarter of students failed the numeracy test this year.

It's a blanket approach which needs to be re-thought by the government

David Hart
Earlier this month the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers - which represents 87 UK universities and colleges involved in teacher education - warned it was "madness" to risk losing good candidates at a time of teacher shortages.

The National Association of Head Teachers agrees that the tests are not working and must be changed.

"There is a lack of sophistication about the whole business," said general secretary, David Hart.

"It's a blanket approach which needs to be re-thought by the government," he said.

Head teacher, Liz Paver, said up to 60% of those present - journalists and head teachers - for the discussion would probably fail the test.

Introducing the tests at the start of a PGSE course would go a long way to avoid unnecessary disappointment, she added.

A-level standard

Outgoing NAHT president, Mick Brookes, said the numeracy test was pitched too high and was close to A-level standard.

The tests would do nothing to attract students into the profession, he added.

Incoming NAHT president, Sue Sayles, said: "We need to get the passion back into teaching."

"We need to get A-level students thinking 'yes, I want to be a teacher'."

A passion test might be more appropriate than a numeracy test, she joked.

But a senior government spokesman insisted the tests were necessary and that there were no plans to scrap them.

Recruitment problems

The government must acknowledge there was a problem in teacher recruitment, Mr Hart said.

"What we need is honesty from the in-coming government. We need them to say 'yes, there is a problem'.

"We lose far too many teachers in the first few years and many at the golden age of 50."

While the union was not a supporter of a 35-hour week, reducing teachers' workload was the most important factor in recruitment and retention, Mr Hart said.

An extra 40,000 teachers were needed to redress the balance of work on teachers, he said.

"It's all about giving teachers decent terms of service."

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See also:

18 May 01 | Education
Call to scrap teacher tests
27 Jan 01 | Education
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Almost all trainees pass maths test
26 Feb 00 | Education
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21 Jan 00 | Education
Trainee teachers get tests preview
01 Apr 99 | Education
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