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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 August 2006, 13:05 GMT 14:05 UK
Tests flummox trainee teachers
Trainee teachers can re-sit the tests until they pass
Many trainee teachers are struggling to pass tests in numeracy, literacy and information technology, figures show.

The Training and Development Agency for Schools figures show one in 10 recruits has trouble with the test requiring the spelling of words such as "receipt".

The tests, which are taken online and can be repeatedly re-sat, were brought in to drive up standards.

The government said the "vast majority" of trainee teachers passed and the fact some failed showed they were not easy.

The figures from the TDA show that of the 33,247 candidates taking the numeracy test, 26,964 passed the first time.

A further 3,314 passed second time but the remainder had to retake it at least once more before they passed.

Drag and drop

Figures were similar for the two other tests, literacy and information and communication technology (ICT).

The tests are taken online and often ask candidates to drag and drop the answers on the screen - which can be a frustrating process.

In the 45-minute literacy test candidates are asked to spell words such as "receipt" and "accommodates". There are also questions on grammar and comprehension.

The numeracy test covers mental arithmetic and interpreting and using statistical information.

    Sample Literacy Questions (answers at bottom of page)

  • Question 1: The head teacher will ------------ welcome new teachers to the school. (a) formaly (b) formely (c) formally (d) formaley
  • Question 2: Pupils were asked to leave any --------- items behind. (a) unnecessary (b) unecessary (c) unneccesary (d) unnessecary

Trainee teachers have been required to pass a numeracy test since 2000. The tests in literacy and ICT were made compulsory the following year.

They were introduced amid concerns that teacher training did not provide a sufficient grounding in the basics - although teachers must have good GCSE passes in English, maths and science and a degree to work in English state schools.

    Sample numeracy question (answer at bottom of page)

  • A teacher is planning a group outing to see a play in a nearby city. The play begins at 3.30pm. It will take five minutes to walk from the city station to the theatre and to get to their group seating the group needs to be at the theatre at least 15 minutes before the play begins.

    The following are train arrival times - which is the latest time the group can arrive at the station? (a) 1430 (b) 1451 (c) 1458 (d) 1512 (e) 1531

Professor Alan Smithers, director of the Centre of Education and Employment at the University of Buckingham said the results suggested the education of many candidates had been lacking.

He said: "The average age of teacher recruits these days is 30. So a lot of them will have come through school at a time when spelling and punctuation were thought to inhibit creativity."

He added: "I thought anyone who had come through at least 13 years of education really ought to have a basic ability in mastering words and numbers but the fact that so many are failing to demonstrate this is worrying - and teachers have to demonstrate how to use words and numbers to a class."


He added that 21st century technology may also have a part to play.

"I suppose another factor is that we are talking about English and texting is a major means of communication these days," he said. "That gives a totally different view of both spelling and punctuation."

However, he said that the introduction of the tests - and the fact that a significant number were failing - showed that they were necessary.

Prof Smithers also questioned whether it was necessary to offer unlimited chances to re-sit the test.

"I am not too happy being on the road with someone who has failed their driving test nine times," he said. "I think there's probably a case for limiting it to perhaps three times and you are out."

Chief executive of the TDA, Graham Holley said 92% of trainee teachers had passed all three tests at their first or second attempt.

He said: "The tests are just one of the standards trainees must reach in order to qualify as a school teacher - so nobody teaches in a state maintained school without passing them.

"The skills tests are part of a highly-rated training regime which has led Ofsted to judge the current generation of new teachers to be 'the best ever'."

A Department for Education and Skills spokesman said: "The vast majority of trainees pass all of these tests first time and no trainee can begin teaching until they have passed the tests."

He added: "The fact that people fail them shows that they are working and are not simply a matter of procedural box-ticking."

Literacy. Q1 (c) Q2 (a)
Numeracy (c)

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