Page last updated at 14:39 GMT, Friday, 26 June 2009 15:39 UK

'Personality tests' for teachers

Teacher
Teachers need more than academic skills

Teacher training applicants in England are to face psychometric tests before being offered a place on a course, to ensure they are well suited to the job.

The Training and Development Agency for Schools is developing tests for skills such as communication and empathy.

The government asked for an assessment to be developed amid concern at a lack of "softer" skills among teachers.

But the Association of Teachers and Lecturers criticised the idea as an "expensive gimmick".

The Department for Children, Schools and Families requested a test which would "assess suitability to be a teacher", the TDA said.

Challenging circumstances

TDA chief executive Graham Holley made the announcement of the new test in evidence given to the Commons children, schools and families committee.

He said: "One thing that we will be doing is developing a diagnostic tool, so that initial teacher training providers can select the right sorts of candidates in the first place, before they give them training, and also to work on campuses getting the brightest and the best - those who are likely to cope in those very challenging circumstances better."

He added that this was one measure designed to ensure that the teachers who were best equipped to cope with challenging schools took up those posts.

"We find that once the very good teachers have that experience, many of them want to stay, because they find they can contribute so much more," Mr Holley said.

The tests will not be ready in time for the next recruitment cycle in September.

A degree is a pre-requisite for entry on to a teacher training course, and individual institutions select candidates for entry in line with other higher education courses.

'Gimmick'

Applications for teacher training courses increased by 27% in 2008-09.

But in 2006-07, around 13% of teacher training candidates did not complete their course, and MPs on the children, schools and families select committee expressed concern that trainee teachers did not always have the right skills.

Graham Holley told the committee he would "very much like to improve retention rates", but that he would also like to detect those not suited to teaching before they embarked on a training course.

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: "Psychometric tests are hugely dubious, there is no scientific justification for them, and they are culturally biased.

"Why is the TDA wasting public money on expensive gimmicks when it should be providing proper support for trainee teachers going into hugely challenging jobs?"



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