Page last updated at 15:46 GMT, Thursday, 2 July 2009 16:46 UK

Tories plan tougher teacher tests

trainee teachers
The Conservative Party says some details still have to be worked out

A Conservative government would make it harder for people to train as school teachers in England.

The minimum entry qualifications for primary teachers would rise from grade C GCSE in English and maths to grade B.

A degree at 2:2 level or above would become the minimum for all teachers, including those in secondary schools, with Thirds no longer good enough.

Shadow schools secretary Michael Gove said he would also allow only one resit of basic literacy and numeracy tests.

In a speech at the Institute of Physics in London, Mr Gove said 13% of applicants - which is about 5,000 - had had to sit the on-screen numeracy test three or more times before passing.

There is currently no limit on resits.

"We want a new generation of maths and science teachers in primary and secondary school," Mr Gove said.

"Good as our teachers are, they must be better."

Raising the bar

It was important to ensure that those entering the profession, particularly in primary schools, had the level of knowledge required to really stretch all pupils, he said.

"The current hurdle of C grades in English and maths is too low and this is particularly problematic for maths," Mr Gove said.

"Today I can announce that under a Conservative government, we will raise the bar for primary teachers, so they will need to have B grades at GCSE (or iGCSE) in English and maths.

"The taxpayer will only fund teacher training for those who meet this level."

A spokesman said there would be similar requirements for secondary school subject trainees but this needed further work because the Tories did not want to bar a brilliant history teacher because their maths was not up to grade B.

'Essential skills'

Mr Gove said that about 1,200 postgraduate trainees each year had degrees below 2:2, which should become the minimum acceptable for a PGCE (Postgraduate Certificate of Education).

"Taxpayers should not be funding trainee teachers who have only got a third class degree or worse."

He would also insist that every publicly-funded institution for training primary teachers should teach them specialist courses in phonics and in maths.

"It is essential that primary teachers have up-to-date skills in these two fields," Mr Gove said.

"This will encourage the growth of specialist primary teachers in English, maths and science which is exactly what we need to happen and what already happens in expensive prep schools."

The Conservative move follows an announcement by the government that it would introduce a licence for teachers that would need to be renewed every five years.

'Best ever'

Ministers also want all new teachers to have Masters degrees and there may be psychometric tests of trainees' suitability.

Schools Minister Vernon Coaker said: "The teaching profession has been transformed over the last decade and Ofsted tell us we have the best generation of teachers ever.

"But we are determined to go further, which is why we are making teaching a Masters-level profession."

He added: "With George Osborne confirming this week that the Tories would cut investment in our schools from next year if they win the election, the Tories should explain how many teachers and teaching assistants would be sacked under their planned cuts."

As education is largely devolved the Conservative proposals are for England only at this stage but the party says more work is needed on this.

Teachers' pay and conditions is a responsibility retained by the Westminster government for both England and Wales.

There is an anomaly already in that the literacy and numeracy skills tests are not a requirement for trainee teachers in Wales - so someone can qualify in Wales then work in an English school.

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