Page last updated at 09:06 GMT, Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Teachers' desk-side manner tested

By Hannah Richardson
BBC News Education reporter

Teacher
Good teachers are expected to have a range of qualities

New teachers could be tested for their desk-side manner under government plans to improve the quality of teaching.

Trainee teachers in England would be screened for empathy, understanding and passion to ensure they have the qualities to be a good teacher.

A trial of a diagnostic test by the Training and Development Agency for Schools in north-west England is due to be tested nationwide.

The scheme was revealed by Gordon Brown in a recent speech.

In a nod to the Conservatives' call for teachers to be better qualified, the prime minister said: "Recruiting the best is about more than simply a class of degree, but also about empathy, understanding, passion - those intangible qualities that define every great teacher.

It's about not writing a pupil off but giving them that resilience to try again
Peggy-Sue Drower

"So we are now piloting a test to screen potential teachers for these wider qualities."

A TDA spokesman said: "We plan to run a larger pilot throughout the country later in the Spring.

"The pilot involves asking a range of onscreen questions about certain qualities or attributes expected of a teacher, such as organisation, flexibility and resilience."

She added that informal feedback had been very positive so far.

The idea is thought to be loosely based on the recruitment practices of charity TeachFirst, which trains top graduates to work in challenging schools.

Human qualities

TeachFirst's associate director for graduate recruitment, Peggy Sue Drower, said candidates were put through a series of tests checking they possessed eight "competencies" thought vital to good teaching.

These included humility, respect and empathy, self-evaluation and reflection, and resilience.

And these were as important as the more obvious skills of leadership, organisation and knowledge.

She said there was much more to being a teacher than just having good grades, they needed human qualities as well.

Miss Drower said empathy was very much about being able to put yourself in the pupil's shoes.

"It's about sharing others experience by relating to their situation.

"If we are working with children whose parents don't value them doing homework, then for someone who has worked hard at school and university, it is a massive change to understand that others might not think about education in that way.

"It's about not writing a pupil off but giving them that resilience to try again.

"We need this humility, respect and empathy to be able to build up the initial relationship needed for good teaching."



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