Maths and English tests scrapped for aspiring teachers to ease recruitment crisis

Eleanor Busby

Maths and English tests for aspiring teachers have been scrapped in a bid to tackle shortages.

The Department for Education (DfE) will replace the numeracy and literacy skills entry tests that prospective teachers currently have to pass before they are allowed to start training.

Teacher training providers, who have called for the tests to be scrapped, will now assess trainees at the end of their training to give them more time to improve their maths and English skills.

Candidates who failed the test, which was changed in 2012 to raise standards, three times were previously locked out of training for two years before they could try again.

But last year, the government announced that trainees would get an unlimited number of attempts at passing the compulsory skills tests in an effort to ease the teacher recruitment crisis.

Emma Hollis, executive director of the National Association of School-Based Teacher Trainers (NASBTT), welcomed the removal of the “outdated” skills test which she said was not fit for purpose.

She said: “It is a known barrier to the profession and does not reflect the way we teach and assess children and therefore is not representative of how we want the profession to behave.

“There may be fears from some quarters that this may be seen as ‘dumbing down’ the profession, but we think those fears would be misplaced.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “These tests are in addition to candidates needing a degree and at least a grade 4/C in GCSE English and maths.

“They are unnecessary and are a potential barrier to recruitment at a time when we have an acute shortage of teachers.

“We need to be encouraging people to become teachers rather than finding ways of putting them off, and the government’s announcement is a step in the right direction.”

Mike Ellicock, chief executive of National Numeracy, said: “The current test, with no calculators allowed and strict timings, does nothing to alleviate maths anxiety and is really only a mental arithmetic test. It’s good to see the back of it.

“We shouldn’t be filtering out, or putting off, great candidates from entering the profession on the assumption that their numeracy skills are fixed.”

Nick Gibb, school standards minister, said the existing skills tests was being replaced as part of the government’s teacher recruitment and retention strategy to reduce shortages.

In a written statement, Mr Gibb said: “From October, teacher training providers will become responsible for ensuring that prospective teachers meet the high standards of literacy and numeracy required to be a teacher.

“Under this new system, trainees will be benchmarked against a defined set of skills they will be expected to have by the end of their initial teacher training. This new system of provider-led assurance will be introduced at the end of the current recruitment cycle.”