Since September 2012, prospective teachers have had to sit skills tests in literacy and numeracy before commencing teacher training, and are now required to pass with a higher mark. Applicants are also restricted to three attempts per test, rather than unlimited re-sits as before.
New figures show that the changes have led to a fall in those passing the tests. In the 2011/12 academic year 35,724 candidates took the tests with 98 per cent passing. In 2012/13, 39,567 candidates took the tests with 89 per cent passing. Meanwhile, 44,069 candidates have taken the pre-entry tests for courses this academic year, with 88 per cent passing.
A Department for Education (DfE) spokesperson said: “The robust changes to the skills tests have had the desired effect, raising the bar for entry into teacher training and ensuring that high-quality graduates are entering the profession. This is raising standards in schools. We will continue to evaluate the skills tests.”
However, the DfE faced criticism because of its policy of allowing academies and free schools to employ unqualified people as teachers. Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: “The DfE’s jubilant announcement, that tougher skills tests have ensured only the best graduates train to teach, takes irony to new heights since it is also allowing free schools and academies to employ untrained and unqualified people to teach children.
“The most important thing about the skills tests is whether they are fit-for-purpose and test the skills all teachers need. Deterring a higher percentage of applicants from getting into teaching is not a testament to their worth. We hope the DfE’s review will be more comprehensive.”