Government body Education Scotland has developed the online tests on grammar and basic arithmetic in response to the Donaldson report of 2011 – Teaching Scotland’s Future – which demanded an improvement in teacher training and recommended formal assessments for those entering university courses.
The questions are voluntary but are designed to test whether potential teachers have the right basic skills to enter the classroom. A separate grammar guide has been published for serving teachers not “fully confident” of how language works.
Lindsay Paterson, professor of education policy at Edinburgh University, said it was worrying that such tests were necessary but they could help encourage better entrants into teaching.
“Those who struggle with them could either reconsider whether teaching is for them or look to develop their skills to an appropriate level,” he said.
“Something is not right in the exams system, because the latest research is still showing that too many teachers lack the basic skills even though they have acquired Highers and other qualifications. Often they have poor literacy and numeracy.
“Another approach might be to insist on higher grades – say an A rather than a C in English, for instance.”
Bill Maxwell, chief executive of government body Education Scotland, said: “This new website is one part of our response to the report Teaching Scotland’s Future. It was developed in collaboration with Scottish universities and other national partners. The website will help to give aspiring teachers an understanding of what is involved in the role and the skills and experience required. This includes high standards of literacy and numeracy.”
However, Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), said more testing of aspiring teachers was unnecessary. “Our view is that the entry requirements for teacher training are, in themselves, sufficiently rigorous,” he said.
“Highers are the appropriate benchmark. In practice, very few students will get into teacher training courses without a strong suite of Highers across the board. If we are saying that having Higher English doesn’t mean you have basic literacy skills, then we are in serious trouble.”