Hundreds of prospective teachers failed QTS skills test because of marking ‘error’

An error in a mark scheme for a skills test would-be teachers must pass before training has led to hundreds of candidates failing the test, the government has admitted.

Schools minister Nick Gibb admitted the error in the literacy skills test mark scheme had been in place for at least 10 years. Between September 2017 and November 2018, just over 200 candidates failed the test when they should have passed, although 150 went on to pass it at a later date.

Prospective teachers must pass skills tests in numeracy and literacy before they start their initial teacher training.

In a written statement, published today, Gibb said the Department for Education will do its best to contact anyone affected by the error and “offer a payment to compensate candidates affected for any expenses they may have incurred in having to retake the test”.

“It is regrettable that this error has prevented some candidates from progressing their applications to teacher training. My department is taking swift action to ensure that those affected are supported to progress their applications,” he said.

The skills tests are designed by the Standards and Testing Agency, which discovered the error during a recent review of its marking schemes. Gibb said the test was immediately taken out of use.

“The chief executive of the STA has assured me that there are no remaining marking scheme errors and that the schemes will be quality assured on a regular basis to prevent further errors,” he added.

In February last year, the government removed the lock-out policy which prevented anyone who had failed the tests three times in a row from taking it again for 24 months. The move came after Schools Week reported that almost 5,000 prospective teachers failed the test three times in 2015-16, shutting them out of the profession for at least two years.

However, last April this newspaper revealed that just six per cent of prospective trainee teachers who were locked out of the skills tests under the old rules had applied to take the tests again since the change, and the majority of previously locked-out candidates who repeated the tests in the first five weeks of the new rules failed once more.

Anyone who may have been affected by the error can contact the skills test helpline by emailing

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  1. Caroline Barton

    My son has just yesterday received an email advising him of the “error”. Three years after he apparently failed the literacy test. Three years? Really? And has been offered a paultry £100 by way of compensation. For totally derailing his life.
    Astoundingly incompetent.

  2. Annoyed would be teacher

    I am absolutely disgusted they ruined my career as a teacher and two years later they offer £100 to apologise. I had a job teaching and able to gain my qts but due to this being marked wrong I lost this position

  3. Rachel Knott

    This whole thing is an absolute disgrace. I was told I had failed the test when in fact I had passed it. 4 and a half years later I get an email telling me that actual I had passed it and they think £100 is going to cover what I had to go through. Well it doesn’t cover the cost of anything, I had university places that I had to give up because of this and then travel to even more university’s to find a new degree as I couldn’t wait 2 years to take them again. I have taken my complaint further… let’s see if they actual do anything with it

    • My Daughter like you failed because of incompetent marking and had to take a different route to becoming a teacher. She would like to take this further – are there any focus groups who would collectively take the D of E and STA to task. £100 compensation is derisory and in no way reflects the cost and time that will be required to achieve being a teacher by a different route.
      e mail me if you think that a collective response would be something that you would consider. Thanks

  4. Hi All

    Just reading your comments reference the incorrect marking on teaching test papers. The Same thing has happened to my daughter and £100 also offered which i find insulting as my daughter could have been a qualified teacher 1 year earlier costing her a years salary. Has anyone any advice as to wether it’s worth taking legal action.
    Any advice would be much appreciated.

    Thanks mark2