QTS rule change means 9,000 prospective teachers can retake skills test


At least 9,000 prospective teachers barred from training after failing a skills test three times will be able to book retakes again from this Thursday.

Schools Week understands that the government’s decision to scrap the controversial lock-out rule, which prevents would-be trainees from taking the QTS literacy and numeracy skills test for two years if they fail it three times in a row, will affect between 9,000 and 9,500 people.

The government confirmed earlier today that those who have previously been banned for failing the test too many times will have their access to the test booking system reinstated from Thursday.

Learndirect, which runs the tests on behalf of the Department for Education, is understood to be writing to banned prospective trainees today to inform them of the government’s decision.

Nick Gibb, the schools minister, this morning announced a series of measures aimed at enabling more people to become qualified teachers.

The government will also scrap fees charged to trainees for their first two retakes. The changes mean would-be teachers can take the skills test as many times as they want, and will only have to pay for it after their third attempt.

As revealed by Schools Week last October, thousands of trainee teachers have been effectively barred from qualifying every year by the rule, which was brought in by Gibb himself in 2012.

school uniforms
Nick Gibb

He told MPs on the parliamentary education committee at the time that it was part of a drive to “push up the bar of entry into the profession”. His comments at that inquiry were made in response to questions about the quality of teachers from Damian Hinds, the education secretary, who at the time was backbench MP.

The announcement this morning has prompted claims from school leaders that the government is further watering down its requirements of new teachers, after Gibb wrote to teacher training providers urging them to change their entry criteria.

Writing for Schools Week today, David Spendlove, professor of Education at the University of Manchester, said the change was an indicator that the government “has simply messed up teacher supply and training over the last eight years”.

Jy Taylor, headteacher at Twynham School in Dorset said although there was a “massive crisis” in recruitment, lowering entry requirements “isn’t the answer”.

“Instead focus on ensuring the profession is attractive and desirable to those who can pass the tests,” he said on Twitter.

Shaun Hopper, a deputy head at a primary school in Scarborough, also questioned the move.

“Surely if they can’t pass these tests they shouldn’t be teachers?” he tweeted. “Or [the DfE] are in a state of panic because recruitment is awful and the only way is to let them take as many tests as they want before they pass!”

However, others have welcomed the move, which they say will allow trainees with the potential to be great teachers from being barred from the profession on the basis of the skills test alone.

“We have seen all too many examples of candidates with excellent potential being locked out of the profession for the sake of one or two marks on a test,” said Emma Hollis of the National Association of School-Based Teacher Trainers. “This move will keep the profession open to those who deserve the opportunity to train to teach.”

Ben Gadsby, an education policy expert, said: “All teachers should have the high standard of English and maths needed to pass these tests – whatever subject they teach. The changes announced today maintain that high bar, whilst ensuring as many keen would-be teachers as possible get the opportunity to begin training.”

The latest school workforce census data shows that the rate of qualified teachers entering the profession fell to its lowest level since 2011 in 2016, and that the number of teachers without qualified teacher status rose by seven per cent between 2015 and 2016.

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  1. Perhaps the government should do the same with doctors and nurses.This would ease the congestion within the NHS and I am surprised the government have not thought about this before!! Wow this means that all our education problems will now disappear in the blink of an eye.

  2. This should have happened sooner! I took the skills tests back in 2014 and failed the maths by 1 mark on the final go. I was then blocked out 2 years and 1 day before I could re-book and had to pay each time I took the test. This not only put my life on hold but also my husbands who was the main breadwinner before starting his Masters in September when I had secured my first teaching job. I finally passed the maths test on the 6th time in 2016 (terrified I would be blocked again!). I have completed my PGCE year and am mid way through my NQT year. These tests are stressful enough and for those teachers not in core/steam subjects who may find them harder having that added fear of failing is even more stressful. I have worked beyond hard to get to where I want re-taking not only these tests but also some GCSEs to improve my skills set to be a teacher. Now as a teacher I appreciate the hard work however teachers do need to be given more credit for what they do.

  3. R.Richards

    So so frustrating!!! My absolute long life passion to becoming a teacher has been ruled by these skills test! Failed and failed the maths, barred for 2 years until may this year- until now because its reinstatement Thursday.
    My life financially has also been ruled because being a TA is not the same as being a Teacher even with a BA in Primary Education achieved 8 years ago.
    The government need to make their minds up & stick with it!!!!!

  4. Absolutely ridiculous! The skills test should be abolished. I know too many people who took these set and have suffered greatly, I, my self is one of them! I had my dream shattered as i too did not pass the numeracy in time. It not that we are not capable of doing the exam, its the time limit we have to complete the question. .Above all, i have had nothing but stress , anxiety and sleepless nights! Failing this test does not determine that we are bad teachers, in fact i know some one who took more 11 attempts to pass and now she is one of the best outstanding teachers in the school. Yes its rewarding, however, at the same time i think teachers are not accredited enough for there time and effort. And unless the government makes drastic changes to the profession, there will be shortage of teachers.

  5. I completed my 4 year BA Honours Primary Education with QTS from 2003-2007. I passed all of my teaching practices, assignments & dissertations. However during the forth year I was informed that I had to complete a Numeracy, Literacy &ICT skills test on top of the humongous list of things to finish off my degree.
    I took the tests numerous times needed 1 mark to pass on Literacy & Maths. I passed the ICT skills test. I was informed then that I do not need to pass the ICT but to focus on NUMERACY & LITERCAY SKILLS TEST’s . The test’s are stressful if you cannot teach for 2,3,4, 5, or6years.
    Very confusing!
    Skills Tests Abolished!! This should have taken place years ago.
    What will happen with my degree that I worked extremely hard for and have to down grade to T A or Cover supervisor position ?
    When will the Skills Test Abolishment take place?