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QTS skills tests set to be scrapped

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The numeracy and literacy skills entry tests that prospective teachers must pass to start training are set to be ditched, Schools Week understands.

The move could boost the government’s efforts to reach its teacher recruitment targets – at least 3,500 would-be teachers have failed the compulsory tests every year since 2012.

The move, expected to be announced in the coming days, follows consultation about whether the tests are fit for purpose.

Nick Gibb, the schools minister and a long-time supporter of the tests, wrote just last year they “reassure parents and school leaders” that new teachers can “demonstrate a high standard of numeracy and literacy when they enter the classroom”.

But it is understood the government will instead allow initial teacher training providers to use their own judgment to assess candidates’ numeracy and literacy skills.

We certainly want prospective teachers to be able to evidence functional literacy and numeracy, but we think there are far more nuanced, sophisticated ways to do that

Emma Hollis, the executive director of the National Association of School-Based Teacher Training, said: “There will be fears that this may be seen as dumbing down the profession, but I think those fears would be misplaced.

“The majority of providers are already working with trainees to ensure that if there are any gaps, they are filled.”

Initial teacher training providers have long called for the tests to be scrapped. Hollis said they were not “fit for purpose” and had been “beset with issues”, such as high costs and candidates struggling to get appointments to take the tests.

“We certainly believe that you want prospective teachers to be able to evidence functional literacy and numeracy, but we think there are far more nuanced, sophisticated ways to do that.”

Around 10 per cent of candidates fail at least one of the tests each year, according to government data.

Originally, any would-be teacher who failed three times was locked out of training for two years before he or she could retake the tests, but that limit was removed last February.

In April the government also admitted that a marking error meant hundreds of trainees over the past few years were wrongly told they had failed.

Schools Week revealed last month the DfE could face legal action after offering those affected an “insulting” £100 compensation.

The Department for Education has been speaking to candidates, training providers, internal customers and external service organisations about the effectiveness of the current tests, what the barriers are and how the system might be reformed.

Last year the DfE awarded a £15 million contract to PSI services to deliver the tests. The contract, which began on July 1, runs for three years. It is not yet known how quickly the DfE will scrap the tests.

Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said trainees having a degree and a pass in GCSE English and maths should be “sufficient evidence of their competence”.

“There are very significant teacher shortages across the country and we need to do more to encourage recruitment. We should remove any unnecessary hurdles.”

Requirements were toughened up in 2012 under Michael Gove’s tenure at the DfE. He said at the time it would “help ensure we raise standards in our schools and close the attainment gap between the rich and poor”.

Putting several similar hurdles in their way prior to entry to the course is not helpful

But David Owen, the head of teacher education at the Sheffield Institute of Education, said the skills tests were “unnecessary” with too much overlap between them, the activities candidates were expected to do at interview, and the training itself.

“When they were initially brought in we were in a different situation . . . there was concern people were being recruited who didn’t have basic professional skills.

“Now we’re in a position of persuading people that teaching is a great job to do, so putting several similar hurdles in their way prior to entry to the course is not helpful.”

A DfE spokesperson said: “We expect graduates entering the profession to have the literacy and numeracy skills that parents and pupils rightly expect from teachers but we’ve heard from both training providers and applicants that the skills tests in their current form could be improved upon.

“That’s why we are working with universities, schools and school leaders to analyse and gather insight into the most effective way to assess the skills required by newly qualified teachers, including the role of the skills test.”



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39 Comments

  1. Benjamin

    This has truly been the best piece of news Iv’e received in months.

    With a 1st class degree in Education and Childhood Studies, triple Distinction* at BTEC Level 3 and C grades in GCSE Maths, English and Science- you’d think my prospects for a career in primary teaching would be promising? This is sadly not the case.

    After seven failed attempts of the QTS numeracy skills test, I have already had to delay my PGCE/ ITT by 12 months- and soon to be another year. Based on evidence of my learning needs I have sent to the STA team, they have concluded that I am only eligible for 25% extra time on grounds of “Dyslexia”, despite not being Dyslexic, but rather on the Autism Spectrum. I have made multiple applications for a paper version of the test, as the current provisions exacerbate the difficulties I experience with my condition. Nonetheless, I have been continuously met with barriers, and consequentially made to feel increasingly disabled and hopeless with each failed attempt of the test.

    It only make sense that we eradicate the use of non-inclusive selection processes for an inclusive-centred profession. Maybe the thousands of next generation teachers like myself will no longer be left in a state of limbo, and can finally make a positive difference to children’s lives whilst shaping them into the adults of tomorrow.

    For now, we’ll just have to wait and see.

  2. Benjamin

    This has truly been the best piece of news Iv’e received in months.

    As a 1st Class graduate in Education and Childhood Studies, triple Distinction* at BTEC Level 3, and C grades in GCSEs English, Mathematics and Science, you could only assume that my prospects for becoming a primary teacher are promising? Sadly, this is not the case.

    I have tried and failed seven attempts of the Department for Education’s Numeracy Skills test, and as such have had to delay my PGCE/ ITT course by 12 months- and soon to be another year. After sending in evidence for reasonable adjustments, the STA concluded that I was only entitled to 25% extra time for “Dyslexia”, despite that I’m not dyslexic but rather on the Autism Spectrum. I have repeatedly applied for a paper-based version of the test, as the current provisions exacerbate the difficulties I experience with my condition. Nonetheless, I keep being met with barriers, and have been made to feel increasingly disabled and hopeless with each failed attempt of the test.

    It only makes sense that we eradicate a non-inclusive selection process for an inclusive profession. If the QTS test really is to be scrapped, perhaps now the thousands of prospective teachers like myself can be freed from this state of limbo and make a positive difference to children’s lives, whilst shaping them into the adults of tomorrow.

    For now, we’ll have to wait and see what happens.

    • josephdouglas

      These tests were just to satisfy the hubris of Michael Gove. he was trying to make a name for himself. So beefed up the tests that Labour had brought in during another panic about school standards and how to fix them ! Now, because of a shortage of school places due to high migration , they will scrap these stupid unnecessary tests. But not before thousands of potential teachers have being lost. What a absolute shame !

  3. Amanda James

    They are not difficult, I took them a few years ago. Teaching is starting to be recognized as a profession once more, dumbing down will not help this, not will lowering standards to meet recruitment targets. Better pay and loans written off might do. My loan is growing faster than the amount I pay each month as a result of the interest payments and a real terms pay decrease over the past 8+ years makes it an unattractive profession.
    Lowering skills is not the solution. I for one want my child’s teacher to have good numeracy and literacy.

  4. Imran ali

    These tests assess basic literacy, numeracy and ICT skills! Surely teachers should be expected to possess a good level of knowledge from each of these areas. The QTS is the most effective and unbiased ,ethos of assessing this. Move the power to the PGCE providers, then all fairness has gone.

    Teacher A may have a lenient mentor who will pass them. Teacher B may have a harsh mentor who will fail them for the sake of one area.

    But the logic is the same as HGV and Bus/coach drivers. In order to become one you must demonstrate further skills and knowledge to drive these vehicles. You wouldn’t want someone with a standard car licence to be able to drive a bus. So why are we dumbing down teaching?

  5. Fatima Zhara

    This is very good news. Schools definitely need teachers and good ones too. I have been in education for 20 years and have experience in working with children age ranging from 0-11 years. I trained as a nursery nurse, did an access to teaching course then studied in university to be a teacher for 3 years with a degree in education, came out with a 2:1, but sad to say I have been held up by the skills tests as I passed the literacy but keep failing the numeracy test after several attempts. I think I’m missing out and schools are missing out on potential good teachers because with my experience in education my Grades in English and maths plus my degree I should be able to be a teacher without the skills test. I have been disheartened as I feel I have wasted 3 years in university and accrued a huge debt in taken out a student loan only not to achieve my goal to be a teacher. I am pleading on the government to
    Please scrap the qts skills tests so that teacher shortage in schools will be a thing of the past.

    • Roseanne Appleby

      I have functioned well as an English language teaching professional for 10 plus years but following my heart to train as an early years teacher has been made more complex by the numeracy skills test. Literacy passed first time! I can do basic arithmetic and what I will need to teach the little ones is minimal yet I have to do a test that even a secondary maths specialist found tricky the first couple of attempts. It’s more than basic arithmetic needed to function on every day professional life and definitely more than I need below KS2……. I guess my GCSE grade C for maths means nothing for as long as those skills tests exists…it’s not dumbing down of providers choose alternative ways off assessing that is appropriate to the level the teacher will teach…..

  6. josephdouglas

    My daughter wanted to be a reception class teacher. But thanks to Michael Gove , that ambition was shattered. All her teacher training colleges were more than happy with her. They were happy to make up any shortfall in maths competence. Yet , she could not take up her place. She now works as a trainer for a building society !. In hindsight, she feels that she dodged a bullet in going into teaching. But, with more encouragement she would now be teaching little children for which she was more than capable.

  7. Johanna

    This test system is completely disconnected from pedagogy and the skills required to be a teacher. It is archaic in style and the context irrelevant to teaching a variety of non-mathematical subjects such as art, design and modern languages.
    The very fact that an on screen test of this nature can potentially exclude dyslexic candidates , highlights that an inclusive approach to recruitment is clearly not on the agenda. Excluding candidates who cannot read at this speed is the direct opposite of what I would do as a teacher.

    I am dyslexic and have several tests and assessments as evidence, which I obtained at school and university. I got onto a PGCE for German and Spanish teaching two years in a row, both subjects have a severe shortage of teachers. I am a polyglot, with a masters in art and design, a good BA, and a lot of experience working in support and cover in state schools, teaching at universities and on cultural language programmes. I was planning to teach Spanish, German, Art and Design, however this skills test excluded me from the process. I was treated as if I had an illness. Despite sending all of the evidence, I was told my documents needed to explicitly state that I had difficulty reading on a screen and that I should see a doctor to obtain further evidence. My experience and knowledge of my own dyslexia, were completely disregarded.

    The people running the skills test are clearly not qualified to make these assessments. They showed a complete lack of understanding of dyslexia. I had never been sent to a doctor for it and found this whole process humiliating, so much so I have no intention of reapplying. I realised that I would never want to teach in a system which is driven by data and results anyway, where teachers receive little pay for what is a highly stressful job.

  8. Kevin Gordon

    Considering one London School now has its own police force, a literacy and numeracy test is nonsense. These children need mentors they can look up to to prevemt them reoffending. I’m currently wirking with a world champion kickboxer who could litetally chsnge these kids’ lives. Some academics are completely out of touch with what is needed to turn these children’s fortunes around.

  9. My son is struggling to pass the English, missing it by 1 or 2 marks each time. I work at a secondary school and employed an English teacher to tutor my son. They did an English test paper together and only got 43%on the punctuation! She assured me that what they had put was absolutely correct so i’m not sure where the assurance is for parents and pupils in schools that teachers are of a high literacy standard! Please abolish these tests my son will be an amazing teacher and an absolute credit to the profession which is why University of Exeter have accepted him for a PGCE.

  10. Kk18281

    My skills test is tomorrow, and I don’t think it’s actually necessary, specially when maths, English & science have been passed at GCSE level. Anyways, I really hope I pass, because I’ve always wanted to be a teacher…and now I have this test to do. Another thing, ALOT of people are saying the government tests are outdated! So atleast give more than 4 practice papers on the website :/

  11. I am so enthusiastic about teaching French and Spanish but the numeracy test is discouraging me. The Pst team have refused to give to me blank paper to resolve the mental Maths. I am paralysed on my right arm and have a rotator dysfunction to the left. Writing on a tiny board and having to delete all has been so hard as it wastes my time and my pain increase. In spite of paying £40 for a GP medical note and the front page of test stating ‘you will be handed blank paper’, no paper was given to me. My passion to be a teacher is dying.

  12. WOW, because of these tests, I had to delay my PGCE programme for year.The numeracy one really took toll on me, even though I got pass for GCSE AT B.
    After 8 times I finally Passed, it really had an affect on my self esteem.

  13. The skills tests are ancient and not fit for purpose. For anyone claiming they are ‘easy’ this may have been the case if these people took them before last year. New questions have since been added to the test which are not available on the DfE website. How appalling that the DfE are treating candidates this way. Children are not forced to sit a test that they have no knowledge on, instead they are taught concepts and then tested on understanding. I have struggled with the maths and I have paid lots of money on tutoring to increase my understanding of the ‘whisker diagram’ that I look forward to teaching reception children! Removing these tests will open so many doors to potentially great teachers that thought the dream was over. People entering the training year all have GCSEs, a levels and degrees which should be plenty of evidence (along with the interview process) to suggest they are suitable to teach.

  14. I have good GCSE’s (Maths and English at grade C and above ) and A-levels. In addition to this, I have a degree in Accounting and Finance. My passion is teaching and working with children ! I am currently working in a secondary school as an LSA and am unable to do my teacher training due to not being able to pass the maths skills test ( only a few marks off). This is the only barrier at the moment. I am more than capable to train as a teacher and believe I have the right skills set to do so. Please scrap these tests as they prove absolutely nothing. Most people applying to teach are already well educated and degree holders! I really hope and pray they get rid of these pointless skills test.

  15. Victoria

    The numeracy test held me back from teaching in early years, I have a good level of maths only I have dyslexia which meant the mental part was impossible even with extra time given!

  16. Richard Cartwright

    Here is a email complaint to the STA

    I am very upset with issues beyond my control which have stopped me from being able to sit the test properly. I can book it online and turn up on time. But due to supposed IT/Programme issues I can’t answer questions while sitting the test. So far I’ve had “Force majeure” on 20/05/19 (the internet went down at the test centre in Hounslow).
    Then on Tuesday 16th July the program crashed leaving me unable to answer questions. After trying 4 different computers the answer box finally came up. This was too little too late, by now my stress and anxiety levels were extremely high and I had no hope of passing.
    Now today I turned up on time. I booked the morning off from work and paid another £19.25 to sit the test. Again I’m ready, revised and hoping to pass so I can hand my notice into work within the notice time frame. The test starts, I can answer the first questions – perfect. But the answer box doesn’t come up – PANIC!!!!. The test centre try another 5 computers. I’m told I can’t go back to the first questions or re-start the test. Now I’m really feeling the stress and now feel more frustrated and annoyed. Not at all focused and able to sit the exam if I was given the opportunity. The test centre apologise that I won’t be able to sit the test until further notice due to all the IT problems.

    Why is this happening to me? I booked time off from work to do the tests, I paid the fee and the level of service is shocking from you. I would’ve expected the problems I experienced on Tuesday to be fixed by now, so I didn’t have to waste my time today. I even bring my own dry wipe pens because the ones in the test centre are that bad. I have a deadline to complete this test, so I can hand in my notice and start my course in September. This is costing me money, in paying for the tests and in taking time off work, as well as having to spend more and more of my own time revising and preparing. The incompetence of your IT services has had a huge impact on me, my time and my stress levels.

    I would like you to reimburse me the cost of the two tests I booked 16th and 18th July. Next time I take the test, I would like to be given the test in paper format so I don’t have to waste any more of my time on your IT problems. I expect you to have this in place ready for me to take the test again.

    Hopefully i will pass it. I was 4 marks off last time when i could actually do it. Just annoying there scrapping it so close to when i start my course in September.

    • josephdouglas

      Excellent post. But I have not heard official confirmation that these stupid and unnecessary tests have been scrapped. Perhaps BREXIT is drowning out news on this. ?

  17. Tariq Subra

    I have a joint Hons degree in Mathematics and physics. I passed the numeracy test first time. I believe these tests are a waste of time and money, furthermore, they are an insult to universities and education institutions!
    I am sure universities and education institutions are capable of including government requirements, literacy and numeracy, as part of the PGCE training.
    Does anyone knows how much government pays the private company or companies to facilitate these tests?

    • Please scrap the tests! It is really pointless. It’s damaging and drives people to depression. Furthermore, it leaves you thinking that you lack the capacity to complete a useless test that doesn’t define you. I just hope that the scrap these test ASAP!!

  18. PLEASE GET RID OF THE TESTS. 3 X numeracy failed and 3 X literacy failed by 2 marks each time.

    I will now pay £20 each to do the tests again !! I’ve completed GCSE maths and English and did a BSc degree in Sports science. I’ve travelled and worked in various schools around the world and not once has my ability to teach been questioned, when working with 3-7years. I’ve applied for early years 3-7years PGCE, in some work experience I was helping the children create a cartoon folk – in the skills test I was asked to spell the word entrepreneurial ??? This test is so unrealistic to the goings on in a primary school class and has completely knocked my confidence and made me feel anxious about going in to teaching.

    • josephdouglas

      Good post. Shows how stupid and self defeating this pedantic pointless tests really are. Michael Gove should crawl over broken glass to apologise for putting you through all this ! Britain needs teachers . Axe the skills tests. NOW !

  19. This test is useless and ridiculous, I failed three times because of the speed, the time I finished my working then its too late to enter the answers. The level of stress people are having is very high and besides the amount of money I personally invested in my tutoring is huge as the DFE who were supposed to update the practice tests is not doing anything. The number of time people are spending on this numeracy should be the time to spend on subject knowledge but sadly it’s not the case. The test should be scrapped, it is ridiculous and time-consuming

  20. Scrap the test!!! I failed maths by 2 marks and was locked out for 2 years back in 2013. It put me off that I still haven’t applied to become a teacher again! They’re pointless they do not determine the ability of a good teacher!!!
    Get rid asap!!

  21. Yes those tests should be scrapped. There are individuals out there that have a passion for teaching have gone through so much in the education system from gcse, college, uni and then to have these tests brought upon us when the uni does their own assessment as well. I have additional needs and have struggled so much with those tests and the support in place to try and help those with learning difficulties is very limited and not very helpful at all. It’s sad that the tests have messed around with my uni place.

  22. I’m a dyslexic with a PhD in Biochemistry who has been accepted on a school direct biology PGCE. Today I failed both tests. I was 1 mark off in literacy and 4 in numeracy. Even with 25% extra time allowed for dyslexia, I struggled to answer the mental arithmetic questions in time, and how anyone can do mental maths whilst someone is talking is beyond me! I’m extremely glad to hear they will be scrapped as it has no bearing on your ability to teach, just a shame it may not be soon enough for me.

    • Tami Okoro Dedeh

      I seriously don’t understand why aspiring teachers are required to solve a Maths problem in a limited amount of time when they already have a GCSE. What exactly is the point of these tests? You have no idea how disheartening it feels to be blocked out of the tests for two years after building up your hope and dreams, and besides I’m pretty sure those tests don’t determine what sort of teacher you’d be in future. Different people have different abilities. Just because I can’t work out a complicated Maths problem in a certain amount of time doesn’t mean I’m not suitable. I also doubt the accuracy of those results. Nearly everyone I know who’s taken the test but failed is one mark off the required score…always one mark!

  23. Wow, this is good news.

    I have a 2:1 degree and have passed all my GCSE’s, I have always aspired to be a reception teacher. I have just contacted my university to tell them that it is unlikely I will be able to join in September as I have not passed the maths test, after failing twice. The lady on the phone said “dont worry keep trying we have had loads of students that are in the same situation, some failing more than 8 times”.

    People that write ‘if we get rid of the tests it will dumb down the profession’. I question how you ‘dumb down’ a profession that you need a degree and in most cases a fourth year of study to qualify?

    These tests are stopping thousands of people becoming teachers, no wonder we now have a shortage. In my opinion teaching is difficult enough without unnecessary tests. Nothing but a waste of time and a sad loss of many people that would have been fantastic teachers.

  24. I have failed numerous times which knocks your confidence and seriously impacts on your mental health. Sorry but do you not work hard enough to complete the degree which should be sufficiently balanced in order to train as a teacher. I think it is nothing more than a money making scheme. How could my marks from the outcome of the pass rate become worse???? I think this answers my question. Scrap before September 2019 , it is so unnecessary. What twit thought that that would be a good idea???
    Seriously think before implementing!!!

  25. Fran Adabie

    I really hope this happens sooner than later.
    The comments on this page explains it all.
    Potential and keen candidates are been disadvantaged because of the test, which is rather sad because there are
    a lot more qualities that an individual can possess that makes them better teachers than simply been assessed based on their ability to pass an exam.

  26. This test is a money-making scheme, nothing more, yesterday I failed by one mark and you want to define my knowledge by this? Why would you ask people to have only 18 seconds? all degrees’ s holders have basics knowledge in Maths, this is pure nonsense. I had sleepless nights to prepare my degree and I had 2.1, so what for this ridiculous test?

    • josephdouglas

      It is beyond idiotic that you have had to put up with this experience. My own daughter had a similar experience. She now has a worthwhile job and would not now consider trying again for teaching. What a waste. What a shame. Michael Gove was responsible for this farce

  27. Aside the fact that it is time consuming and stressful I find it really annoying that you have to book tests for reasons not of your making you miss your test you go without writing and have to pay again instead of being giving an alternative day to write the missed test.I think it is also cruel that you miss your slot of free tests without having another opportunity.Money making I call it.Potential trainee teachers need the time to build on their subject knowledge instead of writing numeracy and literacy tests.Let the Universities decide who they would train to teach.I have failed my numeracy test 5 times nearly giving up but I want to train to teach and my University is very supportive .Scrap it, money spent on testing can be put to better use.Support subject knowledge for trainee teachers.

  28. Grahame Brice

    I passed all three QTS tests at a Capita assessment centre back in 2000 (Mathematics, English, Information Technology). I pass my NQT 2002 and I went onto go through the Threshold for higher pay a few years later. Twenty years on in my teaching career I was told that I would have to re-do NQT. The reason was that Capita administration had scratched out my date of passing my QTS test in 2000 and rewrote 2003 (visible copy). This made my NQT invalid. Although, Capita accepted that I had passed my QTS skills test. They said I would have redo a NQT teaching program to gain my teaching qualification again, after twenty years of teaching. Other teachers have written on the internet stating that they have had a similar experience with vital information being amend or misplaced, but why?

  29. Spencer Osei

    I passed all 3 in first go back in 2008. They are not too bad unless you are easily pressured by the timing element. As I speak I believe they have scrapped these as of 2020