Teacher training providers will take control as DfE confirms end of QTS tests

Teacher training providers will be responsible for making sure prospective teachers have adequate literacy and numeracy skills from October, as the government confirms it is axing the QTS skills tests.

Schools Week exclusively revealed last week that the government plans to ditch the numeracy and literacy skills entry tests, which prospective teachers must pass in order to start their training, following a consultation about whether the tests are fit for purpose.

In a written ministerial statement today, schools minister Nick Gibb confirmed the tests would end in just three months time.

He said: “From October, teacher training providers will become responsible for ensuring that prospective teachers meet the high standards of literacy and numeracy required to be a teacher. Under this new system, trainees will be benchmarked against a defined set of skills they will be expected to have by the end of their initial teacher training.

“This new system of provider-led assurance will be introduced at the end of the current recruitment cycle.”

Responding to today’s announcement, Emma Hollis, executive director of the National Association of School-Based Teacher Trainers, insisted the change would not lead to the “dumbing down” of the profession. She said the QTS tests had led to too many “false positives” or candidates failing by just a few marks, and had too many “practical barriers” including the locations of test centres and difficulty booking appointments to take the test.

“ITT providers will now be able to take a developmental approach to a candidate’s functional literacy and numeracy which will allow gaps to be identified and filled,” she said.

“Going forward, this will ensure quality and consistency as providers will have a more rounded understanding of the functional literacy and numeracy requirements of a cohort.”

Gibb, 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”.

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.

The DfE 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.

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.

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  1. John Smith

    As the leading provider of QTS support services we work with hundreds of prospective trainee teachers every week helping them to prepare for their QTS tests. We understand that there are many people who are critical of the tests but we see everyday how essential they are in maintaining standards. Scrapping the tests will almost certainly lead to inconsistencies in how initial teacher training providers implement the new guidelines. How can you let training providers regulate the spaces they allocate when their incentive is to fill as many spaces as they can, due to the funding they receive. There is no doubt that this change will result in more people becoming teachers but the additional teachers that fill the spaces are likely to be the weakest in terms of their numeracy and/or literacy skills. The government has come under pressure due to poor delivery of the QTS tests. This is a good reason to improve them, not to scrap then and lower entry requirements. Also what about the £15 million contract, I imagine the break clause will cost the tax payer a hefty amount but this will be a number that never gets released.

    • Vanessa Barrett

      Maybe people are starting to realise that passing both the literacy and numeracy test may be difficult for those with dyslexia or dyscalculia, and that many of these people would be great as teachers of physics, engineering, maths, IT, etc. My own sons have dyslexia and they excelled in Maths and Physics. One did engineering and has a pilot’s licence, whilst the other is doing a degree in architecture. They are both extremely intelligent. The literacy test would prevent people like my sons from entering the teaching profession. Some famous dyslexics include Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and many more. The inventor of the www, Tim Berners-Lee, could be too, as he has said in interviews that he has appalling spelling. It makes sense for education providers to determine if they employ a brilliant Physics teacher who may not be that great at spelling.

    • Somewhat ironic that you have made a grammatical error in your support of these tests! You have written “everyday” instead of “every day”.

      As a former teacher and school leader, I absolutely agree with scrapping these tests. I have seen many fine practitioners left unqualified because they became so anxious during the numeracy tests that they failed them, despite having competent mental arithmetic skills. They are just not a useful way of assessing someone’s competence.

      • John Smith

        The QTS tests have a pass mark of around 65% to allow for grammatical and mathematical errors. No one with competent mental arithmetic skills fails their QTS test.

        We will have to wait and see what the DfE replaces the tests with before calling this a scandal but all indications are that the new measures will lower the bar for entry into the teaching profession resulting in people who genuinely struggle with basic times tables becoming teachers. Lets wait for the September update.

  2. Jacky Brown

    I do not agree with scrapping the tests, even as a hlta I had to pass I have worked in secondary schools for 13 years and cannot believe I can be working with staff who do not have to meet the literacy and numeracy standards any longer.

  3. Simon Jackson

    This is utterly scandalous!

    First of all, these tests are not that difficult for the average person (and you would surely assume that you would want an above-average person responsible for educating the next generation, no?). Being able to pick “could have” as the correct answer instead of “could of”, or not understanding the difference between “their”, “they’re” and “there” (things which are on display in most primary classrooms, although with the tests being scrapped, perhaps they will remain there for the benefit of the teacher!) is surely not that much to expect a teacher to do, and if people are struggling with this, then why do we want to put them in front of our children?

    I admit I have a vested interest in the QTS tests, as I sometimes tutor adults who are struggling to pass the QTS maths test. The calibre of the tutee I receive is lamentably weak and they often have the numeracy skills of a 6 or 7 year old (no exaggeration at all). I have genuinely encountered students who struggle with the QTS maths test who do not know:

    1. That two halves make a whole.
    2. That there are 60 seconds in a minute.
    3. The value of any digit that appears after a decimal point (an extremely common issue).
    4. How long a journey lasts if a train leaves at 8:50 and arrives at 9:10. (I did ask this particular student, who was in her 30s, to imagine this as a real life problem rather than a maths problem, and she responded, “to be honest, I am always so confused every time I go to a train station!”
    5. General struggles with time, due to the fact that time is counted in 12s or 60s rather than 10s and 100s.
    6. Complete confusion with division and no understanding that 21 divided by 3 is not the same as 3 divided by 21.
    7. Total ineptitude with times tables, even including tables as low as 3.

    This list could go on!

    Can you even begin to imagine the damage these people will cause in the classroom? Would you want your son or daughter being taught by an adult who doesn’t know their 4 times table or who writes “too” on your child’s report instead of “to”? Of course, the government will say that training providers are responsible for polishing them up to the required standard and that there will be support in place in very ‘nuanced ways’, whatever that means.

    I do fear for the future of education provision in this country. If the government wants to fix the issue, it needs to think about why so many people have left the profession (like me), or are thinking about leaving the profession, and take steps to convince them that this is a profession worth remaining in. Allowing people on PGCE courses without the very basics of English and maths just further undermines the system.

    The tests are far from perfect, but it at least serves the purpose of weeding out some of the weakest candidates.

  4. Let’s face it, if you have a good grade in GCSE Maths, English and Science, have A levels in any of the above and have a BA, BSC and or MA or MSC then you should not have to sit a numeracy or literacy skills test needed to get into teaching.
    The skills test are not fit for purpose, why they were ever introduced I do not know.
    It is interesting to see that many of the arguments put forward claim that these test raise standards, they do not. All these test do is prevent people from wanting to go into teaching. I personally have 11 GCSE’s (including Maths and English at A*) , A level Psychology, English and Biology as well as A first class honours degree and a Master of Arts passed with distinction.
    Why the hell would I need to take a test which is no longer relevant – these tests limit talent, do not take into account skills that can not be measured, test centres are awkward to get to and from what I have heard the tests themselves often glitch and have problems whilst candidates are attempting to answer the questions and they are a drain on government resources in terms of administration costs.
    So, to all those who think these skills test have any merit or value, get a grip, face reality, theses tests DO NOT raise standards, all of you who are winging about it being unfair because you had to sit them, tough luck, you should have put up a fight to get them banned in the first place.
    those who champion these skills tests are usually inadequate teachers who are scarred at being exposed by better people.
    so, move on, get over it, let more talented people shine through and stop trying to drag people down when they are more tan qualified to be a teacher.
    Get over yourselves and move with the times, teaching has reached a crisis point whereby nobody wants to go into it.
    Let others rise through the system without jumping through unnecessary hoops.

    • Hello Serena,
      I so agree with you i passed my English qts with flying colours but because of the time restraint and lack of test availability i was not able to pass my maths. I have recently graduated with a 2:1 in BSc in Medical Science and i am so passionate about teaching and giving every child the opportunity to excel, not just that but to get girls into the STEM industry; most STEM industry only currently hire 17% of women in the UK its quite disgusting on top we are still being payed much lower than men. Teaching isn’t just about subject based knowledge but its learning the application of skills in the real world and being able to help vulnerable pupils whether it may be cyber bullying, confidence, CV formation, politics, saving money, interview skills.
      We must remember these children spend more time in school than they do at home with their parents, we have the responsibility to change a child life, “A child’s life is like a piece of paper on which every person leaves a mark.

  5. To the people who are in uproar about the scrapping of tests… I’m coming up forty and at 17 decided I wanted to teach art and design. I have dyslexia but managed to fly through college, gain a 2:1 hons and blast through my masters. But no institution will allow me to teach secondary as they do not favour my maths equivalent. the timed tests are hell even with extra time. I tried nursing and all kinds of work but came back to education as a TA. I have been a TA for 11 years now and bitter when sat in a class knowing I can do better at delivering the lesson. My behaviour management is spot on and can teach small groups of disadvantaged students in core subjects. I have excelled in science yet I am not up to required standards to teach Art! So we preach equality and inclusion in the classroom, but in reality it doesn’t exist. Especially if you have a learning disability