New teaching training tests, 7 out of 10
We often talk about the need for young people to leave the education system with adequate numeracy and literacy skills. As such, EEF recently set a benchmark for government for 65% of school leavers to achieve five GCSE A*-C grades including English and maths by 2015.
But to achieve such targets we must look at the quality of teaching. Today, the Department for Education (DfE) announced new tougher tests for trainee teachers. Changes include:
• More rigorous pre-entry tests to raise status of profession;
• New challenging English and maths test from September 2013;
• Calculators to be banned from maths test.
The new tests mean that to qualify for training places, prospective teachers will now be required to achieve what is equivalent to a grade B at GCSE, as opposed to a C or D as needed previously. If we are calling for young people to be leaving school with at least a grade C then surely requiring those that are teaching them to be of 'B-grade standard' is not really a big ask?
Employers will always welcome proposals that drive attainment in key standards and today's announcement looks at addressing the issue of young people lacking basic skills from a new angle. But the reason I have given today's announcement a 7 out of 10 is that I think there is still more that can be done.
For example, EEF would like to see more teachers with specialist knowledge of STEM subjects in schools. Stats from the DfE's School Workforce Census revealed that 16% of maths teachers are non-specialists, only 22% of science teachers hold chemistry degrees and even less (14%) hold physics degrees.
Government must continue to encourage more top-class graduates to enter teaching in subjects where teachers are in short supply. Whilst bursaries for those training to be physics, chemistry and maths teachers has been a welcome move, the government should also review the case for capping the repayment fees for teachers who take training courses in key subjects and go in to teach them.
And what about exploring options of getting more professionals into teach key subjects? What better way to bring maths to life than to bring in an engineer from a manufacturing company to demonstrate how maths is applied in the real world? We are already seeing this happen through schemes such as Primary Engineer and the STEMNET Ambassador's programme but government should send a clear message to schools that such teaching methods should be encouraged.
In conclusion I would say - a good start to the new academic year from government but more effort required.