Aspiring teachers will be allowed to fail multiple entry tests before starting in the job in an effort to ease the recruitment crisis, the Government has announced.
Would-be teachers will get an unlimited number of attempts at passing compulsory numeracy and literacy skills tests needed to enter the profession, education minister Nick Gibb said.
Candidates who failed the entry test three times in a row were previously stopped from retaking the assessment for two years.
And those resitting the skills test for the second and third time will no longer have to pay to retake the assessment.
The changes to the test – which was made more rigorous in 2012 to ensure teachers had high standards of English and maths – have been introduced to boost the number of capable trainees entering teaching.
It comes after Ucas figures released last month showed applications for teacher training had dropped by 29 per cent compared with the same time last year.
But Mr Gibb insisted that the Government has not lowered the bar for entry to the profession.
He said: “The bar for entrance to the teaching profession remains as high as ever, as parents and pupils would expect, and this is evidenced by the fact that the quality of new entrants into the profession is at an all-time high, with 19 per cent of this year’s cohort holding a first-class degree.
“It is absolutely right that aspiring teachers can begin training as soon as they prove they are ready and these changes – backed by the profession – will help ambitious graduates to join the profession.”
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James Noble-Rogers, Universities’ Council for the Education of Teachers (Ucet) executive director, said: “This is a sensible and pragmatic move. It will allow potentially good teachers who would otherwise have been kept out of the profession to begin their training.
“There have been numerous examples in the past of good candidates being prevented from retaking the skills tests because they failed by just one or two marks, often because of the pressure they experience having reached their final attempt.”
Last month, the Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) accused the Government of getting the balance wrong by spending £555m a year training new teachers – and just £36m on retaining and developing teachers.
Emma Hollis, executive director of the National Association of School-Based Teacher Trainers (NASBTT), said that the change would help but it would not solve the recruitment problems entirely.
Speaking to The Independent, Ms Hollis said: “Sometimes people just need longer as the test itself is the barrier rather than their knowledge. There are anecdotes of people with accountancy degrees that fail the numeracy test because they are panicked.”
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), added: “It is a very minor, but welcome change. I don’t think we are now going to be awash with new recruits.”