The new tests have been developed by a panel of head teachers and teaching experts, following complaints that the current tests were too easy.
Every trainee teacher is required to pass the tests, even those wishing to teach unrelated subjects, such as Art and PE.
The government says that making the entry tests more rigorous will raise the quality and standing of the teaching profession. Education Secretary Michael Gove said "These changes will mean that parents can be confident that we have the best teachers coming into our classrooms. Above all, it will help ensure we raise standards in our schools and close the attainment gap between the rich and poor."
More complex mathematical problems and longer written exercises will become part of the tests. There will also be new questions on verbal, numerical and abstract reasoning. The pass mark will been raised.
Another aspect of this change is that fewer resits will be allowed, in line with Michael Gove's other education reforms. If the test has been failed three times, the candidate will not be allowed to take it again for 2 years.
They will be non-calculator tests and will require the trainee teacher to gain a score equivalent to a grade B at GCSE. They will also be taken before starting on the teacher training course, so becoming a pre-requisite to gaining a place on a course.
The teaching unions are unsure about the plans. Julia Neal, president of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers said: "If you're going to raise standards it's not just about recruiting teachers in the first place, it is actually keeping them and retaining them. I do think that sometimes there's a message going out which is really just undermining the profession. Are we saying that teachers at the moment aren't good enough because they haven't passed these tests? I do worry about the message that's going out about the profession."
Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, made the point that this reform does not appear to align itself well with another of Gove’s ideas, allowing academies to hire unqualified teachers.
At MathsBank, we would give this particular reform a tentative thumbs-up. It is important to recruit teachers who have a certain level of academic ability. But teaching is about many things, not just academic excellence. A teacher must be a many-skilled individual, being able to engage and keep young people interested, to control a class and to handle the many stresses and pressures that being a teacher brings. And as Christine Blower pointed out: "The real issue is the training and support that teachers are given once they have entered into teaching training."
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