# What teacher shortage? The numeracy test stops trainees in their tracks

Discussion in 'Education news' started by Vince_Ulam, Nov 23, 2015.

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## Are teaching candidates getting more stupid?

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1. ### Vince_UlamStar commenter

'As teaching faces a recruitment crisis, Holly Welham meets those failing to join the ranks because of a ‘ludicrous’ math test

Jodie Palmer has wanted to be a teacher since she was 13. But last year her dream came crashing down when she failed to pass the numeracy test. It meant the 22-year-old could no longer start her training, which she’d already secured through School Direct.

“I was heartbroken,” says Palmer, an English literature and language graduate. “I cried and cried and cried.”

She’d spent a year preparing for the exam – including taking practice tests and having one-to-one tuition – but the pressure of the mental arithmetic questions kept tripping her up. “I could do the maths, just not within the time they set,” she explains.

The numeracy test, which all aspiring trainee teachers must pass, has two parts. In the first section candidates get 11 minutes to answer 12 mental arithmetic questions, then in the second, they have 36 minutes to answer 16 written questions that cover skills such as interpreting data. It is designed to ensure all teachers have a basic competency in numeracy (there’s also a literacy test), on top of the required minimum C grade at GCSE.

Sample questions from the arthithmetic section include asking candidates to work out how much money a class would raise if all 30 students took part in a sponsored spell test,getting an average of 18 spellings correct – each worth 20p. Another question asks trainees to calculate six out of 25 as a percentage.

Palmer is one of nearly 2,000 people who have been prevented from training to teach in recent years because of failing the numeracy skills test. When the exam was first introduced in 2000, people were given an unlimited number of tries and could begin a training course before passing the exam.
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(TheGuardian.co.uk, 22 November 2015.)

You can read the entire article here and take a quiz based on the mathematical skills test here.

Math proficiency is of course not certain evidence of general intelligence, whatever that might be, but in your view are teaching candidates getting more stupid? If it's simply a case of mathematical inadequacy then what might we infer from this about the way mathematics has been taught for the last, oh, twenty years? Please complete the poll at the top of this page, thank you.

2. ### SkillsheetsOccasional commenter

I have been quite alarmed by the lack of numerical skills of some of the people I have tutored to pass the QTS but also impressed by the effort they have put in to overcome their problems.

Vince_Ulam likes this.

4. ### Weald56Established commenter

As a secondary teacher (and not in a subject that uses Maths) I always opposed the introduction of these meaningless Tests (and yes, I have an 'O' Level pass in Maths).

I'm looking forward to trainee doctors being tested on their knowledge of art, trainee lawyers being refused entry if they don't know enough geography and dentists being refused entry if they fail to pass a history exam.

InkyP and sabrinakat like this.
5. ### Vince_UlamStar commenter

Why do you call them 'meaningless'?

6. ### Weald56Established commenter

Because they lack meaning...relevance...common sense... when applied to all teachers.

7. ### Vince_UlamStar commenter

I do not see why you would say this. All teaching roles require numeracy, almost daily.

JL48 and monicabilongame like this.
8. ### Weald56Established commenter

And all teachers have, for as long as I can remember, had to possess an 'O' level or GCSE pass in Maths. No problem with that. Why are extra tests - including totally irrelevant mental arithmetic - required? Just a pathetic, spiteful little 'dig' at teachers.

Oh, and I hardly ever used 'numeracy' in over 30 years.

FWIW If these tests had been introduced before I started teaching I would either have simply gone into the independent sector, or would have done something else altogether. Not because I couldn't pass it, but because I would have resented having to do it.

9. ### Vince_UlamStar commenter

Not at all. Mental arithmetic is something most of us use daily without acknowledgement that we're using it. It's that important, ubiquitous, and if a GCSE is an accurate sign of a person's mathematical facility then they cannot realistically resent taking a mathematics skills test.

No, you will use your numeracy, including mental arithmetic, almost daily.

In that case a person would be cutting off their nose to spite their face.

10. ### Weald56Established commenter

1. GCSE/'O' Levels is quite enough - extra tests are not required.

2. I really didn't use Maths in my teaching.

3. Not really - I would have earned far more going into one of the careers most people with my qualifications did.

11. ### MangleworzleStar commenter

This needs to be pointed out to the powers that be, it'll be gone in a trice, that's the last thing that the modern teacher needs. Any understanding of data is a handicap leading to frustration at the stupidity of the way the data is used. Better for mental health not to reason why.

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12. ### Vince_UlamStar commenter

Numeracy and facility with the English language are required by every subject to greater or lesser degree, with obvious anomalies such as Drama. If a subject requires more of one than the other then I suppose we could pay less wages to teachers of those subjects whose subjects don't require both explicitely and who aren't capable of handling their own administration. I think that would be fair.

I do not know what you teach but I imagine that you use numeracy each day. The Secondary National Curriculum sections 5 & 6 are quite clear on the importance of English language & numeracy across all subjects. Your everyday administration, of course, requires numeracy.

Good for you.

I like the skills tests because they ensure a radical competence and are simultaneously a useful barrier to people of unsuitable temperament.

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13. ### Weald56Established commenter

Oh dear - you understand so little about education and teaching. Nor, apparently, can you understand what others write - perhaps YOU need a 'comprehension skills' test before contributing to education forums.

14. ### Vince_UlamStar commenter

You took a while to realise that your position is indefensible but there it is, the personal insult.

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15. ### paeonyOccasional commenter

In my experience candidates aren't more stupid. However, they lack greatly in what we northerners call 'gumption'. Common sense. Nouse. Their general knowledge is typically fairly awful too.

That said, I don't know why they want smart people any more. Show yourself to be intellectually gifted enough to think critically (& do so of those above you) & you'll get shafted pretty quickly....

16. ### Weald56Established commenter

'indefensible'? I think not - show me ANY evidence that the introduction of these tests has improved teaching in any way whatsoever, please....

17. ### Vince_UlamStar commenter

You're welcome.

19. ### needabreakStar commenter

Numeracy is essential across the subjects, if only to understand the data targets assigned to the hoops you are expected to jump through while working in the profession, not to mention explaining your class/departments results! We may disagree with the need to do this but we are inevitably asked to do it anyway.

Personally I find nothing unusual in expecting all teachers to have what is in effect a basic standard of numeracy and literacy. The single most shocking thing to hear in a school environment is to overhear a teacher say they are no good at maths, we aren't talking high level skills here are we?

I do however understand the view on time pressure as chances are in the work place you are given a little longer that a minute or so to figure things out and would do so when required or when it suited you, so wouldn't be under test pressure which can be of putting to some.

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20. ### Weald56Established commenter

Which is why a GCSE or 'O'Level in English & Maths has been required for years....

Actually it's personal survival - in some schools say you are good at something & - before you know it - you'll be timetabled to teach it due to shortages in some subjects!