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

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


Are teaching candidates getting more stupid?

  1. Yes, and I have no idea why.

  2. Yes, and I blame the national curriculum.

  3. Yes and I blame bad teaching.

  4. No. Just no.

  5. No, 21st Century teachers don't need to know that much.

  1. Weald56

    Weald56 Established commenter

    Relevant to primary school teachers then...but not at all to secondary school teachers.
  2. Piranha

    Piranha Star commenter

    I'd be interested to know how anybody could be expected to produce evidence that one factor has made a positive difference when there have been so many changes. Or, indeed, how to show that the quality of teachers and teaching has changed in any way. I stand by my view that much of the Maths test is not relevant for many teachers, but I have no way of proving it by statistics.
  3. needabreak

    needabreak Star commenter

    While working in secondary I was asked to do quite a bit of cover in the maths department so a working knowledge was helpful. Guess cover supervisors would do this now. With hindsight perhaps I was asked to do those covers because it was known that I was numerate ... hmm ... prob a rod for my own ... but actually I found it refreshing to do something different and often fairly random (from my point of view) after teaching the same subjects for a number of years. I drew the line at football cover... it was freezing ... actually I didn't draw a line at all; I did what was asked of me ... sigh.

    I didn't need the skills tests to prove I had these transferable skills, but perhaps the tests are an admission that the current qualifications aren't robust enough *really don't like that term for obvious reasons but there we are.
  4. applesauced

    applesauced New commenter

    I'm in my third year of teaching, so my memory of taking the skills tests is still fairly fresh. The numeracy test was stressful due to the speed of the test, rather than the content. I'm amazed that so many of my university colleagues passed the Literacy test because their spoken grammar was so poor. I often overheard, "We was" and "Me and so and so" whilst on campus. I once commented, "That woman looks just like Amanda Knox," to a group who, it transpired, had no idea who Amanda Knox was, despite the fact that she had been in the news that week! That being said, I was also lucky enough to train with some highly intelligent, witty, well-informed people too.
    Interestingly, the students who I, foolishly and without qualification, judged as having poor grammar and general knowledge, often achieved the Outstanding grade in observations.
    I don't think that teachers are getting stupider. I think that, despite what the papers and government might say, that teachers in England are world class.
    That post wasn't particularly concise and I don't think I made any poignant points at all. I may have passed the skills tests, I may have been able to identify compound sentences and understand box and whisker diagrams, but I have total brain-porridge this Wednesday afternoon and make absolutely no sense!
  5. wanet

    wanet Star commenter

    Tend to agree, if you can't teach ypurself to pass this skills test then how can you confidently teach others. Also everyone who teaches children should have mastered the basics. I understand that all teachers are supposed to teach literacy and numeracy.

    As has already been stated finding evidence with so many changes would not be possible. A decent maths education should tell you that.
  6. Mangleworzle

    Mangleworzle Star commenter

    Yes everyone remembers the PhD who couldn't cut it because of their class management failings. I can recall 1 in 25 years, but lots more embarrassingly dim other teachers who knew nothing beyond the immediate lesson they needed to know. The ITT students I mentored over the years who didn't make it were also in the not-so-bright category, the more academic had the skills and self discipline to apply themselves.

    You seem to have a very modern view of teaching in this regard, anyone will do, they don't need to know anything beyond the minimum, can you prove this is true? What about the hypocrisy of someone who hasn't bothered to master a basic test expecting students to learn their subject which will always be useless to the student?
  7. Weald56

    Weald56 Established commenter

    Really? Modern? o_O

    You really don't get it. I would insist on subject degrees of 2:1 or better, with Russell group Universities being favoured, tbh.

    I have two degrees and was, in all the schools I worked in, regarded as knowing my subject superbly (if I say so myself...:)). I liked to see other teachers like that, and - when in SLT - certainly used degree standards to help the shortlisting process.

    But I wanted my art teachers to be excellent artists (and teachers), my French teachers to be excellent linguists (and teachers), my Mathematicians to be excellent mathematicians (and teachers)...you get the drift. Whether they could pass pathetic skills tests imposed on the profession by a vindictive government for short-term political ends, I frankly couldn't give a damn.
    emefelle and colinbillett like this.
  8. Mangleworzle

    Mangleworzle Star commenter

    We'll have to agree to differ then, to my mind if a teacher can't manage to pass straightforward maths and English tests it's because they haven't made enough effort. As a teacher it is their job to encourage others to make the same efforts in their own subject.
    chloe_95, wanet and Vince_Ulam like this.
  9. CarrieV

    CarrieV Lead commenter

    I took my O level maths in 1977 and sat the skills tests some twenty five years later, something I was quite happy to do to demonstrate that my brain hadn't atrophied in the meantime! If I recall correctly, I also sat O level computing the first year it was introduced and things had certainly changed between then and sitting the computing skills test. So perhaps there IS a role for them, to ensure that entrants to the profession have up to date skills at the required level. Those with more recent qualifications should find them a doddle!
    wanet and needabreak like this.
  10. FormosaRed

    FormosaRed Occasional commenter

    Probably both trainee teachers if the quality of ours this year is anything to go by.
    cassandramark2 likes this.
  11. Morninglover

    Morninglover Lead commenter

    FYI - There is a significant time lag between when I write my posts, and when they appear.
  12. TCSC47

    TCSC47 Star commenter

    Numeracy is an absolutely essential part of modern life in exactly the same way that reading and writing are. It goes without saying all teachers should be numerate. But it is silly to deny the use of calculators in exactly the same way that it is silly to deny the use of spell and grammar checkers.

    However, it is quite clear that our educational plotters and planners do not understand what mathematics actually is, and that numeracy is only a small subset of it. I was shocked at the level and content of the maths test that people have to take to gain entry to, say, an Early Years teaching degree. Absolutely irrelevant, ridiculous and unnecessary. It was of a level that I would expect my A level physics students to be able to deal with, but totally irrelevant to the skills needed by a reception class teacher. Just plain silly.

    The big mistake of maths teaching, the one that brings the whole of teaching into such disrepute, is that it does not seem to acknowledge that there is numeracy and there is the rest of maths, or "academic" maths. This academic maths is understood for what it is and loved by people like me but loathed by the rest, who enter the world of adults with a lingering resentment of it. It doesn't help anybody to perpetrate this misunderstanding into teacher training.
    kent1 likes this.
  13. PizzoCalabro

    PizzoCalabro Established commenter

    I did that skills test a couple of years ago, as a career changer 34 years after leaving school (did completely unrelated career and degree) and yes, there was time pressure, but not actually difficult. Quite scary if some trainee teachers who are likely to have left school only a few years before are claiming it is too difficult or failing it.
    chloe_95, wanet and Vince_Ulam like this.
  14. Vince_Ulam

    Vince_Ulam Star commenter

    I suppose we could institute babysitting diplomas and pay EYFS market rate.

    No mathematics can be done by the innumerate.
  15. jubilee

    jubilee Star commenter

    The thing with teaching is that once you get QTS you are deemed competent to teach more than your specialism. A Head is allowed to deploy you to teach other subjects.
    Primary teachers need to be all-rounders but even in Secondary it is important not to be so weak in certain areas that you show yourself up in front of classes.

    Sending out the message that it's OK to be weak at Maths would add to the disengagement already rife about the subject.
    What the opening post story highlights for me is that someone could not pass a Skills test deemed to be what a competent 12 year old could accomplish and yet the applicant had a grade C in GCSE Maths.
    The GCSE has been dumbed down (formulae given, enough points awarded for workings-out to allow a pass even when the answer is wrong etc) to allow ever-increasing pass rates and the consequent claims that standards are improving.
    I was a whizz at Maths at Grammar School in the 1960s and early 70s (and did Pure & Applied Maths at A level) but I only managed a grade 3 out of 6 O level pass grades (supposedly equivalent to a B at GCSE). I'd get an A* in today's system!

    I did some supply teaching in Maths (my specialism is MFL) and was shocked at a top set Year 11 group getting out calculators to work out 10% of a number.
    lanokia and Vince_Ulam like this.
  16. bettinaboo

    bettinaboo New commenter

    I passed my literacy first time and my numeracy the second time. I understand that we all need to have basic literacy and numeracy skills. Before I went into teaching I worked for nearly twenty years in the retail sector where numeracy was used pretty much every day. However, I have always struggled with maths and had to revise like crazy and take numerous tests before I was able to pass my skills test. That being said if you sat me in front of the test today with no preparation, then I do not believe for one second I would pass it again. I could be very wrong but I think that's why many people argue against them. You spend a great deal of time preparing and revising to pass the tests but then I think most people just breathe a sigh of relief that its all over and don't think about numeracy again. I think it is a box that the government have to tick to show that they are reacting to the reports that some teachers lack basic literacy and numeracy skills. I understood why I sat mine considering I sat my maths GCSE almost 24 years ago but there was an awful lot in the numeracy test that I had never seen before and will probably never see again. My test had 5 questions involving a box and whisper graph lol and when I spoke to no less than 5 teachers they were not even aware that people still used these graphs! Anyway there will always be people for and against these tests. I do feel they need to be looked at again as I think the profession is losing a lot of potentially good teachers just because they have difficulty passing a test in a subject that they probably don't even want to teach. I am not saying that these tests need to be scrapped but I do feel they need a complete overhaul, as my numeracy, as far as I am concerned, was far from basic.
  17. jubilee

    jubilee Star commenter

    When Gifted and Talented came in a member of SLT at my Induction school was put in charge of implementing the programme. certain children would be taken out of lessons periodically and would go to Enrichment sessions (painting pottery cows, trip out etc).
    A full staff meeting was called and we we were told to nominate the top two or three students in each of our classes as they were the Gifted and Talented 10%.

    I asked him did he really want me to nominate two pupils from my bottom set French class as their reading ages in English were all below their chronological age and they were not high flyers in French!
    Wouldn't it be better for all the Gifted and Talented pupils to be selected from the top sets in subjects where the pupils had already been organised by ability?
    I rather think that he would have failed a Logic Skills Test and one for practical application of Maths!
    wanet, Mangleworzle and lanokia like this.
  18. Mangleworzle

    Mangleworzle Star commenter

    It fell to me to forward names from my department, I used to send an email round asking for top kids in all year groups. The one member of staff who would always send the top 2-3 kids per class regardless of set was also SMT, she was most put out when I didn't include the best kids in her bottom or middle sets.

    Maybe SMT have to do a "follow orders" test where all prior knowledge is disregarded, it would explain a lot.
    wanet likes this.
  19. splinters

    splinters Established commenter

    lanokia likes this.
  20. splinters

    splinters Established commenter

    "Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid."
    "Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school"
    lanokia likes this.

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