This story by Freddie Whittaker in Schools Week 12th February 2018

At least 9,000 prospective teachers barred from training after failing a skills test three times will be able to book retakes again from this Thursday.

Schools Week understands that the government’s decision to scrap the controversial lock-out rule, which prevents would-be trainees from taking the QTS literacy and numeracy skills test for two years if they fail it three times in a row, will affect between 9,000 and 9,500 people.

The government confirmed earlier today that those who have previously been banned for failing the test too many times will have their access to the test booking system reinstated from Thursday.

Learndirect, which runs the tests on behalf of the Department for Education, is understood to be writing to banned prospective trainees today to inform them of the government’s decision.

Nick Gibb, the schools minister, this morning announced a series of measures aimed at enabling more people to become qualified teachers.

The government will also scrap fees charged to trainees for their first two retakes. The changes mean would-be teachers can take the skills test as many times as they want, and will only have to pay for it after their third attempt.

As revealed by Schools Week last October, thousands of trainee teachers have been effectively barred from qualifying every year by the rule, which was brought in by Gibb himself in 2012.

He told MPs on the parliamentary education committee at the time that it was part of a drive to “push up the bar of entry into the profession”. His comments at that inquiry were made in response to questions about the quality of teachers from Damian Hinds, the education secretary, who at the time was backbench MP.

The announcement this morning has prompted claims from school leaders that the government is further watering down its requirements of new teachers, after Gibb wrote to teacher training providers urging them to change their entry criteria.

Writing for Schools Week today, David Spendlove, professor of Education at the University of Manchester, said the change was an indicator that the government “has simply messed up teacher supply and training over the last eight years”.

Jy Taylor, headteacher at Twynham School in Dorset said although there was a “massive crisis” in recruitment, lowering entry requirements “isn’t the answer”.

“Instead focus on ensuring the profession is attractive and desirable to those who can pass the tests,” he said on Twitter.

Shaun Hopper, a deputy head at a primary school in Scarborough, also questioned the move.

“Surely if they can’t pass these tests they shouldn’t be teachers?” he tweeted. “Or [the DfE] are in a state of panic because recruitment is awful and the only way is to let them take as many tests as they want before they pass!”

However, others have welcomed the move, which they say will allow trainees with the potential to be great teachers from being barred from the profession on the basis of the skills test alone.

“We have seen all too many examples of candidates with excellent potential being locked out of the profession for the sake of one or two marks on a test,” said Emma Hollis of the National Association of School-Based Teacher Trainers. “This move will keep the profession open to those who deserve the opportunity to train to teach.”

Ben Gadsby, an education policy expert, said: “All teachers should have the high standard of English and maths needed to pass these tests – whatever subject they teach. The changes announced today maintain that high bar, whilst ensuring as many keen would-be teachers as possible get the opportunity to begin training.”

The latest school workforce census data shows that the rate of qualified teachers entering the profession fell to its lowest level since 2011 in 2016, and that the number of teachers without qualified teacher status rose by seven per cent between 2015 and 2016.

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