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To think primary school teachers should have basic skills BEFORE they start the course?

(56 Posts)
LissyGlitter Wed 12-Aug-09 15:45:49

My sister has just graduated from a four year course to become a primary school teacher. I went to her graduation, and asked her why some of her friends weren't there. She told me they hadn't yet graduated as they hadn't passed the basic skills tests! Apparently the students are allowed to retake these tests as many times as they like, with 10 or 12 retakes not being too unusual. All her friends will have graduated in time to start work as NQTs in september.

Now, I'm all for widening access to higher education and all that, but surely somebody who needs 12 retakes to be able to prove they can read, write and count shouldn't be a primary school teacher? Apparently it's becoming more and more needed to have an MA to work as a primary school teacher, due to the shortage of jobs, but surely it is far more important that the teacher has the basic skills they should be passing on to the children?

Why can't they have these tests as part of the application stage to the university, rather than letting the students spend three or four years studying and going out on placement before it is required that they pass the tests?

MrsKitty Wed 12-Aug-09 15:59:37

I totally agree.

I have a BA(Hons) in Primary Education which was also a 4 year course. The number of people I know from my course who don't have a basic grasp of spelling or simple grammar never ceases to amaze me.

I have several friends who are now primary school teachers who don't know when to use your/you're or their/there/they're and some of the spelling clangers I've seen from them include:
'Bored' (as in "fed-up") spelt as 'board', 'cupboard' spelt as 'cuboard' and 'drawers' (as in chest-of) spelt as 'draws'.

I don't think it is unreasonable in the slightest to expect that people who are going into training to enter a workplace where there is already a shortage of jobs to have a better than average grasp of the skills they will be expected to teach!

I decided to pursue a different career after graduating, but that's a whole 'nother story grin

(And apologies for any unintended spelling or grammar errors - I am naughty-Mumsnetting at work wink)

johnthepong Wed 12-Aug-09 16:00:59

I totally agree with you, and there was a thread on the TES forums about this not so long ago.

I am training to be a teacher, and luckily, I managed to pass all of the skills tests first time. They are really not that hard- basic numeracy, literacy and IT skills-it worries me that somebody who is supposed to be intelligent takes 10+ attempts to pass these.

If you want to have a go at them- look on the TDA website and they have practice materials that you can have a go at.

rosiest Wed 12-Aug-09 16:44:46

I agree. Seems very odd.

I am a teacher and passed them 1st time, as did the other people I knew on my course.

I've not really seen bad examples of grammar etc in my work, but I do think it is very odd the way they do it.

slug Wed 12-Aug-09 16:46:12

Aaah, a subject after my own heart. Disgraceful isn't it? The problem is, if they struggle that much to pass the basics, how can they be relied upon to get it right when it's really needed, i.e. in the classroom.

I worked with a youngish teacher who we could never trust with spelling or grammar. Everything he did had to be checked by another member of staff because he simply could not write clearly or accurately enough for the students to understand. It made for huge amounts of extra work for the rest of the department (yet strangely, didn't stop him from applying for a Deputy Head post within 3 years of graduating hmm) My biggest bugbear with him was he taught IT, yet consistently referred to the 'softwares'. It didn't matter how often he was corrected, he still didn't grasp that the plural of software was software.

Meanwhile he was merrily making this mistake in the classroom and his students were repeating the mistake in the exams and losing marks as a result.

muddleduck Wed 12-Aug-09 16:47:27

I'm torn on this one.

On the one hand I work in higher education and have pedantic tendencies.
On the other hand the best primary teacher I know can't spell.

I think my view is that students who fail these tests should not be prevent from starting training but the response to them failing should be to teach them properly not just let them keep taking the test. Reminds me a bit of bad drivers who keep taking the test on the off chance they might pass rather than having more lessons.

Hassled Wed 12-Aug-09 16:50:09

DS3 had a wonderful teacher last year - an NQT, full of enthusiasm and a great manner with the kids. Firm but kind, etc.

However, her howlers in letters to parents etc were infamous - "should of", "there" not "their" etc. I wanted to tell her, but never felt able to.

schneebly Wed 12-Aug-09 16:50:16

I am a student teacher on a 4 year BA(Hons) and I completely agree! Some of the people in my cohort are very poor when it comes to spelling and maths. I think the courses are too easy to get a place on and a basic skills test at interview stage would be useful.

It is setting some students up for disappointment too sad

OldLadyKnowsNothing Wed 12-Aug-09 16:59:27

How do people get degrees when they can't communicate fluently in writing? Further, how can they teach the next generation when they can't do it themselves?

MrsKitty Wed 12-Aug-09 17:03:02

I think muddleduck makes an excellent point, as does hassled

There are people who make fabulous teachers who can't spell/manage correct grammar and it would be a shame to lose them, but if the institution they apply to believes that they have all the correct qualities but are struggling with the basics then they should, as Muddleduck suggests, be making provisions to educate them properly. Not just allowing them to keep taking the test in the hope that they will, one time, get lucky and answer enough questions correctly!

I'd like to point out that the friend I mentioned earlier (who makes the mistakes I listed) is a wonderful person with many of the qualities that make an excellent teacher, but I can't help but worry about the number of teachers out there who will be 'teaching' my DC's how to spell and use correct grammar without being able to do it themselves.

foofi Wed 12-Aug-09 17:03:08

A friend of mine recently qualified as a graduate teacher and failed some of her basic skills tests many times. In the end she took so many retakes that she said she recognised the questions on the occasion she passed!

Totally agree with op, they should take these tests before embarking on the courses.

GeneHunt Wed 12-Aug-09 17:08:01

I've just taken the GCSE equivalence tests for teacher training at Plymouth University and they only let you try once a year. I think the rigorousness of the testing and number of times you can re-take vary depending on the institution.

PeachyLaPeche Wed 12-Aug-09 17:09:38

I'm quiote shocked! My feinds in Secondary training all ahd this as part of appliation system, and I would expect the same if I apply in September (anyone who wants to pull me up on typing I knooooow but Dh ahs gone off in the car with my glasses, I normally fetch them for 'proper' threads LOL)

I'd love to be a Primary teacher but the admissions chap told me I don't tick enopugh boxes (ie no MA (couldn't afford it), not male, etc) to be likely to get a palce (despite loads upon loads of experience) so have readjusted my sights. Whilst talented people should be first, it seems sad that someone with an MA but who cannot spell would take a place I'd adore.

Oh well.

gladders Wed 12-Aug-09 17:10:31

agre entirely - they should all pass these tests before they can start the course and should only be allowed a few tries. i don't want anyone without basic maths a english teaching my kids, no matter how nice a teacher they might have been....

have friend who took several goes to pass the maths bit after taking 5 attempts to pass her CSE maths. and she still hates maths - it's not going to inspire her pupils to lov the subject is it?

piscesmoon Wed 12-Aug-09 17:13:15

I think it would be sheer common sense to do it first. When I trained there were no basic skills test, but writing an essay was part of the interview process. We had exam conditions and a choice of about 6 titles. I didn't even realise that I was going to be asked to write one, so it was really off the cuff.
It would be very simple to do a maths and English test first and save so much time later on. It is essential to have them.
I supply teach and end up doing maths with year 6 with no notice at all-some DCs are very bright -you have to keep a step ahead. I haven't seen the on line tests, but I am told that people find them a problem because they are quick, but they have to be-the DCs are.

LissyGlitter Wed 12-Aug-09 17:14:52

I used to despair at the sheer lack of common sense found in the students on my degree course (English and Social Policy) but at least that wasn't leading on to something where you had responsibility to teach kids who don't know any better!

I am actually really worried about sending my kids to school, I know qualified teachers who don't even read a broadsheet newspaper beause they say they can't understand it.

Our kids are lucky enough to have a supportive home environment where they can learn about the world, but how on earth are kids from less academic houses meant to do well, when the people who are being paid to teach them are no better?

PeachyLaPeche Wed 12-Aug-09 17:16:16

'when the people who are being paid to teach them are no better'

Please substitute 'more academic' for 'better'.

moffat Wed 12-Aug-09 17:23:53

YANBU - and many have a dangerously poor grasp of general knowledge. One Y3 teacher at ds' school didn't know capital cities of European countries and was giving children incorrect information. Another was doing a lesson on surrealism and had never heard of Salvador Dali.

MrsKitty Wed 12-Aug-09 17:24:58

blush have just spotted the rogue apostrophe in my last post. Still, I'm only on an internet forum - not stood in front of 30 7 year olds...

Olifin Wed 12-Aug-09 18:17:04

PE and Art teachers are the worst in Secondary for spelling and grammar howlers

Apologies in advance if there are any here grin

I always think of myself as being crap at Maths but I passed the skills test first time so either it's not that hard or I'm better at it than I realised. hmm

pointydog Wed 12-Aug-09 18:22:24

does it matter if PE and art teachers are rubbish at spelling?

Olifin Wed 12-Aug-09 18:28:17

Yes, of course. All Secondary teachers are responsible for upholding good standards of literacy (and numeracy) hence they make everyone do the tests. Of course, their knowledge of their subject (and ability to teach it) is the most important thing but they still have to write stuff on the board for pupils and they still have to write reports for parents and carers to read.

Olifin Wed 12-Aug-09 18:29:52

Having said that, I have known some superb teachers of Art and Music who were dyslexic and therefore had a fair bit of trouble with their spelling. I don't think they should be banned from their vocation in life, but I don't think it's ideal for the students to see their errors.

DidEinsteinsMum Wed 12-Aug-09 18:44:47

Ok so reading this through i am beginning to wonder if my braisen attitude that my dyslexia will not affect my ability to teach might need some rethinking. What upsets you more mistakes being made or lack of theoretical knowledge about what and how should be applied? Ie I have no idea what verb etc if you use the term but if you say doing word then i get it (unfortunately of the generation where grammer was un-pc). Will admit my spelling can be a little entertaining, but that is why i use specialist software and a dictionary and thesaurus!

Olifin Wed 12-Aug-09 18:53:23

Einsteinsmum Most people of our generation (assuming we are of roughly the same generation) can't tell you what the different word types are as we weren't taught it at school.

It wouldn't bother me if my children's teachers didn't know what a verb was or couldn't explain grammatical rules (unless they were the English teacher!) but I think, for teachers with dyslexia or similar, using a dictionary/spell-checker/specialist software is a good idea to make sure their spelling is reasonably accurate.

I also think it's understandable for a non-English teacher (dyslexic or not) to make spelling errors in longer, more complex words but it's the their/they're/there and your/you're stuff that grates the most (given that plenty of adults make those errors all the time and they can't all be dyslexic)

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