Harder tests for trainee teachers – should ministers and MPs pass a similar test?

Janet Downs's picture
The Government has just announced tougher tests for prospective teachers in order, it says, to raise the status of profession. So would the status of MPs be raised if they, too, were subjected to rigorous tests before taking their seats?

This is how ministers, advisers and officials at the Department of Education (DfE) would have done in the following exam:


Question 1: Complete this sum: 77-73 =

Answer = 4

Failed: ex-schools minister, Nick Gibb, and aides. The answer in a DfE press release was given as 15.

Question 2: You are presented with figures which show a decline in league table performance of English teenagers in international tests in ten years. However, the organisation (OECD) that originally published the figures has discovered the earlier figures are flawed and shouldn't be used for comparison. Is it sound mathematically to use these faulty figures?

Answer = No. Any conclusions using unsound figures would be unreliable. The UK statistics watchdog has confirmed that using these figures is misleading.

Failed: Secretary of State, Michael Gove; Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Education, Lord Hill; ex-schools minister Nick Gibb; assorted Conservative MPs; DfE spokesmen/women and special advisors. Outside Parliament: Head of Ofsted, Sir Michael Wilshaw; most of the media.


Question 1: Most of the world’s high-performing countries and jurisdictions have graduation at 18. Is it correct to say that changing English exams at age 16 will bring England in line with the world’s best?

Answer: No. If the world’s best performers delay graduation until 18, then altering exams at 16 will not bring England in line with the rest of the world.

Failed: Michael Gove; DfE spokesmen/women.

Question 2: Read this statement based on Ofsted report Pupil Referral Units (PRUs) published 2007:

Ofsted wrote: “Over half the PRUs inspected nationally were good or outstanding, but one in eight was inadequate”. OFSTED found that the success of PRU depends on their own response to the challenges they face and the support they receive from their local authority.

Based on this summary, which of these sentences is correct:

(a) Seven in eight of PRUs inspected were satisfactory or better, with over half being good or outstanding. The most successful PRUs responded well to challenges and were supported by their local authority.

(b) Most local authority pupil referral units aren’t up to snuff and Ofsted said they’re the weak link in the education chain.

Answer: (a)

Failed: Michael Gove who used sentence (b) to justify allowing PRUs to be taken over by academy chains or private providers.

Secretary of State, Michael Gove, seems to have failed the test.

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Melissa Benn's picture
Fri, 02/11/2012 - 08:50

This made me laugh Janet! You might be interested in a piece in today's TES in which the government is - yet again - taken to task for its manipulation of the PISA figures, with even Andreas Schleicher declaring Gove's use of the statistics as a ' little bit dodgy.' Goverment neglect of TIMMS results - Trends in Mathematics and Science - from which we emerged with flying colours in 2007 are also mentioned.
And so - on the basis - of a 'dodgy' set of claims - a revolution has been set in train that, to continue the railway metaphor for a moment, threatens to derail state education for decades to come. Not so funny.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 02/11/2012 - 11:26

Melissa - thank for alerting me to the TES article. I've given the link below and also the link to a thread on this site which published FullFact's revelations two weeks ago.

The DfE hadn't commented when the TES article went to press. However, an Ofsted spokeswoman tried to brush away concerns about the misuse of PISA data by saying interpretation of international league tables was "complex" and followed this with "England's mean scores fell, particularly between 2000 and 2006."

It's outstanding that Ofsted still cites the 2000 figures especially in an article which makes it clear they can't be relied on - they're not sound. How can we trust an organisation that can't even demonstrate basic comprehension to inspect and judge our schools?



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