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Teacher Training Skills Test

Volume 658: debated on Thursday 11 April 2019

I would like to set out for the House some actions my Department is taking to resolve an error we have identified in the marking scheme of one of the professional skills tests for prospective teachers.

The skills tests assess the core skills that teachers need to fulfil their professional role in schools. This is to ensure all teachers are competent in numeracy and literacy, regardless of their specialism.

All current and prospective trainee teachers must pass the skills tests in numeracy and literacy before they can be recommended for the award of qualified teacher status (QTS). Trainee teachers must pass the skills tests before they start their course of initial teacher training.

Since February 2018, candidates have been able to take unlimited test attempts, with the first three attempts offered free of charge.

The design of the skills tests is the responsibility of the Standards and Testing Agency (STA). The agency recently reviewed all marking schemes in operation for the skills tests and discovered an error in one test. This test was immediately taken out of use and the STA have confirmed that there are no errors in the remaining marking schemes that are in operation.

The error applies to a marking scheme for one of the literacy skills tests and has resulted in a small number of candidates failing their literacy test when they should have passed. The incorrect marking scheme for this test has been in operation for at least 10 years. We know that just over 200 candidates were affected by the error between September 2017 and November 2018, approximately 150 of whom went on to pass their literacy test.

We will offer a payment to compensate candidates affected for any expenses they may have incurred in having to retake the test. My Department will make best endeavours to contact candidates affected by the marking scheme error. Any candidates who think they may have been affected can also contact the skills test helpline by emailing

It is regrettable that this error has prevented some candidates from progressing their applications to teacher training. My Department is taking swift action to make sure that those affected are supported to progress their applications.

The chief executive of the STA has assured me that there are no remaining marking scheme errors and that the schemes will be quality assured on a regular basis to prevent further errors.