Calls for reading and basic maths tests for new teachers

Trainee teachers should be made to sit new tests in numeracy and literacy before being allowed in the classroom, Tory leader Ruth Davidson has said.

Dr Rowena Arshad, Head of Moray House School of Education appears before Holyrood's Education and Skills Committee. Picture: Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament

It comes after a “damming” new report yesterday raised fresh concerns about the lack of time devoted to these “basic” disciplines on teacher training courses in Scotland. Student teachers on a four-year degree course can spend as little as 44 hours on numeracy and 48 hours on literacy, a new analysis of initial teacher education (ITE) courses found.

Education Secretary John Swinney admitted he is “very concerned” by the findings and pledged to raise the issue with college and teaching leaders in an effort to tackle the problem.

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The issue was thrust into the spotlight last week when trainee teachers told MSPs at Holyrood their training did not give them the basic maths skills to educate primary seven pupils.

Rowena Arshad, head of the Moray House School of Education at the University of Edinburgh, told the education committee yesterday the literacy and numeracy figures are “worrying”.

The Tory leader has now set out measures to boost reading and counting skills among pupils after international league tables revealed Scotland is falling down in comparison to other nations.

Teacher trainees should have to sit literacy and numeracy tests at the start and need of their course, according to Ms Davidson’s plan, which also calls for the creation of a new independent inspectorate to be established to carry out “rigorous quality checks.”

Ms Davidson said: “When we are training teachers, we need to ensure they know how to pass on good literacy and numeracy skills to children.

“These are the basics you’d expect any government to act upon. Yet the SNP has spent so much of its time on the constitution, it has left the day job behind.”

The research, published by the Scottish Government, showed students spend an average of 84 hours on literacy and 61 hours on numeracy. The number of hours spend on literacy across the four years varied from 48 hours in one institution to 173 in another. But some students spent 89 hours on numeracy - double the 44 hours that some of their counterparts received.

Mr Swinney said: “It is essential all teacher education programmes are of the highest quality.

“They must deliver appropriate content for literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing, as well as data literacy and equality, across both the primary and secondary sectors.”