On 26 October, Michael Gove, Education Secretary, announced that competence in grammar and punctuation, essay writing, spelling and solving maths problems including algebra would be requirements tested as necessary precursors to qualifying as a teacher trainee

In an effort to improve the quality of education and to encourage an even spread of teaching ability between the different strata of society, the government plans to introduce more rigorous tests for aspiring teacher trainees. Does this adequately address the qualities a teacher ought to possess? The assumption is clearly that a teacher should have a good grip on core mathematical and English language skills alongside the “softer” skills needed to engage and inspire his or her pupils. The proposed tests aim to ensure that future teachers evidence their possession of at least one of what many might think are simply “the basics”.

The Government hopes that, by raising the bar at entry level, the tests will help to attract outstanding university graduates although, as expected, teachers’ unions have already responded with the contention that higher pay and pensions might be a more effective approach to improving the quality of recruitment into the profession. The aims of government and unions appear to be united insofar as they can agree that teaching should be an attractive career because it is respected and competitive, well-paid and excellently-resourced.

With the replacement of the General Teaching Council for England with The Teaching Agency (TA) in April 2012, teachers saw a change in their regulatory regime. No longer are “competence” cases an available ground on which to bring an allegation before the TA against a teacher. Only where a teacher’s conduct rather than competence is alleged to be so far deficient that it is likely to result in a prohibition order will the TA proceed. The focus on teacher standards at the entry level of teachers to the profession may be viewed as a more productive way to plug the gap created by the end of “competence” cases before, what was, the General Teaching Council. It is to be hoped that by raising standards amongst new entrants to the profession, examples of poor quality teaching by reason of knowledge and skills alone, will be a thing of the past.