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Maths tests for teachers mangled by software glitches

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Computer errors during an important maths test has led to many trainee teachers being unfairly labelled as dunces when it comes to sums.

Prospective UK teachers were tested by computer for the first time this year and, in an all too familiar saga involving public sector IT initiatives, the system (itself a good idea) seems to have gone horribly awry.

Today's Independent reports that would-be teachers lost marks, in a compulsory maths test they need to pass to be given teaching posts, because of a software glitch. It seems that in one question, a table containing data needed to answer a question was not displayed on screen.

The paper reports that this meant as many as 150 trainees lost marks because of the snafu and that 19 failed the test.

These unlucky 19 have now being awarded passes after an appeal was lodged to the Government's Teacher Training Agency.

The affair has provoked calls from teachers' unions for a rethink of the tests and the importance they are given in selecting teachers.

Cases where computers crashed before people could save their answers and trainees being incorrectly assured by PCs that they've passed the dreaded exam - when they've really failed - have only increased demands for a return to traditional testing methods.

In one college failure rates on the tests have soared from seven per cent last year (when pencil and paper was used) to 23 per cent this year with the introduction of computers.

The whole debacle seems likely to result in a negative view of computers among many new teachers and if things carry on as they are even the return of the abacus and the like can't be ruled out. You can say many things about slide rules - but they've never resulted in a blue screen of death, yet... ®

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