Plans are already in the pipeline for personality tests to ensure that only certain kinds of applicants win places on PGCE courses. Now those aiming for a career in the classroom may face another challenge: delivering a successful lesson before they have had a single day of training.
The recommendation that all trainees should demonstrate their "potential" in order to gain a place on a training course is included in a report released this week by an influential group of MPs.
"Teacher quality, actual or potential, cannot be fully established without observing a candidate teach," said the Education Select Committee report into teacher training. "We would like to see all providers, wherever possible, include this as a key part of assessment before the offer of a training place is made.
"Assessment panels, where they do not already, must include the involvement of a high-quality practising headteacher or teacher."
The recommendation follows government plans to introduce an "interpersonal skills test" and exams to check standards in literacy and numeracy.
James Noble Rogers, executive director of the Universities' Council for the Education of Teachers, said that, while the proposal could cause logistical difficulties, he was broadly in favour of the idea. "Schools would need to be resourced properly as this would put pressure on them and their staff, but this is certainly something we would support in principle," he said.
Undergraduates and sixth-formers considering a teaching career should also be put in front of pupils for "taster sessions", the MPs' report said. These would feature "actual teaching" rather than just observation or acting as a teaching assistant.
The MPs also suggested a formalised system of internships for school and college students, as seen in Singapore, a country they visited during their inquiry. "We believe this approach could help both deter some people who are not best suited to teaching and persuade others to consider it," the report said.
Martin Thompson, chair of the National Association of School-Based Teacher Trainers, said the proposal was a "really good idea in principle", but warned that those who run courses would need to work with the government to make sure the observations were completed fairly.
He added that there was a danger applicants might not get the same experience, because they would not all be able to cover the same lesson or work with the same children.
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