UK reforms Fast Stream tests to broaden intake

By on 05/10/2016 | Updated on 25/09/2020
UK Civil Service Fast Stream scrap online verbal and numerical reasoning tests

The UK civil service graduate scheme has scrapped its online verbal and numerical reasoning tests because they have been shown to disadvantage poorer applicants.

Instead, the initial application process for the Fast Stream – which opened at the end of September – will include situational judgment tests, which test how well candidates deal with real-life work situations.

The civil service will also locate a Fast Stream assessment centre in Newcastle, in order to be more accessible for people in the north of the UK. Previously, assessment days have all been held in London.

These changes were made in light of the Bridge report, released in February, which examined why just 4% of Fast Stream candidates come from disadvantaged backgrounds compared with 24% of the overall UK graduate population.

The civil service hopes to address some of the preconceptions surrounding its highly competitive Fast Stream, such as the idea that polish is more important than potential in securing a place. The aim is to make the process accessible to everyone that applies.

The Bridge report found that candidates who identified as ‘white’ were more likely to achieve higher scores on verbal and numerical reasoning tests. The situational judgement test – which is less like an academic exercise – has a less adverse effect on applicants from poorer, or black and ethnic minority backgrounds.

Fast stream applicants will still be tested on their verbal and numerical reasoning skills, but these tests will be undertaken at an assessment day later in the recruitment process.

The Bridge Group report was the first of its kind published by any employer in the country. Recording of socio-economic background is also very limited among employers globally, its director Nicholas Miller told Global Government Forum.

Cabinet secretary and head of the civil service, Sir Jeremy Heywood, said: “The new Fast Stream application process is a demonstration of our commitment to attracting the most talented people to the civil service, no matter what their background.

“The Fast Stream offers unrivalled development opportunities to tackle and solve challenges that can improve the lives of millions across the country.”

Following the release of the Bridge report, former Cabinet Officer minister Matt Hancock announced a series of measures to tackle inequality in the public sector, including name-blind recruitment and 30,000 new apprenticeships in the civil service.

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About Tamsin Rutter

Tamsin Rutter is a journalist based in Brussels, Belgium. She writes on a variety of topics, including public services, cities, local and central government and education. She was formerly the deputy editor of the Guardian's Public Leaders Network and Housing Network.

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