Once upon a decade ago, I told my friend that if a DJ at a regular event we ran continued to play rubbish music I would be forced to take over myself. Only, I didn’t send the text to my friend. I sent it (accidentally) to the DJ. He flounced and I was left sheepishly learning how to turn-table.
Nicky Morgan is caught in the same situation. Hyperbolising to the right-wing press before the general election she promised that all children would be forced to learn their times-tables or schools would lose their heads – literally.
It wasn’t supposed to happen, of course. What was supposed to happen was a hung parliament. At which point stupid promises would be bartered for a more sensible compromise.
And then, the Conservatives won. You can almost imagine the panic when the advisers looked back at the manifesto and realised what they now had to deliver. Learning to spin records is one thing, learning to spin a mandatory online test for all 11-year-olds on one part of the national curriculum is quite another.
Yes, children should learn their multiplication tables. And they do. They are taught it by the end of year 4 – two years earlier than the planned tests.
But being taught doesn’t guarantee you’ll learn. And learning doesn’t mean you’ll use it. A friend’s father beat him so badly after he failed to learn his seven times-table that the number 49 still brings him out in cold sweats. Sure, he knows the number now, but he never willingly chose to do maths again. Was it worth it?
That’s extreme, but it makes a serious point. Adults have a knack of getting het up over the wrong things – and by pushing hard we can make things worse.
On reflection, I wish I’d just told my DJ friend to change his records. Let’s hope this year’s times-table pilot forces Nicky Morgan to change hers.