Get kids to learn times tables, or get sacked – Morgan reveals new policy

Primary school children will need to pass tests focused on times tables and extended writing – otherwise senior leaders will face the chop.

That’s education secretary Nicky Morgan’s new education policy as outlined in the Sunday Times today.

Writing in the paper, Ms Morgan said: “We will expect every pupil by the age of 11 to know their times tables off by heart, to perform long division and complex multiplication and to be able to read a novel. They should be able to write a short story with accurate punctuation, spelling and grammar.

Tests will be completed on these topics at the end of Key Stage 2, and students would be ‘required’ to pass the tests.

The paper also reports that senior leaders in schools failing to get 100% of their pupils to pass the tests for two years running face being replaced in an academy ‘takeover’.

The policy reverses Ms Morgan’s previous approach to academy conversion. At an education select committee last year Ms Morgan said: “I am a ‘carrot’ rather than a ‘stick’ politician and I like people to be persuaded of the case for conversion rather than me sitting in Whitehall setting either targets or compulsion.”

Other policies revealed in the piece include the doubling of the National Leaders of Education scheme, which enables successful headteachers to work with schools in challenging circumstances, and a two-year ‘job swap’ for heads of departments.

Ms Morgan previously said that she would measure success of her reforms by looking at England’s performance in international tests, such as PISA.

Today, she clarified the benchmark and committed to placing England in the “top five performing countries worldwide — and the best in Europe — for English and maths by the end of our next term in office”.

She added: “This aim is unapologetically ambitious. The speed with which we slid down international league tables under the previous government is one of the starkest examples of their failure. Returning us to our rightful place will be the symbol of our success.”

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  1. Tom Cassidy

    Anything with a target of 100% is statistically uninformed and betrays a lack of genuine insight into learning and testing.

    Perhaps there should be more scientists/mathematicians in the cabinet?

    95% – terrific target, even 99% is laudable given the ambition of the government.

    But moving to a target of 100% is the type of error we wouldn’t expect from the leader of education policy in the country.

    Rule 1 of setting targets:

    NEVER set a target that is impossible to surpass and unfathomably unlikely to hit.

  2. DaveSays

    A 100% pass rate is achievable if you set the pass mark at the right level… All just pre-election posturing, and designed to suggest that somehow schools don’t already teach multiplication tables – which is obviously nonsense.

    Also, what happens when the school is already an academy and is being run by an NLE?

  3. Tired of it all

    A 100% pass rate is perfectly acceptable – providing you have small classes, teach no other subjects other than Maths and Literacy, teach by parrot rashion rote learning, do not enter any ‘low achieving’ child strip out all understanding of a ‘why’ type of questioning and just replace it with ‘…because it is’ type of thinking.

    Marvellous ideas, Ms Morgan. Can we apply this -“…senior leaders in schools failing to get 100% of their pupils to pass the tests for two years running face being replaced in an academy ‘takeover’.” -to your wretched excuse of a governance?

  4. My oldest has finally been formally diagnosed with dyslexia and dyspraxia this week. It’s been pretty obvious to us since he started primary school.

    He’s 18.

    He’s never going to get to grips with ‘teens in tables, even though he has grade A Maths GCSE and doesn’t appear to be failing his A levels in computing or ICT. He also can’t go to university apparently because despite having receptive language skills that are off the charts he can’t organise an essay in order to pass GCSE English after 4 attempts.

    Is Morgan going to instigate a full screening program for all pupils and euthanise those that will probably never make the grade? Or is she just setting every school up to fail?

    • salome2001

      Did you miss the bit about forcing schools with “failure” children to be academised?
      This evil government has failed to persuade the majority of primary schools to let Tory donors take over their schools, those that have seen the carnage that has ensued have withdrawn any interest, and so now Morgan has to find a way to force them into it.

  5. kaye wilson

    how on earth can a 100% pass rate be possible. surely any cohort of children has a few lower abilty and a few higher ability? if heads are sacked when children fail, how will education possibly replace them? this target is not an ambition, its just unachievable

  6. Suzy Freeman

    What is this all about? Primary school children are not being taught times tables, they are still being taught to count in “lots of”. This means they are using fingers at secondary school to work out how many “lots of”. This is obviously a general rule but shows what a lack of understanding our government has of the shop floor!

  7. Memory tricks are not mathematics, same as spelling is not comprehension, and forcing kids to learn by rote will kill the love they have for a subject. Good luck with forcing the dyslexics to do this stuff – oh wait they will just end up with stressed teachers shouting at them and thinking they can’t do anything like the 80’s = intelligent people without education… what could possibly go wrong?

    By the way I have a science degree from one of the highest universities in the world and am a published writer but I never could memorise my times table or do the spelling thing. I really wish these things were thought through! Who is going to want a kid that pulls the school down and might loose you your job?

  8. Ben Coe

    Is this the same Nicky Morgan who didn’t know the cube root of 125 when challenged by a 10 year old on Sky News? I checked with Y6 in my school they could do it – so perhaps Nicky Morgan should come back to school.

    This is typical of too many politicians like Blair etc – think they issue an edict and by magic it will happen. No idea how to actually deliver the goods.

    Anyone sensible knows that it takes a lot more time practising than school can provide to learn your tables and bonds. Mums and Dads have to do a lot of the work at home.

    So all Nicky will be doing is sacking Headteachers in tough neighbourhoods. When she’s fired them, who else will want the job?

    So then all the school in the most deprived areas will be without leaders.

    • Paul Gittings

      Agree with your sentiment Ben, but when did Tony Blair come into it. He was responsible for massive extra spending on education and a rise in standards. I think all governments have a centralising tendency and the last Labour government perhaps ‘guilty’ in that respect but compared to the current disastrous regime of Gove and Morgan it can be seen as a golden era !

      • Agree Gove’s policies far, far worse than Labour’s. But Labour isn’t squeaky clean: deception about academies began immediately they were established; Stephen Twigg harangued heads about meeting targets; the NC was fiddled with; vocational exams were given an ‘equivalence’ which led to some schools using them to inflate results and school ‘reform’ increased the ‘high stakes’ nature of tests

  9. Georgie

    How about children who even writing their name in year 6 is a big achievement? Education shouldn’t be a ‘one size fits all’ policy as this simply is not true. This is, surely, telling children that they are failures if they cannot pass a test when education and life long learning is about so much more than times tables.

  10. I think it is time politicians kept themselves out of the details of teaching individual children to reach their own best potential . . .standards have ‘ deteriorated ‘ ever since politicians set up ever changing, time wasting strategies and measures of what constitutes success for learning.. Our children are not statistics. .They are our future and deserve that properly trained enthusiastic committed teachers assess their individual abilities and needs and teach in challenging and interesting ways that enable them to be the very best they can be. .teachers should provide the wings to fly. . .This ridiculous, narrowly focussed, controlling and unattainable for all policy will clip roots and wings of both teachers and pupils. . .It is a shameful cage that will create fear and anxiety . i.e. the exact opposite of a good learning environment!!
    Of course it is good to learn tables when young and when possible. .They stay with you and are useful lifelong. . .but they are not the only measure of success. .A ‘knock on ‘ impact of this policy will be more ‘testing’ to evidence ‘special needs’will be needed thus creating more paperwork for already overstretched teachers while excluding, labelling and totally undermining the inclusion agenda that values and supports every child.
    . . .a reversal and contradiction to the aims of the SEND agenda.

  11. Can’t believe Morgan is still saying UK fell down league tables during Labour’s tenure. The UK Stats Watchdog has already slapped the DfE over its misuse of PISA data when the Gov’t ignored the explicit warning by OECD not to use the UK figures for the year 2000 because they’d been found to be flawed. When the flawed 2000 data is removed, then UK score in PISA remains constant and UK relative position in Reading and Maths in 2012 actually improved (albeit only slightly). It’s true the Science ranking fell but UK still performs ABOVE the OECD average (you don’t hear much about that, do you?).