Nicky Morgan: Times tables tests for 11-year-olds will pilot in primary schools this summer

Computer-based multiplication tests for 11-year-olds will be trialled in schools later this year, Nicky Morgan has confirmed.

The announcement by the education secretary today comes after schools minister Nick Gibb revealed plans for on-screen times tables tests in an exclusive interview with Schools Week last October.

Under the proposals, pupils will be tested at the end of their time at primary school to make sure they all know their times tables up to 12 x 12, in line with the Conservatives’ general election manifesto commitment.

Around 3,000 pupils in 80 primary schools will try the tests for the first time this summer before the system is rolled out across England in 2017. The tests will involve pupils giving times responses to a series of questions, with their answers scored instantly.

The government says this method will make the tests easier for teachers to deliver and give them an “immediate snapshot” of performance.

Ms Morgan referred to government figures which showed that although the proportion of pupils meeting the “required standard” in maths at age 11 had risen from 79 per cent in 2010 to 87 per cent last year, more than 74,000 children were still below it.

She said: “That is why, as part of our commitment to extend opportunity and deliver educational excellence everywhere we are introducing a new check to ensure that all pupils know their times tables by age 11.

“They will help teachers recognise those pupils at risk of falling behind and allow us to target those areas where children aren’t been given a fair shot to succeed.”

Schools Minister Nick Gibb revealed the plan for computerised times tables tests during an interview with Schools Week in October.

Speaking at the time, Association of School and College Leaders general secretary Brian Lightman warned that further testing was not the answer.

He said: “Children are already tested to distraction. The tables are already in the curriculum and it’s up to teachers to use their professional skills to decide how to assess it.

“We do not need centralised tests to do this. We really do not need any more accountability measures.”

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  1. What Nicky Idiot fails to understand is that we are all different, physically and intellectually. For some, times tables will be a breeze, and for some, un unclimbable mountain. And one there is no point trying to conquer.

    She says here 1. that teachers will be tested on their students’ results, and 2. that testing will enable teachers to target those in need. We see that some of our kids find times tables hard [which we may well have already spotted!], so we must now continue to batter them down with more of the said tables, while we abandon the more able children who might appreciate a bit of stretching here.

    If gifted children aren’t supported at the right age, they lose their gift. So 1. why target the kids with more times tables for whom times tables is not their strong point? Why not find out what their strong point is? 2. why not give some more academic attention to the needs of the more academically able? 3. why waste professional teachers’ time and wonderful expertise with this latest “initiative” and all the other meaningless instructions.

    We should be looking for all our students’ strengths, not concentrate on their academic weaknesses.

    When it all comes out in the wash, it will you, Nicky and the gang, who will rated not just Requires Improvement, but Unfit for Office.

    And actually in adulthood most people needing to multiply numbers use a calculator.

  2. Kevin Quigley

    The red flag for me in this report (speaking as a Governor) is “on screen” and a trial in only 80 schools with 3000 pupils. How is this expected to work in reality? Is it an online timed test done nationally at the same time? How much coaching will these schools give pupils specifically for the test? It sounds very much to me like it is going to be set up like a distance learning assessment tool. This is all very well and good but do all schools have the IT infrastructure to enable this? Presumably all children will need to sit down and take the test at the same time (which in itself will bring down many school networks). Do many schools actually have a class set (or 2 class set in a large school) of devices to enable this? Our school is quite well equipped now (after years of making do we switched to leasing so we could actually deliver a reliable platform for teachers and pupils) but even we don’t have two class sets of devices (we are 60 year group) as we chose to spread the investment across the school rather than all in yr 6.

    As our lease is due for renewal this summer I would really like to know more detail on test delivery as it could well affect our buying decisions. How much Government policy is geared towards specific tests requiring specific infrastructure in schools. Anyone done a cost analysis on this?

  3. Carole Bean

    I agree with everything Victoria Jaquiss says. Rote learning of tables has only a limited use and does not show true mathematical abilility, an understanding of the patterns in mathematics does that. Those who do not have this sense of pattern can be encouraged by creative teaching to discover it. The pattern in tables has been used over centuries by many cultures and has links to so many other areas of the subject. It can also help those, who do find ‘learning’ tables difficult through no fault of their own, to be able to use the information in everyday life. Maybe not instantly but certainly with more understanding, which is crucial to raising standards in mathematics. A lack of confidence is the barrier to a numerate population and this test will do nothing to help. Look at the politicians who refuse to answer ‘times tables’ questions in public, if they were confident it wouldn’t be a problem. Here is just one example of the links in mathematics and the wonder of pattern, put one table on top off another for a list of equivalent fractions. 1/3 2/6 3/9 4/12 5/15 etc. 2/5 4/10 6/15 8/20 10/25 etc Works every time! Mathematics is pattern. Two thirds cannot learn by hearing alone, they need to see and do, take this out of the equation and learning will not take place. Confidence and understanding should be encouraged not squashed which is all this test will do for some pupils, who may never recover.

  4. One thing that hasn’t been highlighted is the insistence by Morgan, and Gove before her, on the 10, 11 and 12 times tables. Why? What possible value is there in going beyond 9? In doing this Morgan and Gove reveal their own hopeless lack of mathematical understanding and a blind adherence to a fanatical turn-back-the-clock dogma. What’s worse is that they seem utterly oblivious of their own ignorance. If they did know how ignorant they were they might at least have asked one of their more mathematically enlightened advisers: ” Could you just run your eyes over speech I’m due to make? Maths wasn’t really my thing at school, and I don’t want to say something that didn’t make good mathematical sense”. Not a bit of it, dogma triumphed over good sense.

    There’s another message all this sends out: “don’t worry if you’re rubbish at maths, you can still rise to dizzy heights, like cabinet membership”. So people like me who teach maths are going to have an even harder time of persuading students that it’s worth their while persevering with the subject.