The UK government, who set the requirements for schools in England, have announced that trials of a times tables tests are to be launched for pupils in Year 4 (aged 8&9) with a mandatory national launch due for 2020.
The new on-screen check will last no longer than five minutes and is similar to the checks many schools use already. The government claim that the tests will enable teachers to monitor a child’s progress in a consistent and reliable way but has been carefully designed to avoid causing additional stress for children and teachers.
It will be sat by 8 and 9-year-olds in Year 4, after teachers and schools told the Government this was the best point for it to be introduced. Results from the check will not be published at school-level, and the government claims that they will not be used by Ofsted and others to force changes in schools.
The system is being developed in active partnership with schools, with two trials already completed. This consolidation of basic mathematical knowledge is in line with the principle of the maths ‘mastery’ pedagogy, which is successfully practised by world leaders in mathematics, Shanghai and Singapore and is now being introduced to schools in England.
In the most recent Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), England’s mean score was 546, compared to Singapore which scored 618, topping the study for maths at both year 5 and 9. Approaches like this aim to close that gap and raise national standards in mathematics.
The multiplication tables check was announced as part of the government’s response to its primary assessment consultation last year. This consultation proposed a number of other changes to make assessment in primary schools more accurate and reduce the burden of tests on teachers and children.
This trial comes ahead of the national voluntary roll out of the multiplication tables check for all Year 4 pupils from June 2019, before it becomes mandatory in June 2020. A national sample of schools has already been selected to participate in the trials and they will soon receive their invitation to participate. The trials will ensure the check is robust, accessible and minimises any additional burden on schools as a new assessment.
Speaking to the BBC, Nick Brook, deputy general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers said it was “hugely disappointing” that the Department for Education was still determined to bring in a multiplication tables test.
“This test won’t tell teachers and parents anything they don’t already know about their children. Although school results won’t be published, this government test will be scrutinised by Ofsted when they visit and will therefore become even more significant.
“A pupil’s primary school years are already cluttered with tests and checks. We want all children to succeed at school, but the answer isn’t to test them more.”