Ministers today announced plans to introduce a new times table test for Year 4 pupils in primary schools next month, despite opposition from teaching unions and parents.
The Department for Education (DfE) will trial the new test in March in nearly 300 primary schools in England in March, with approximately 7,250 pupils taking part. The plan is to make the times table test compulsory for all Year 4 pupils in 2020.
The government argues that the new test will help children learn the times table off-by-heart by the time they reach secondary school, but critics have responded saying school children are already over tested and the new test will not provide any new insight for teachers.
Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said:
The National Education Union is opposed to the introduction of this unnecessary and expensive test.
Learning the times tables is important, and already part of the curriculum. The test will tell teachers nothing they don’t already know, will disrupt teaching and simply reflects a ministerial obsession with testing children.
Ministers should support schools working hard to help our children learn by adequately funding schools and ensuring that every school has the teachers it needs.
Nick Brook, deputy general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said:
Although school results won’t be published, this government test will be scrutinised by Ofsted when they visit and 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.
Announcing the trial, school standards minister Nick Gibbs said:
Just as the phonics screening check helps children who are learning to read, the multiplication tables check will help teachers identify those pupils who require extra support.
This will ensure that all pupils leave primary school knowing their times tables off by heart and able to start secondary school with a secure grasp of the fundamental mathematics they need to fulfil their potential.