Last week, the DFE confirmed the rumour that has been (ominously) circling for a while – that a statutory, computerised times table test will be required to be taken by every child in state education at the end of year four.

What we know so far:

  • The test will start officially in 2020, with some schools opting in to do a pilot this academic year in 2019
  • The test will be taken in June
  • The test will be online
  • It will only focus on multiplication facts (not division, fractions etc)
  • There will be a focus on the 6, 7, 8, 9 and 12 times tables
  • Pupils will have 6 seconds to read, recall and insert their answer into the box

What Bella Learning thinks:

This is a tough one. Let me say straight away that I do not in any way believe that implementing a statutory test enhances learning or solves a problem (at least not without a considerable amount of stress and to the detriment of pupils, teachers and parents). However, I do think that it highlights the need to look at how we can support pupils to know these crucial number facts – in a fun and meaningful way.

The expectation that pupils know all their times tables by the end of year four has long been outlined in curriculum guidance. This is important because without this recall, you become stuck when introduced to more difficult concepts; working out times tables takes time, and interferes or confuses the process of say long multiplication or simplifying fractions. It’s often a barrier to further learning in the subject. There is also evidence to suggest that the younger the child, the easier it is to learn and memorise facts (anyone who has tried to learn a foreign language in adulthood can attest to this).

The reality, in my experience unfortunately, is that not many kids will know all these facts by that time. Most year 6 teachers will tell you that they spend most of the autumn term desperately filling these gaps before they can even start to work on the year group objectives. It’s hard and it’s tiring for the kids.

Parents – this is where you come in! I have always said that times tables (and telling the time) are two vital areas of learning that parents need to help schools with – for these reasons:

  1. Most parents can help their children with these without specialist knowledge (they can’t teach it wrong!)
  2. It needs to be taught, practised and consolidated again and again and again! Schools can’t justify putting in the hours needed to commit these to memory with all the other teaching elements of the curriculum to cover.
  3. Every child learns at such different rates that practising and testing needs to be personal to the child. Some will be working on 2s whilst others will be working on the division facts for the 8s.

Ultimately, pupils need to know their times tables. There’s no way around that one. Even people who say they haven’t used maths since they left school are unknowingly multiplying every day. This test will undoubtedly put pressure on schools and therefore pupils. Bella Learning wants to support parents to help them to support their children in this area so that it does not become a source of worry for them. What do you think? Let us know what would help you get to help your child.

Are you worried about your child’s maths? Have a look at our learning consultations page to see how we can help you.

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