The new policy announced by the Department for Education that children in primary school should learn their times tables takes your breath away. Surely this has been a key objective for the past hundred years or so, but now the Secretary of State for Education has said it should happen, it’s something new, we can expect all manner of issues to emerge.
If the initiative helps to reduce the number of children being released into secondary school with inadequate numeracy skills this has to be a plus, but somehow it fails to grasp the key issue that our educational system is a little broken and needs fixing way beyond the times tables.
Possibly one of the bedrocks of education the learn by rote of the times tables seemed to have been overlooked in recent years. The arrival of modern technology has allowed this aspect of numeracy to be tested dynamically using tablets. This sting is – teachers will also be tested by the results. Nicky Morgan explanied; “Since 2010, we’ve seen record numbers of 11 year old’s start secondary school with a good grasp of the three Rs. But some continue to struggle. 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 being given a fair shot to succeed.”
Labour pundits believe the drop off in standards is really the result of a shortage of teachers. In the past additional testing has placed unreasonable pressure on both teachers and pupils. Let’s hope the use of technology can improve the learning process as well as provide a swift means to assess quality and this does not become yet another fight between the teaching team and the DoE.