Children don't need to learn times tables because they can look them up on their phones, says NUT leader

Christine Blower is leader of the National Union of Teachers

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The Independent Online

The leader of the National Union of Teachers has said that forcing children to know their full times tables is unnecessary because they can look up the answers on their mobile phones.

Christine Blower, a leading child education figure, says she questions a recently announced government initiative to examine times tables skills of 11 year olds.

Education Minister Nicky Morgan announced that pupils will be expected to know their times tables up to 12 x 12, with their skills being tested online via a computer assessment. She said that schools and teachers would be assessed on pupils’ performance.

She said of the assessments: “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.

However, Ms Blower told Sky News that ‘rote learning’ was not the best or only way to teach children. She said: “Looking up your times tables is very easy to do. So the other thing we have to do is make sure that children and young people use the computing ability on their mobile phones so they can get that at their fingertips.

“Children will learn the times tables in an appropriate way if they are taught in an appropriate way.”

She added that she was “not saying that children should not learn their tables” but rather cautioning against “pressing times tables onto children in a way that we don’t particularly think is necessarily helpful, and then saying that schools are failing because they are not necessarily doing the test, not necessarily all achieving the test results at the right time.”

The proposal is to be test piloted on a sample of 3,000 students at 80 different schools this summer. If deemed successful, it will be rolled out nationally in 2017.