Government unveils plans for tough new tests on 11-year-olds - including a ban on calculators


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The Independent Online

Plans for tough new tests for 11-year-olds, including a ban on calculators in maths from this summer, were unveiled by the Government today.

In future, children will be expected to know their 11 and 12 times tables, rather than just as far as 10x10, and learn how to equate fractions, i.e. three-eighths, with figures - 0.375.

Teachers marking the tests will also be told to stop the practice of giving pupils who get the wrong answers marks for showing their working, whatever methods they have used. In future, marks will only be awarded to those who can show they have used skills such as long division and multiplication.

In English, there will be a new reading test with children being questioned on more challenging reading material - including fictional works outlining the UK’s literary heritage.

They will also have to answer more probing questions such as: "how does the writer increase the tension throughout this paragraph? Explain fully referring to the text in your answer".

In addition, they will be asked to identify a range of figurative language such as metaphors, similes, analogy and imagery.

The scope of a new grammar, punctuation and spelling test, introduced last year, will be increased so pupils can show proper use of semicolons, apostrophes and commas.

The majority of the changes will be introduced in the May 2016 national curriculum tests - but the ban on the use of calculators will come in from this summer.

In addition, the pass mark for the three tests, in English, maths and science, will be raised.

“We are removing calculators from maths, will give marks for efficient methods in long division and multiplication and are returning the focus to core arithmetic,” said Education Minister Liz Truss.

“The reading test will mean children are covering more challenging texts. All these reforms will raise standards and allow our children to leave school able to compete in the competitive labour market.”

The Government says that the new tests are in line with those used in the world’s most successful countries, notably Singapore, China, Korea and Japan. A team of 60 maths teachers from Shanghai and other Chinese cities have been drafted into schools to share their teaching practices and methods.

Meanwhile, exams regulator Ofqual announced it was placing a ban on schools screening out exam questions which contradicted their religious beliefs.

The move follows criticism of a Jewish school, Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls’ School in Hackney, east London, blacking out question about evolution in a science exam, which meant pupils could not answer the question.

In a statement, Ofqual said: “Having looked into the issue, we concluded that while the practice was very rare, it should not be allowed.”