All pupils to be tested on times tables by age 11 in crackdown on 'illiteracy and innumeracy'

Education secretary Nicky Morgan said the changes will help pupils who 'continue to struggle'

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The Independent Online

Every pupil in England will be expected to know their times tables before leaving primary school under new government plans.

11-year-olds will be tested using an “on-screen check”, which will be piloted to about 3,000 pupils in 80 primary schools this summer.

The checks will test the pupils’ speed and accuracy in solving multiplication problems, and will be scored instantly. The government plans to roll the checks out across the country in 2017.

Education secretary Nicky Morgan said maths was a “non-negotiable” subject, and added: “We’ve seen record numbers of 11-year-olds start secondary school with a good grasp of the three R’s. But some continue to struggle.”

When she first announced the plans in February, Ms Morgan refused to answer when asked on Good Morning Britain what the answer to 7×8 was. 

She responded: “I’m not going to be answering any maths questions. I know what it’s like with these interviews.

"I’ll be doing lots of interviews this morning and there will be one where I get it wrong and that’s the one that everyone’s going to be focused on.”

The Tory minister tried to steer the interview back to the new checks, but was waylaid by host Susanna Reid, who said: “Do you not think there is an irony that the education secretary won’t answer questions about the times tables but requires every primary school child to know them?”

In the same month, Ms Morgan also refused to give the answer to 11×12 when asked on BBC Breakfast


Reactions towards the plans have been mixed, with shadow education secretary Lucy Powell saying they were the plans of a “government which has run out of ideas for educational improvement.

Ms Powell condemned the government’s “failure to recruit good enough maths teachers” and said: “Ministers have created chronic shortages of teachers up and down the country, particularly in key subjects such as English and maths.

“This is risking standards in our schools and holding back both our young people and Britain’s future success.”

Some people thought the times tables were already a mandatory part of the subject, and expressed confusion about why so many people were against the new checks.

But others argue that more testing would cause children more stress. National Union of Teachers General Secretary Christine Blower said: “As primary school pupils already have to learn their times tables by the end of year four, Nicky Morgan’s announcement is clearly not about educational attainment but about the introduction of yet another test.

“We already have the most tested pupils in Europe. Such endless testing stifles creativity and is ruining many children’s experience of learning.”