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New times tables test lacks support from school leaders and should be scrapped

Today, school leaders’ union NAHT publishes its ‘Multiple Concerns’ report, which recommends that the government abandons its plans to bring in a statutory times tables test for all Year 4 children in June 2020.

The report, published to coincide with the start of the new school year, takes account of the views of school leaders who took part in the multiplication tables check pilot carried out by the government in the summer term of 2019. It shows:

•   94% of respondents said the test did not tell them anything that they didn’t already know about their year 4 children’s recall of multiplication tables

•   85% of respondents reported that administering the MTC increased or significantly increased workload

•   Only 5% of respondents believed that this increase in workload was beneficial for children’s learning

•   Only 21% of respondents felt that access arrangements for children with SEND were sufficient to enable these pupils to show their full knowledge of multiplication tables

•   Only 22% of respondents said that they participated in the pilot without difficulty. The issues experienced include finding enough staff time, lack of enough IT hardware, internet connection problems and issues with the functionality and availability of NCA Tools, the website schools use for administration of national curriculum assessments. 

NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman said: “This is a totally unnecessary test, which adds workload to no benefit to pupils or teachers. When we surveyed our members in 2017, only 16% supported the proposal for a national statutory test. Little from the pilot has changed the minds of school leaders. We recommend that the test is scrapped.”

NAHT is clear that it is helpful for children to know their times tables – a quick recall of tables helps with more complicated mathematical problem solving. However, schools already teach and assess times tables. This new test does not tell school professionals anything that they don’t already know about a pupil’s mathematical ability. 

However, the evidence demonstrates that the test creates additional but unnecessary workload. Eliminating additional and unnecessary workload is one of the DfE’s top priorities. In its current form, the check also has the potential to prevent some pupils with additional needs from demonstrating their true ability. We are certain that this is also at odds with DfE priorities.

Mr Whiteman concluded: “Pupils with additional needs will be disadvantaged, meaning that the test is unfair. The technology is not sufficiently robust, meaning that there could be chaos in the classroom next June. Given all of the weaknesses that we’ve identified with the test, the government really needs to justify why it should proceed.”

The full report can be read below.

Press and Media contacts:

Steven George
NAHT Head of Press and Media
01444 472886
07970 907730

Rose Tremlett 
Senior Press Officer 
07545 354363