'Are You Sure You Know Your Tables? I Think I Better Just Check That... Again'

27/02/2017 12:14

As the British landscape takes a battering from Storm Doris so, it appears, does the education profession with the announcement of another test to be added to the primary assessment series. It's becoming quite the collection of 'checks'!

Despite our education leaders and great speakers like Sir Ken Robinson (I'm such a fan!) highlighting all the reasons why standardised tests are exactly the wrong way to go to develop our future workforce, we continue to go down the factory system of batching and checking and only passing those that fit just so.

Now don't get me wrong - multiplication is important. It is a fundamental building block of maths. Of course it is and all teachers know it is. And it is already more than adequately assessed - in every key stage 2 classroom and of course at a national level. Many elements of the existing SATs exams innately assess whether a child not only knows how to multiply but when to use it appropriately. All children are targeted to know all times tables up to 12 x 12 by the end of year 4 and schools and teachers are continually striving for every child to do their very best and to achieve what they can.

So I question what is this test going to prove? That in year 6 there will be some children who don't know their times tables. Yes. Just as the phonics screener in year 1 and then again in year 2 (if a child doesn't pass it) will prove that there will be some children who aren't secure in their phonics. Will a child in year 7 need to sit the multiplication test again if they don't pass in year 6? Will they feel another sense of failure in their academic career?

Not all children will be able to pass these tests but it certainly does not mean that they cannot read or cannot 'do' maths. It means, as all educators recognise, that these children learn differently. Whether caused by dyslexia or dyscalculia or many other differences in wiring of our brains, children need different tools to assist them in life. That is all that another test will tell us and we already know it. It does not mean that the teachers have failed the child. There are many, many measures already in place to ensure that children are being given the best teaching and a test, another test, does not need to be a part of this.

Why do we need another check specifically on multiplication? "Because it is a matter of government policy; it was in our manifesto" says Mr. Gibb. This is where it all gets a bit too much for me and all I can do is hope that initiatives such as the Chartered College of Teaching, led by the most inspirational Dame Alison Peacock (also a huge fan!), can indeed raise our education system to stand above party politics and lead with authority on pedagogy, curriculum and, of course, assessment. Our teachers need stability, respect and trust for the work they do rather than continual criticism and questioning of whether they really have taught something to their class.

Hold on to your hats folks - storm Doris might have blown through but the educational storm is sticking around for some time yet.