A parent’s guide to the new times table SATS test


By now you may well have heard of the Government’s new times table addition to the KS2 SATS test; and despite the education secretary herself ducking and diving out of answering any times table’s questions herself, KS2 children won’t be so lucky. Nor does it seem, will their schools as the newly laid plans outline that educational establishments will be held accountable for their results.

With this upcoming change parents can rightly feel a little intimidated by the thought of their little ones having to grapple with memorising extensive sums off by heart. So in this blog we explain just what this test change means and we take a look at what the educational community has had to say about it so far.

Beginning with an overview

As of this week Nicky Morgan, education secretary, announced her plans for the introduction of times tables in KS2 sets, with the Department of Education announcing it as part of Morgan’s “war on innumeracy and illiteracy”.

What will be expected of children?

Children taking their KS2 exams will be expected to know all of their tables up to 12x 12, with the test to be undertaken through “an on-screen check”; the questions will be set against a clock, and children will receive instant, on-screen feedback as to whether their answer was right. Notably this will be the first use of ICT within National Curriculum tests.

Pilots for the plans will being this summer, where the tests shall be taken by 3000 students spanning 80 schools. The scheme will then be officially launched within primaries across England in 2017.

The school’s role

Nicky Morgan has made no bones about setting the expectations of schools, stating that “Maths is a non-negotiable of a good education. Since 2010, 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”; of course these new plans have not been without their fair share of criticism, particularly as Morgan’s appointment comes after the much despised Gove’s stepping down.

Already are we seeing a series of pretty strong statements from the education industry, with many stating that times tables memorisation is a useless challenge for children that tests memory over and above mathematical aptitude.

More still are highlighting the research that shows primary school age children as already under pressure from the exams that they must face, and the consequent anxiety that is being felt as a result.

The final word

Despite almost unilateral criticism of the test changes it seems that they may well be here to stay, as Nicky Morgan has responded that the test “will help teachers recognise those at risk of falling behind and allow us to target those areas where children aren’t being given a fair shot to succeed.” Whether that becomes the case or not we shall have to wait and see.