Times Table (Rock) Stars!

Over the half-term you may have read the news that the government are to introduce a new, online, check for our Year 4 children to check their times table knowledge.

I thought I would offer our perspective on these tests:

Maths is important to us here at Castle Carrock. Outdoor Maths is one of our key curriculum drivers and we regularly invite parents in to see us teach maths!

Maths is, of course, a big subject and we appreciate there’s more to it than times tables and there’s more to times tables than learning them off by heart. However, a lot of the rich, interesting maths is all about the multiplicative relationships and these are hard to fully grasp without fluent recall of the tables. For that reason, learning the tables is fundamental – they are a key facilitator to the maths that sits on top. We’ve always believed that – this is why we use Times Table Rock Star and why, every day in Key Stage 2, your children already do timed daily tests.

We’re not worried about the checks and it wasn’t a surprise. In fact, we’re in favour of the checks because it’s always good to sharpen practice across the education sector and this is a useful lever to get schools to do that. We’re already in a good place with learning the tables and the expectations are in line with the National Curriculum so it’s business as usual for us.

The checks will not be compulsory until 2020 so current year 2s will be the first cohort to do them when they’re in year 4. We have the option of volunteering the current year 3s to do the checks in 2019 – which we will probably do so we get to see the set-up!

The results of the test are not published publicly, they’re not going to end up on a league table and they’re not to worry about. There’s no pass or fail, there’s just a score out of 25 marks (or 20). They’re not to be used to compare children, they’re for us to reflect on so that we make the most of our provision. We’re actually looking forward to seeing how well we do.

The checks consist of 25 questions (possibly only 20, depending on government trials later this year). The questions will only be multiplication and they will go up to 12×12.

The checks are all about remembering the multiplication facts. That doesn’t mean we’ll forget all about the concepts, patterns, structures and relationships in multiplication. We’re going to be learning those too, partly because they go hand in hand with excellent recall.

Given that the questions are relatively simple, age appropriate and the length of the check, which is carried out on a computer, is under 5 minutes, we don’t think the checks are onerous.

Tests in themselves don’t cause anxiety. It’s the perceived cost of not doing well. For that reason, we will actively downplay the checks with the pupils. The only thing that will stress the children is if we repeatedly refer to the checks in class or at home, even casually in front of them when they’re not supposed to be listening. This is the same for all tests, checks and SATs here in school. Our children are in Primary school and we are preparing them for ther next stage of schooling.

Please support your child in learning their times tables at home – they have access to Times Table Rockstar, and there is a leaflet in school that was sent home last term about times tables. Many of our children will have a maths target this term linked to times tables.

If you want to know more, just ask your class teacher!

Year 4 Away Days!

Updated Friday morning!

Images from yesterday! Lots of mud and wet weather means that the children look like they will need a good wash when they get back…..


Thursday morning!

Lots of fun at Hexham yesterday as our Year 4’s settled in to their new home for the next three days!

Activities such as Laser Tag, High Seesaw and Night Walk were peppered with more mundane tasks such as making your own bed and, apparently, cleaning up!!

Dinner last night was a choice between macaroni cheese or pie (with some choosing both!!) – and all the children were ready for their hot chocolate before bed!



Reading for Pleasure

We take reading very seriously here at Castle Carrock – encouraging our children (and staff) to try new books, authors and genres and sharing what we like, and don’t like!

Our units of work always involve books and literacy lessons may be built around books. We also strive to use both fiction and non-fiction. As teachers this can involve reading children’s books – which can be a mixed blessing – but we are always available to advise you on books for your child. You can find out more about how you can help your child with their reading here.


This term Class 4 are taking part in Cumbria’s children’s books awards – ‘SpellBinding’ – we are reading ten books and then, as part of a County wide poll, we cast our vote for the favourites. We have set ourselves a reading target to write book reports to compare and contrast at least two of these books and we will be talking about them in our reading lessons. You can find out more here.

We have also been exploring different science books in preparation for Science Week and this has included books which explore the role of women in science. You might have seen some of these in our non-fiction November display last year.


Your thoughts

I thought it would be good to get a conversation going with the wider school community. What books have you enjoyed recently? Have you read any of the books your child is bringing home?

Code Club Christmas Competition!

Our Code Club took part in a Christmas Competition this year.

The competition brief was just to complete a ‘festive message’ – and this was interpreted in different ways yay our members! Below are our competition entries – remember to play them you will need ‘Flash’ enabled.

A game – from George:

A Christmas Story – from Abigail

Very First Christmas – by Bella

Save Santa- by Catriona

Science Week March 12th -16th 2018

As is our tradition we will once again celebrate Science Week this year.

Science Week – which explores all aspects of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths is a great opportunity for the whole school community to get involved and to stretch their concept of what Science is!

This year we want to make it bigger than ever!

We will once again have a 3D Printer and we are planning our cross-school workshops. We are also looking to have a dress-up day and an assembly on the Friday where we welcome a variety of visitors! This dress up day (Ada Lovelace anyone?!) will replace World Book Day dress up the week before, though we will still celebrate World Book Day of course!

We need your help!

  • Do you know anyone who works in any area of science, technology or engineering who could come along and speak to our children? We are very happy to Skype too?


  • We are fundraising to be able to enjoy a science-themed trip, or but some fabulous, new, science books – so please look out for School Council events to support!


Finally – if you have any ideas for Science Week just get in touch!