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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!