What education bloggers have said about times tables testsJanuary 23, 2016
I thought it might be worth seeing if it’s possible to write 500 words summarising the views in the education blogosphere about one topical issue. Let me know what you think. Also, I’d be very interested to know if I missed any blogposts debating the issue. I will probably add my own views in a post later this weekend.
3 weeks ago, there was an announcement from the government that students should be tested on their times tables at the end of KS2. How did the blogging world respond?
Some parts of the blogging world reached an immediate consense. The teaching union blogs were against. The ATL‘s blog claimed that times tables are too narrow to be concerned about, objecting to the timed element, and raising practical concerns. The Voice blog published a statement opposing testing on principle. The NAHT site featured a blogpost describing the announcement as “spin” and suggesting it was a criticism of schools.
There was a similar consensus from most blogs providing political commentary on education. Roger Titcombe, at the Local Schools Network claimed that the tests “conjured up Gradgrindian classroom scenarios”. Michael Rosen preferred Alice In Wonderland to Hard Times, but seemed to object. Education commentator, Owen Hathway also opposed the tests, claiming that tables tests were unnecessary and interfering, and that:
…the world has moved on. Children learn in different ways in the digital age and using a calculator, or phone, is a simple way of looking up times tables. … we must …. be mindful of the modern world and make sure that children and young people use the computing ability on their mobile phones so they can get that at their fingertips.
Jules Darby, on the Labour teachers blog, suggested that the tests would impact on those with SEN and existing difficulties. However, two other Labour Teacher commentators had a more mixed perspective, with Michael Tidd analysing the Labour Party’s response and Lisa Harford discussing both the importance of knowing times tables, and the limitations of tables tests as in indicator.
That Labour Teachers were less hostile than political commentators who don’t teach, might be explained by the differences of opinion among teacher bloggers generally. Two secondary maths teachers wrote positively about the idea of times tables tests. Jeff, from the “A Maths Teacher Writes” blog, argued that times table knowledge is important for further progress in maths, and that tables were not difficult to learn. Tom Bennison also wrote to criticise the objections to the tests, particularly complaints that testing is bad for children: “Of course I realise that some children may not particularly enjoy tests, but the ‘children hate tests and they make them hate maths’ talk that is common is a massive stereotype and not universally backed up with any evidence.” One secondary maths teacher did object; Mr Chadburn argued that “Rapid recall is only of use in the future in a pub quiz”. Two primary teachers, Gawain Little and Mr Teacher wrote posts contrasting mathematical understanding and reasoning with the recall of times tables facts. The strongest objections were made by home educator Ross Mountney who argued that the tests “…will inevitably change teachers’ behaviour towards pupils, possibly towards a more coercive style if they feel that there is a real threat to their status as a result of their children’s performance”.