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Expect every 11-year-old to know their times tables off by heart.

Last updated: 11:43am 14 October 2019

We will expect every 11-year-old to know their times tables off by heart.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.51

Our verdict

In 2012, a national phonics screening check was introduced. The current government considers phonics screening to have proved successful in raising standards of literacy, so this policy aims to do the same for numeracy.

It’s an odd policy formulation – “We will expect…” – so we need to be clear what we’re looking for. To fulfil this pledge, government needs to demonstrate that it has established an “expectation” that children will know their times tables. To be meaningful, that expectation will require children to demonstrate their knowledge – they will have to be tested. We’re looking for evidence of nationwide testing of children under the age of 11 to see if they’ve met the expectation of knowing their times tables off by heart.

In February 2018 the government announced that:

“From the 2019/20 academic year onwards, all state-funded maintained schools and academies (including free schools) in England will be required to administer an online multiplication tables check (MTC) to year 4 pupils.”

These tests are designed to check that children have learned their times tables. The government is using compulsory testing to establish the expectation that children will know their times tables by heart. This policy is ‘done’.

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