Pupils will have to know times tables by age 11 under new tests

Schools in England to use on-screen tests for first time, providing instant results on tables up to 12x12

Every child in England will be expected to know their times tables before leaving primary school from next year.

Pupils will be tested against the clock on their tables up to 12x12 in new computer-based exams that the Department of Education (DfE) said were part of the government’s “war on innumeracy and illiteracy”.

The education secretary, Nicky Morgan, said: “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 Rs. But some continue to struggle.

“That is why, as part of our commitment to extend opportunity and deliver educational excellence everywhere we are introducing a new check to ensure that all pupils know their times tables by age 11.

“They will help teachers recognise those pupils at risk of falling behind and allow us to target those areas where children aren’t being given a fair shot to succeed.”

Last year, 87% of pupils achieved the required level - four or above - in mathematics before leaving primary school, up from 79% in 2010. Morgan has previously said that the government wants to ensure that every pupil, as well as knowing their times tables by heart, is able to perform long division and complex multiplication by the age of 11.

When the targets were first mooted, Labour and the unions derided them as a political stunt. The National Association of Headteachers said they would lead to unfair sacking of teachers, when children failed as a result of extenuating circumstances unrelated to the quality of education they were receiving.

Labour has accused the Tories of undermining progress by allowing untrained teachers to work in schools.

The new tests will see children complete multiplication challenges on-screen, which will be scored instantly. The DfE said it was the first use of such technology in national curriculum tests.

Morgan has said she also wants every pupil to be able to read a novel by the age of 11, and to write a short story with accurate punctuation, spelling and grammar.

  • This article was amended on 4 January 2016 to clarify that the policy will apply to pupils in England.


Haroon Siddique

The GuardianTramp

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