Archive | January, 2016

Painting the Picture of Categorization

29 Jan

“Give freedom to colours and then you shall meet the rainbow everywhere” – Mehmet Murat ildan

Yesterday saw the publication of school categorization, the system which places schools in a color-coded model running from Green-Red via Yellow and Amber.  It is the second year these figures have been published following the scrapping of the controversial and ultimately discredited school banding policy.

One of the early successes of categorization, in contrast to its predecessor, is the way the Welsh Government have attempted to communicate its worth.  Despite it supposedly not being the objective of banding the Welsh Government did appear to, intentionally or otherwise, promote the view that this was the primary way of judging schools.  Very quickly it became the go to measure for schools and created damaging competition and rivalry within the system, and mislead a great number of parents as to the quality of their local provisions.  This wasn’t helped by the fact that often the rankings contrasted wildly with Estyn inspections and by year two we saw some radical changes in rankings  where schools classed as the best in Wales one year were in need of emergency intervention the next. (or vice versa).

There were some real concerns with the effectiveness and foundations of banding.  You can read some of my thinking at the time here if you are feeling particularly nostalgic.  However, perhaps the biggest puzzle was why the Welsh Government had created a system that would not actually allow progress to be shown.  Under banding for any school that moved up the bands another had to drop down.  Why any government would wish to put in place an accountability measure that would not enable them to show positive results I have no idea.

It is therefore very pleasing to see that categorization has learnt from that mistake.  It is somewhat ironic that the positive news story being championed of so many additional schools in the green category this year could not exist under banding.  I am reluctant to get drawn into the discussion of saying all is well in Welsh education based on the fact that we have more schools in green for two reasons.  Firstly, changes to the way categorization is put together mean you can’t in all honesty compare like for like with last years results.  Although I am of the understanding that it certainly isn’t any easier to secure positive results this year compared to 2015.  Secondly, education moves in a cyclical motion.  Who knows how things will pan out next year when small changes in some schools make a big difference to the end result?

That issue of small changes having such a large impact is something small schools in Wales have felt aggrieved about.  I think they have a legitimate concern in fairness.  In a school of 1,000 pupils one individual under-performing will not have anywhere near the same impact on the schools overall outlook compared to a single pupil in a school of 100.  In that sense the system is unfair on them.  To credit the Welsh Government I do believe the nature of how categorization works, taking into account more than just raw data as banding did, does mitigate that concern in a better way.  However, it is still an issue that everyone should take into consideration.  We should always reflect on the system to see where ongoing improvements can be made.

While I would guard against seeing these categorization results as a definitive assessment of schools in Wales they, taken alongside the encouraging Estyn report; GCSE results; A Level results and other indicators, do show a growing narrative of positive action.  Progress is being made against the backdrop of continuing challenging times.  The hope is we can keep that momentum going as the new curriculum comes in and the New Deal is developed.  If we manage to get those two big policies implemented effectively, and that is a very big if still, then there is no telling where we could go.

Whatever your views on categorization, and there is still reservations undoubtedly about the system, it is a marked improvement on what we had before.  The Welsh Government have been far more prepared to discuss the system as a developing tool and have been more focused on making it a model for identifying support rather than proportioning blame.  The real test of course will be to see if that promise of support is delivered.  If we do see schools receiving quality support from categorization I think it could prove to be a useful and effective tool, if not then inevitably it will lose the confidence of the sector.  Fingers crossed for the former.


School Ready

28 Jan

In recent years teachers have reported a rising frequency of young pupils starting school without basic life skills.  A greater number of pupils are entering school without the expected speech skills; without the capability to use cutlery and most concerning, in nappies without the independence to use a toilet themselves.  Educationally this causes a significant concern to schools, both on a practical and professional level.

Some schools do not have the proper facilities; teachers do not always have the required training and with every nappy that a teacher changes they are taken away from the rest of the pupils, depriving those who are capable of vital teaching time.  Given how important these early weeks and months are for children this can have a noticeable impact on pupil attainment.

A further issue is that this problem is taking place side by side with other factors that add to the complex picture.  We’ve seen historically underfunded school budgets pushed even further to breaking point.  This has reduced staffing levels in many schools while class sizes are increasing.  There is a reduced compliment of support staff supporting teachers in covering some of those nappy changing tasks and an increasing the number of pupils seeing the time they spend with a teacher limited.

The Welsh Government has now introduced expectation targets for pupils in the Foundation Phase, something that contradicts the stage-not-age philosophy of that policy.  It is difficult to see how all children are expected to reach the same targets when there is clearly a vast difference in school readiness between individuals entering school.

All the above begs the question where’s the line between the role of a teacher and the responsibility of a parent.  There are of course numerous factors that can impact on a child’s readiness to start school.  Teachers are mindful of that and will always work with families to tackle them.

This isn’t really a new issue.  No doubt teachers have had similar concerns for generations, but it is one that is being highlighted more and more.  In fairness to the Welsh Government they clearly acknowledge the need to ensure support for parents and have established specific policies and guidance such as Flying Start, Communities First and Education Begins at Home.  However, the fact we are still having this discussion suggest more can still be done by all.

Teaching is more than simply imparting knowledge.  It is also about the personal development of a child.  However, at a time where pressures on teacher’s workloads account for a significant number of stress related illnesses among the profession, can we really also be expecting individuals to take on increased social care responsibilities. The focus now must be on what can we do to support schools; what can we do to support parents and how can we monitor this situation to ensure we have the full details of its impact.

I originally wrote this piece for the BBC online site (hence it is short and a little constricted) but I can’t seem to find it published.  You can however see coverage of the issue, including an interview with me, on the BBC site here and in Welsh here.  There is also the authored piece I produced for S4C’s Y Sgwrs, while it remains on Iplayer, here.

And It’s Goodbye From Him…

18 Jan

The big news in Welsh education over the weekend, and in fact in Welsh politics in general, is the announcement by Huw Lewis AM that he will be standing down as an Assembly Member at the next Welsh election in May.

The Wider Picture

There is never any guarantee of continuity after an election.  We could have an individual at the helm from a different political party should Labour not get back in, albeit that scenario seems unlikely on current polling data.  We could also have a new political party running education through a coalition.  A far more likely prospect.  Perhaps the more rumored and expected outcome, had Huw Lewis AM not been retained in post, would have been a return Labour minority government with the potential of a new Minister due to cabinet reshuffles.  Still, what we do have now is a cast iron guarantee that we will be heading into the second half of 2016 with a new man or woman in charge of the nations education services.

I’m a firm believer that education needs a long-term approach with continuity at the heart of the agenda.  Education policy takes many years to bed in and have a noticeable impact.  It is a generational change.  I’ve said time and time again that those nations whose education system are internationally lauded have generally undertaken a 10, 15, 20+ year journey.  To that end having another new Minister will be somewhat unsettling, although there is no saying if the policy direction will change with that appointment of course.

A further concern, teased out in the ITV interview I did over the weekend, was the risk to momentum that this announcement could create.  It has to be said that there seems a greater sense of optimism in Welsh education on a policy basis than at any other time since I took up my post.  That is not to say that everything in the garden is rosy.  Far from in on some levels.  However, there is certainly a sense of relative united support for some big policy projects such as the ‘New Deal’ for teachers and the curriculum reforms.  These have been developed, and are being developed, with a closer sense of cooperation between the Welsh Government, local authorities and schools than many other changes we have seen in the past.  Losing the Minister that initiated them will threaten that momentum. That said I think so long as there remains a commitment to the causes that shouldn’t derail progress.  The fact the Welsh Government gave Professor Donaldson the independence he needed to go about his work, and crucially have retained his input for the implementation stage of the curriculum, is a real boost in keeping this process going.  It is also positive that much of the legwork on curriculum reform and the new deal design is being done by the profession itself through pioneer schools. That should hopefully mitigate any possible turbulence a change in Minister could create.

Perhaps the big fear is the foot being taken off the gas.  There was always the risk of that happening in going into an election anyway.  I don’t have any doubts that Huw Lewis AM will remain committed until he signs off as Minister, but with an outgoing head of an organisation in place it does always ask questions of those working underneath.  That’s something we need to keep an eye on from top to bottom within the sector.

Reflections on the Minister

It is no doubt still early to be writing the obituaries of a Minister in post but I thought it was worth having a brief look back at some things given his announcement.

I think it is fair to say that Huw Lewis took over at a time when relations between the Welsh Government and the teaching profession were extremely strained.  His appointment was therefor very welcome simply because it presented the opportunity for a fresh start.  One I think both the Welsh Government and teachers very much needed to grasp.

In what seems like a different lifetime now I was formally a Plaid Cymru employee.  Huw Lewis, to me as someone who didn’t know him personally, appeared to represent the tribal politics of Labour.  (For the record I have no doubt that every party has its tribal stance.  I imagine back in my more blinkered days I could have been described in similar terms from another side of the argument.  I sincerely hope that I have proven to be far more mature in my relationships across the political divide in since leaving my job at the Assembly.  Having worked with politicians from every party I am sure it is an objective I have succeeded in).   With that in mind I did have some trepidation about the way the Minister would work.

I am pleased to say my preconceptions have been thoroughly confounded.  As an individual politician Huw Lewis may, or may not, be tribal in his approach.  I have never dealt with him outside education so could not say.  I can only confirm that he has proven to be a very constructive Minister to work with since his appointment.  There have been some major steps forward under Huw Lewis that have helped bring back the ability to have positive dialogue with the Welsh Government.  Even where there have been disagreements on policy, and there have been many still, they have been aired in a more conciliatory fashion, by all parties.  Compromises have been reached and a focus on understanding the rational and thinking of others is more central to this new approach.  It is this style and attitude that has enabled the Minister to secure such buy in from teachers to major changes in policy and one he should receive a lot of credit for.

Legacy is hard to evaluate for Education Minister’s as I have stated.  It takes time to see how things work and there is no security that Huw Lewis’s successor will not come in and simply rip up his work.  However, I think he can look back and recognize that he brought a more positive approach to cooperation between schools and government; he presided over the development of a new Welsh curriculum (albeit much of this work remains to be undertaken) and he has been perhaps the Minister most explicit about the need to address the gap in access for teacher’s continued professional development.

To be critical, I think it is a real shame there have been no strides to tackle the continued unpopular and divisive national testing, particularly for the very youngest pupils and in light of the fact the OECD and Donaldson curriculum review have noted they are not fit for the way we wish to deliver education in Wales.  It is also a shame that we continue to have major failings with our supply sector, including a controversial preferred bidder contract set up with one supply agency in particular.  Finally, our workload scandal continues, although it has to be stated that the Minister has taken steps to put this on the agenda for pioneer schools so his work there may yet yield some tangible changes in the future.

There is still time for the Minister to get to grips with these issues before he leaves of course and in fairness he has at least recognized the problems with supply which have for too long been ignored.

It is a shame the Minister is standing down when there is still so much work to do on some of the agendas that he has been so pivotal to developing.  That said, having worked for politicians in the past I have seen first hand the sort of pressures it puts on an individual.  You cannot therefore begrudge someone who has been an Assembly Member for almost 17 years wanting to have a change.

The Future

What Huw Lewis will leave is a lot of potential.  We have many strands of work open with a firm direction set.  Any new Minister will of course want to stamp their approach on their department and portfolio.  You can expect nothing less.  What I sincerely hope does happen is that whomever comes in continues to appreciate the need to secure support for, and support from, the teaching profession.  Any policy will fail if those delivering it are not convinced of its merits.  Perhaps Huw Lewis’s greatest achievement as Minister is that for some of the biggest proposals he allowed teachers to feel part of the development process.  That’s a lesson any Education Minister will be wise to learn.


Term-Time Holidays

14 Jan

I have commented a few times in the past about the importance of allowing headteachers the freedom of discretion when it comes to allowing pupils to take holiday’s during term-time.  This has been a particularly hot topic since the introduction of truancy fines.  Coupled with these financial penalties we have seen attendance becoming an increasingly important tool in terms of holding school accountable.  So much so that local authorities have instructed schools they should refuse all requests for term-time leave.

It is welcome then that the Minister has written to councils in Wales to say that headteachers should have discretion in this decision and that advising them against it goes against the guidance.

Of course you do have to feel for both schools and local authorities.  On the one hand the Welsh Government are now telling them that they do have the right to use discretion.  Which is a positive step as there are numerous reasons why school leaders may wish to exercise that option.  However, on the other hand, those same school leaders are going to see their place in the categorization model determined, in part, by their attendance ratings.  They are also going to continue to have pressures put on them by consortia and local authorities, who themselves are going to have pressure on them from the Welsh Government, to ensure attendance ratings do not drop.  if they do then we will undoubtedly see schools punished in their accountability measures.

Perhaps what is needed is a way to dis-aggregate legitimately justifiable term-time leave from the school attendance ratings in a way that allows reasonable flexibility in the system while not impacting on the way attendance is viewed in schools.  That is something that needs further thinking.

Despite these remaining issues and the potential for confusion in the system it is still positive the Minister has made this statement and hopefully it allows schools to reclaim some of the professional judgment around the issue that they previously lost.

Education begins at Home

13 Jan

At the end of the day, the most overwhelming key to a child’s success is the positive involvement of parents. – Jane. D. Hull

Often overlooked when examining what impacts children’s education is the role of parents and guardians.  It’s entirely natural to focus on teachers when it comes to attainment.  These individuals have been specifically trained to support learners’ education.  Teachers show the dedication required to secure qualifications, to undertake inductions, and are there day in day out working with pupils.  However, what we forget is that children spend the vast majority of their time outside the classroom.

Even ignoring school holidays, during term-time children are still away from school longer than they are in it.  This is despite the fact that Wales has some of the longest school days in Europe, some of the shortest school holidays and fewest public holidays anywhere in the world.  This is why the future of the ‘Donaldson’ curriculum is so focused on developing the person as ‘healthy, confident individuals, ready to lead fulfilling lives as valued members of society’ and not just the product of a narrow education system.

It’s clear that supporting educational attainment outside a school setting is crucial to seeing improvement within it.  The support pupils have at home cannot be underestimated.  We know the most successful schools have been able to foster positive relationships with their communities.  There is a sense of ownership for school success that permeates beyond the school gates and parents are invested in a joint approach with teachers to develop the knowledge, skills and appetite for learning in their children and young people.

In April 2014 the Welsh Government launched its ‘Education begins at Home’ initiative, designed to engage parents in their children’s education.  From keeping regular bedtimes, asking about school and reading with their children, the Welsh Government sought to give practical advice to parents that can have a surprisingly wide ranging impact.  To some this may be seen as a ‘nanny state’ approach, but we really do need parents to recognise how important it is to focus on education extending beyond the school setting, into areas where it is perhaps not as explicitly obvious, such as a good night’s sleep.

What impact this initiative has had is difficult to quantify.  I would also suggest the Welsh Government should promote it further with a renewed sense of purpose.  However, that such a programme does exist shows the Welsh Government are mindful of what all teachers know already, that unless we make the classroom and home an interchangeable learning environment we are only delivering on a part of a pupils potential.

A 2014 study, conducted jointly by Brown and Harvard universities, looked at the impact messages from teachers to parents can have, and by default highlighted the impact parental engagement can have.

The study consisted of three groups of pupils.  Parents of the first group received no messages about their child’s performance.  The second group had messages which were solely positive.  The third received constructive criticism, or ‘improvement information.’

The main finding of the survey was where parents received feedback, irrespective of its nature; there was a substantial increased probability of pupils passing their courses.  The comparison with the group that received no feedback was that there ended up being a 41% decrease in students failing to earn credit.

Interestingly, those pupils whose parents received ‘improvement information’ had more effective results than those who simply had the positive feedback.  We can therefore determine that not only is feedback to parents essential to attainment but that the nature of that feedback is significant.

Research shows differences in parental involvement have a much bigger impact on achievement than differences associated with the effects of school in the primary age range.  What’s more, these impacts are long lasting.  Parental involvement continues to have a significant effect as children grow up, although for older pupils it is more important in terms of ensuring pupils remain in education than in measurable academic outcomes.

It is also noteworthy that success through parental involvement is not confined to one social group.  The scale of the impact of parental involvement is evident across all social classes’ ethnic groups.  Building strong teacher-parent relationships therefore is a way to not only improve attainment within our education system, but a way of doing it that supports pupils right across socio-economic, ethnic and cultural lines.

Community engagement is critical and the best schools are at the top of their game because they have a cohort of parents who share a vision. This is especially important as we look at initiatives such as ‘Schools Challenge Cymru.’  The success of the model it is based on, ‘London Challenge,’ was certainly attributed, in part at least, to parental engagement.  As Simon Burgess of the University of Bristol argues in his report on the subject, “London has a right to be pleased with itself in terms of the excellent GCSE performance of its pupils. The argument here is that the basis for that success lies more with pupils and parents than it does with policy-makers.”

This does raise some concerns about policy areas that threaten the parent-school relationship.  We know the controversial school banding initiative created a lot of problems as it turned parents against schools.  It was one of the fundamental reasons that policy was a failure.  Equally, we have to question if truancy fines, which may lead to some short-term gains, could in the longer-term threaten that parent-teacher dialogue.

Teachers can take a child only so far, often they secure the best qualifications against all the other factors in their lives, but as a rule if there is no wider network of support it makes it extremely difficult to ensure potential is reached.

We must support teachers to further develop their capabilities and gain access to training wherever possible.  Ensuring we have the most qualified and motivated teachers should be a fundamental objective for any Welsh Government.  Equally, we must also examine where improvements can be made to resources and facilities as well as looking at policy changes that empower the profession.  However, when all is said and done, we cannot escape the fact children spend most of their time outside school.  Not only then must we give thought to parental input but also to the wider socio-economic issues in our community that impact on the ability to secure the best outcomes for all.  Failing to tackling those external factors will render any improvements at school level negligible.  This means getting to grips with the challenges of poverty as a priority.

Ultimately, we want to foster an education system that allows teachers and parents to engage positively with one another; where there’s a clear focus not only on providing feedback but in shaping how, when, where and why that feedback takes place; where there is a recognised benefit for those interactions and where there is a shared approach and a shared responsibility for a schools success.  If that is achieved there is no capping the limit of our potential.

This article originally appeared on the EWC blog.  You can find the original here and in Welsh here.

4 Hopes for Welsh Education in 2016

8 Jan

It has been a bit of a tradition of mine to blog on my hopes for Welsh education at the start of the year.  I previously did it in 2014 and 2015 and on both occasions also looked back with the hindsight of 12 months to see how progress had panned out.  I thought it only right that I did so again for what is possibly the most important year for the sector since I started working in it.

1.  Class size

For a while now I have wondered how class sizes have been absent from the political agenda in Wales.  Almost without fail when I attend a conference, committee of general catch up with teachers and they raise the issues that are concerning them the most class sizes will inevitably come up.  I couldn’t quite relate that experience with the fact it wasn’t being discussed at a political level.

With that I was pleased a few weeks before the end of the last Assembly term of 2015 when Kirsty Williams AM brought it up at First Minister’s Questions.  The leader of the Welsh Lib Dems challenged the First Minister on why 30+ class size were rising in Wales.  His response was:

“Well, you must ask the local authorities that. As you know full well, local authorities are responsible for delivering education. We have done our bit; we’ve protected education spending relative to the block grant that we have received and it’s a question that’s best answered by them.”

I have to say it is not a response that I think either addresses the question nor fills those interested in education with much confidence.  I am not absolving local authorities of their responsibility.  The First Minister is right that they have a role to play.  However, it is undoubtedly a situation where the Welsh Government must take a level of responsibility and passing the buck doesn’t sit very well with me.

Since that exchange the Lib Dems announced one of their key election pledges on education for the Welsh Election next May.  They have come out with a pledge that infant class sizes will be capped at 25.  It is a policy I think will gain a fair amount of traction from classroom teachers.  Hopefully it will also instigate further thinking around this issue from the other parties who may also be considering class sizes in their manifestos next year.

As a side note to the above I did notice, and indeed challenge but without reply, the First Minister’s assertion on twitter in December that class sizes have reduced under the Welsh Government.  My reading of the Welsh Government’s own census data (pages 17 and 18) was that this is not the case.  In fact the opposite is true.  the average class sizes for both infant and junior age pupils have risen.  The percentage of those in classes of 30 or less has decreased while, inevitably I suppose, the percentage of pupils in classes of 31 and more has increased.

Hopefully in 2016 we will see this issue get a lot more traction.  Ideally we will see a reduction in class sizes to support pupils and teachers.  At the very least it would be positive to see all parties actively discussing their intentions to tackle the issue in the build up to the election.

2.  The Election Of Ideas

I blogged last year about how I was hopeful education wouldn’t be the political football the NHS was prior to the Westminster election.  Thus far it seems as if, while different parties may be critical of each other and be on the attack, they are putting forward ideas to be debated.

What I really want to see in 2016 is a continuation of policy debate.  I may not agree with everything that is put forward but no one single person, organisation, union, group or political party has all the answers to creating the best education system for Welsh students.  It is important to have a blend of views.  Education really does have to be front and center for any debates going into the Welsh election and I am excited to hear the competing, and perhaps, complimentary ways those standing before the electorate want to support teachers, parents and pupils.

3.  The Supply Question

Finally at the back end of 2015 we had the publication of the Children’s committee report into the supply system in Wales.  I do think the committee’s report could have been stronger.  It appears somewhat watered down in places to me.  Perhaps that was in order to ensure that it secured universally support from members.  That said there are some very important messages around the ineffectiveness of essentially establishing a monopoly, which has all but happened through the current preferred provider contract.

The below statement in the report is of particular interest in this regards:

“The Committee is concerned that the current model for supply teaching does not appear to be working effectively. The Committee believes that consideration should be given to reforming the way in which supply teachers are employed, including the possible use of cluster arrangements or employment through a national body as just two examples. In doing so, the Welsh Government should give careful consideration to national models elsewhere, such as Northern Ireland.

“The Committee acknowledges that the existing contract will need to be honoured and as such any new system could not become live until at least August 2018. However, the Welsh Government should start work now to design a new model for the employment of supply teaching, to ensure that the new system is in place in readiness for the end of the current contract.”

One thing for certain is that there really does appear to be a consensus that the system at present does not work for supply teachers; does not work for value for money and ultimately does not work for pupils and standards.  There are some real questions to be asked around the preferred provider contract and what happens when that runs its course.  2016 presents a real opportunity to start getting things in place for a more appropriate system that can finally put an end to years of mistreating this core section of the teaching profession.

4.  Pioneer Schools

I have been a supporter of the Welsh Government’s idea of establishing pioneer schools.  Schools have been identified to pioneer work in developing the new curriculum; creating a digital framework and looking at the ‘new deal’ on professional development.  Having those experts to deliver this work will hopefully mean we end up with a curriculum that is teacher and child friendly; a digital framework that works in parallel with what is already happening across the curriculum in schools and a new deal that finally allows the profession to become empowered through training, based on their individual needs and the needs of the school and system.

I was particularly pleased that following extensive research work undertaken by the NUT on stress related illness among teachers, the Minister announced that he had also instructed pioneer schools to look closely at workload implications for what they will be proposing.  Often in the past we have seen new initiatives which are entirely well-intentioned, and have credible ambitions, but fall down because they have simply failed to take into account the pressures they put on teachers.  They have either underestimated the workload commitment to delivering the new initiatives or else they have failed to reflect on the impact it will have on other areas of school life.  Hopefully given this direction from the Minister that will not be the case this time around.

Having spoken to some pioneer teachers I am encouraged at the way they are approaching the work.  My big hope for 2016 is that the work of any pioneer school, in any pioneer area, is not done in isolation.  We simply cannot have three separate strands of pioneer work that contrast one another.  They must come together as complimentary visions.  The new digital framework must sit well with the new curriculum and both must allow space for the ideas of professional development brought forward by the new deal pioneers.  I really do hope there is a pause for thought at the end of this process where the proposals of all the pioneer groups are looked at together and not on an individual policy basis that does not take into account changes elsewhere.

Times Tables

6 Jan

Last week Nicky Morgan MP put forward her policy for establishing a new test for times tables for all 11 year olds under her jurisdiction.  It was inevitable that she, and no doubt other cabinet members in future, would be grilled on their own capabilities.  Somewhat embarrassingly for the English Education Secretary while preaching about the importance of recalling times tables she point blank refused to be quizzed on them herself.

Of course, as pretty much everyone knows, teachers are already teaching children times tables.  It is hard to believe that such a policy will actually change the approach of teachers already committed to developing mental arithmetic among their pupils.  That said, one impact of this policy in England is that it will continue to disenfranchise teachers who already feel that their professionalism is under threat due to constant political interference.  It is a policy less about improving standards and very much about simply introducing another test to an already over-tested group of pupils.

The truth is 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.  Teachers do still ensure that mental arithmetic is a strong focus in their lessons, and the times tables are taught, but we must also 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. Recall is not the only way to make sure you understand mathematical concepts.  This notion of expecting and needing children to be able to do everything from memory is ignorant to the fact we live in the google age.  That’s not to say building memory capacity and skills is not important.  It is not to say that knowing your times tables isn’t important.  However, it is to say that establishing it as a primary focus to hold schools accountable in a world where that is not how people operate is at best short-sighted.