The minister responsible for new times table tests for primary pupils in England has refused on television to answer a multiplication question.
Nick Gibb was asked by the Good Morning Britain presenter Jeremy Kyle: “What is eight times nine?”
But the school standards minister told Kyle and fellow presenter Kate Garraway: “I’m not going to get into this. I’ve learned through bitter experience never to answer these kinds of questions on live television.”
He added: “I’m very tempted to, but I’m not going to.”
Garraway asked Gibb: “Why is it so important for an eight-year-old to do it when clearly you feel vulnerable about it, and there you are, a government minister?”
The minister responded: “No eight-year-old or nine-year-old will be doing it on live television.”
Gibb appeared on ITV’s Good Morning Britain to talk about the government’s new times table check for eight- and nine-year-olds in England, which will be trialled by thousands of children this spring before a full rollout over the next two years.
Ministers confirmed plans to introduce the test last autumn, after a review of primary school assessment.
While supporters have argued that the check will help to ensure all children know their tables, opponents including some teaching unions have raised concerns about the educational benefits.
The National Association of Head Teachers has described the move as “hugely disappointing”.
Nick Brook, the union’s deputy general secretary, said the tests “won’t tell teachers and parents anything they don’t already know about their children”.
Schools across the country can take part in the multiplication check voluntarily from June next year, and it will be compulsory from 2020. It is understood that around 290 primaries in England are expected to take part in the trials.
According to the Department for Education, the test will last a maximum of five minutes and will allow teachers to monitor a child’s progress.
Gibb has said previously: “Just as the phonics screening check helps children who are learning to read, the multiplication tables check will help teachers identify those pupils who require extra support.
“This will ensure that all pupils leave primary school knowing their times tables off by heart and able to start secondary school with a secure grasp of the fundamental mathematics they need to fulfil their potential.”