If you are a parent of a child in Year 6 in an English primary school, you’ll probably be very aware of the SATs tests.
For one week in May, Year 6 children will be tested on their reading, mathematics, and grammar, punctuation and spelling. They’ll also have their writing assessed.
At the end of the year, every child will receive a scaled score between 80 and 120 for each subject. A scaled score of 100 represents the expected standard on the test. Pupils scoring 100 or more will have met the ‘expected standard’ for a Year 6 child. To find out more, the Department for Education has produced an information leaflet for parents all about the national tests. You can also find out more about the content of the tests on Oxford Owl, including expert support with grammar, punctuation and spelling from Charlotte Raby and mathematics from Kate Robinson.
This blog post shares some advice about help your child to do their very best in the KS2 national tests and how these assessments can be approached so they’re the most positive experience they can be for everyone involved.
In the build up to the SATs
- Focus on the skills and knowledge that the SATs test
- Focus your efforts
- Help your child to focus on the tricky bits
The SATs tests don’t give a definitive answer about how good a child is at English or maths and they don’t tell us how good they’ll be at these subjects in the future. They don’t tell us how accomplished our children are in other important areas of the curriculum such as the humanities, sport or the arts. The tests are designed to be a snapshot of what children can do at the end of Year 6, testing the skills and knowledge that will help children to go on and do well at secondary school. One way we can help is by focusing on the skills and knowledge of English or maths that the tests assess, rather than the tests themselves. If effort goes into supporting our children to learn new concepts in mathematics or develop fluency in reading, rather than them passing the SATs, then the tests can be a vehicle for helping children to be confident readers, and writers of English and fluent mathematicians, key skills that help them to be ready for secondary school.
Talk to your child to try and find out the areas of the curriculum where they feel confident and where they feel like they might need some extra support. If you haven’t already, you might also want to talk to their class teacher about your child’s progress and how they think you could best support them. It makes sense for the child, parent and school to be working together towards the same aims.
It can be very tempting for children to spend time on the topics they enjoy and are already good at. Instead, we probably want them to spend time on the bits of the curriculum that don’t come so easily. Most children will benefit from some support with this. For many children, just re-reading notes isn’t the best way to prepare for the SATs. The best way to learn and prepare involves writing or doing something. This might be making notes, answering questions or explaining an idea to someone else.
During SATs week
- Acknowledge the progress they’ve made
- Wind down at the end
- Don’t break from routine
- Keeping healthy
Spending some time the weekend before thinking about all the things children can now do that they couldn’t do before Year 6 can provide a really useful confidence boost. It shows children how far they’ve come and reminds them that with hard work they can improve and learn new things- the key thing we want them to take with them to secondary school.
Like a runner training for a race, as the SATs draw closer it’s a good idea to ease up towards the end. They’ve put in the hard work and now it’s time for them to show what they can do. Still, one last reminder won’t hurt: who knows, the elusive answer to 8 x 9 might be the very question that comes up.
It will help if the actual test week is as normal as possible. Don’t rearrange things: if children have piano lessons, or stay for after school football club or spend an evening with Grandma, these things should still happen if possible. It helps to stop the week becoming a big thing, rather than just a few quick tests to for children to show what they can do.
Encourage children to eat well, drink plenty of water, get some exercise each day, and go to bed nice and early. We want children to feel their best for what might well be a busy week.
After the tests
- Don’t dwell on the tests
- Now the tests have finished, the learning doesn’t need to stop
Once the tests are finished, they’re finished and worrying about them won’t change the result. Hopefully they’ve gone brilliantly, but there are lots of reasons why sometimes a test doesn’t go as well as we’d hope; this is where concentrating on the skills and knowledge children need, rather than the tests themselves is such a useful way to view things. What matters is the having learnt the maths or English, rather than what happened in the test.
Once the tests are over, it’s good to celebrate with a treat. It can be helpful to reward the hard work and preparation that has gone into the tests, rather than rewarding the results. What we want is to show children that we value the effort they put into their learning.
Children might want to keep working at an aspect of English or maths ready for secondary school – perhaps there was something they didn’t quite get the hang of in time for May? They might want to learn about a different area of the curriculum altogether: finding out more about an interesting period of history; mastering a particular skill in art; or working on an aspect of sport (such as that elusive curling free kick). Either way, setting themselves a new learning challenge is a great way of keeping the learning habit going ahead of secondary school.