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Year 6 SATs: What you need to know

As we head into the Spring term, the Key Stage 2 SATs loom large on the horizon for parents and teachers across the country. Certainly, as a Year 6 teacher, it is now that I begin to really think about that week in May when my class will be sitting their SATs.
Vicky, teacher and guest blogger, gives us the lowdown on KS2 SATs.

What are SATs?

These tests (Standard Assessment Tasks) are taken by children at the end of both Key Stage 1 (Year 2) and Key Stage 2 (Year 6). English and maths are both currently tested in each key stage. The Year 2 tests are marked internally while the Year 6 tests are sent away for external marking. At present, the Year 2 children sit two reading papers, an optional spelling, grammar and punctuation (SPaG) paper and two maths papers.* Year 6 also sit a reading paper, a SPaG paper, a spelling test and three maths papers. Writing is moderated internally, often with the help of the Local Authority. The Year 6 test results are then reported back to schools (and then on to parents) by the end of the summer term. 2016 was the first year the new National Curriculum was tested.

*My advice here really is in regard to the year 6 SATs. Most Year 2 teachers keep the fact that the children are even sitting tests a secret from the children; making the event as low key as possible. Children try ‘tests’ in a whole-class informal environment, or in small groups.

How have SATs been changed and why?

The new National Curriculum was introduced in September 2014. The aim of this new curriculum was to raise standards in both English and maths. So, in many year groups, content that had previously been in years above has moved down. I have had to really brush up my knowledge of some Key Stage 3 maths and grammar!

Another major difference has been the move away from levels and towards a ‘mastery’ curriculum. Children must ‘master’ the curriculum and will then be tested to see if they have reached the expected standard. In previous years, children were given a level and sub-level to show their perceived attainment; for example, a child achieving level 4b had reached the expected level. This has now been replaced and we now talk in terms of whether a child is at the expected standard, above it or still working towards it.

How did last year’s Year 6 pupils manage in the SATs?

The children who took the SATs in May 2016 were the first children to be tested on the new curriculum.

Overall, the key headline result was that ‘only’ 53% of children who took the 2016 papers reached the expected standard in all three areas: maths, reading and writing. Reaching the expected standard proved difficult for many children — especially in the reading paper, where 66% of children achieved the expected boundary, compared to the 80%+ pupils who reached the equivalent grade under the previous curriculum in 2015. This was a simple reflection of the increased challenge of the texts and the questions now in this paper (something your child’s teacher will now be working hard to address!).

Other expected results were slightly higher: 70% in maths, 72% in SPaG and 74% in writing (which was teacher assessed).

How can you support your child?

Your Year 6 teacher will be doing their utmost to support, prepare and help your child with the SATs, so my advice is really not to worry.

Whichever age we teach, all teachers are aware of the need to keep things calm and as normal as possible at this time. I think I try even harder in Year 6 to ensure lessons are enjoyable, creative and practical, even when revising. Hopefully your child will be completely prepared for the SATs and aware of what’s required of them, but his/her teacher will not make too big a deal of it.

Your role as a parent really is just as crucial, if not more so! The most important thing to remember is to not let your child get too worked up. I know this is easier said than done, with children putting pressure on themselves or comparing their abilities to others in the class. However, if we remind them that SATs are a very small part of their education and we will be proud of them whatever the results, hopefully they can avoid undue stress. I always find that by the time May comes around my class are keen to show what they can do, are no longer overly worried and just happy to get them over and done with!

Certainly, support the school’s approach, help your child with homework and see the class teacher if you have any concerns, but I strongly believe that trying to keep their minds busy with other activities and family time can be just as effective as extra exam preparation — keep them happy, well fed and well rested and everything will be OK!

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