R is eleven and as he is in Year 6, we are fast approaching his SATs exams. These are his second official SATs exams but he was blissfully unaware of the first set as they were done in a very informal and relaxed way and that is exactly how I like it. We do seem to be very exam focussed in this country and whilst as both a teacher and a parent, I understand the need and the benefit of ongoing assessment in the classroom, I think that this can be done in a number of ways other than official testing.
R is very aware of SATs this year. It seems to be the focus of the year. I understand from the school’s point of view that SATs are important to them, they are a benchmark from which the school will be judged
So what are SATs?
Officially know as National Curriculum Tests but more often referred to as SATs (Standard Assessment Tests), they are tests sat by all children in England to assess their current level in English and Maths.
What are the children tested on?
There are three English papers; English grammar, punctuation and spelling (45 minutes), a spelling test (15 minutes) and a reading comprehension paper (1 hour).
There are also three maths tests; two 45 minute papers and a 20 minute mental maths test.
English and Maths are the only subject that are SATs test although children often have end of year testing in other subjects too.
When do they take place?
They are always in early may and in 2015 they start on 11th May and continue throughout the week. If your child is unwell and misses a test, they are able to take the test within the following week.
What levels are assessed in the SATs?
SATs tests contain a variety of questions starting at Level 3 through to Level 5. Some students will be asked to sit Level 6 papers which are separate and additional to the Level 3 – 5 papers. Students will only be entered for the Level 6 paper if teachers feel that they can achieve Level 6 and if they don’t succeed in that paper, they will be awarded the level they achieved from the Level 3-5 paper.
What level should my child be working at?
This obviously depends on the ability of each child and you should have a good idea from your last parent’s evening or report. The national average at the end of Year 6 is a level 4.
Do I need to help my child prepare for SATs test?
This is a difficult question to answer and again this is up to you and your child. You know if your child will be open to having extra help and there are lots of website and resources online where you can download past papers with mark schemes to work through with your child if you think that will help them.
Personally, I don’t do that as schools will prepare them with lots of past papers, exam techniques and strategies and we did give our son the option of doing extra but he didn’t want to, which is fine as I think forcing him to do extra work would make the whole process unnecessarily stressful.
When do we get the results?
The SATs results aren’t received by the school until July and sometimes results will arrive just before the end of term. Most of the tests are marked externally, so the arrival date of the results is not down to the school.
How important are the SATs?
This is an interesting question. With my teaching hat on, I know that they are important to gauge an overall level in these crucial subjects and give you an overview not just of the level that every child is working at but also of the whole year group and for teachers, that is really useful. It is also important for the schools as the overall SATs results are available to the public and are criteria that are not only used by Ofsted but also by prospective parents when they are choosing a school for their child.
As a parent, however, I am aware that SATs are very much about the school and not so much about the individual children. Teacher assessments are often as accurate if not more so than official external testing and for children of that age, there isn’t really the need for official tests. Testing is very much part of the education system in England and so for many children, they are used to being tested and won’t see these tests as any different and it could be argued that by giving them the experience of an official test at this stage in their education, this will help prepare them for GCSE exams which start in Year 10. It is important to encourage a positive attitude towards SATs and any other tests that your child does as hopefully this will give them a positive attitude towards the more important exams later in their education.
Are Key Stage 2 SATs changing?
Yes. In 2016 the national curriculum level system is being replaced with a standardised scoring system. Each child will take the tests and be given a score and also the average score for the school, other schools in the area and also nationally. Children will still be tested in Year Six in English and maths and some will also be tested in science.
How can I support my child through SATs?
The best way to support your child through SATs is to keep them calm and positive. Be encouraging and reassure them that they should aim to do their best. You can’t fail a SATs test and so the important thing is to make things as normal as possible and if they are worried about the outcome, remind them that this is simply to show what they know. Don’t push them to revise or do extra papers unless they want to. When it is exam week, make sure that they have plenty of sleep and eat a good breakfast so that they are ready for the day. These resources from Jack Cherry are a great idea and I love the way they put a very positive spin on the SATs with colourful characters and using fruity recipes to help encourage children to think calmly and positively about the exams. There are a resources for teachers and parents and you can find out more on the website.
Your children will have done past papers in school but if you feel that your child will benefit from going through a paper or two with you, search for Key Stage 2 Free Past Papers and you will find links to lots of sites that provide you with past papers and the answers and you can go through the tests together.
The important thing with the SATs tests is the emotional and physical well-being of your child. You know what is best for your child and you should talk to your child’s teachers if you have any concerns or worries about the SATs tests. Encourage, reassure your child to do their best and it is important to remember that these are not GCSE exams and that 11 year olds should be enjoying school and not getting stressed by it.