Advice on how to help your child through the SATs
by Sian Goodspeed, Founder of Flying Start Tuition Ltd
What are the SATs?
If you are a parent of a primary-aged child, you are likely to have heard of the SATs (Standard Attainment Tests). The SATs, or National Curriculum tests, as they are officially called, are formal assessments in maths and English which are designed to measure pupil attainment in line with national expectations. They form the basis of the levels which children are given at the end of each key stage. Some schools also give pupils optional SATs in years 3-5 to monitor their progress throughout Key Stage Two.
Key Stage One pupils’ levels are given at the end of year 2 and are no longer based solely on their SATs scores. Instead, they are a based on a mixture of ongoing teacher assessment and test scores. Children are assessed in maths, reading, writing, speaking and listening and science but are only tested in the first three areas. These tests can take place at any time during the year and should be fairly low key.
Key Stage Two SATs are taken during the May of year 6 and cover levels 3-5, with level 4 being the expected national average to be achieved by the end of primary school. Results are then submitted to the school’s local authority and given to parents by the end of the summer term.
For 2014, some changes have been made to the format of Year 6 SATs so that the results of the tests better reflect children’s continuing progress. These include the introduction of more teacher assessment. Whilst English speaking and listening skills have always been assessed by teachers, teacher assessment will now also replace the SATs writing paper. An appraisal of your child’s schoolwork across Year 6 will be made to assess their grammar, punctuation and spelling skills, giving a more accurate picture of his or her progress than a single ‘snapshot’ test result. Creativity and writing style will also be considered.
KS2 SATs Content
• English grammar, punctuation and spelling (70 marks):
o Paper 1 (50 marks):
• Grammar, punctuation and vocabulary
• 40-50 short answer questions each worth 1-2 marks
o Paper 2 (20 marks):
• 20 sentences read aloud by test administrator with a word missing. Children to complete the sentence
• Reading (50 marks):
• Children receive booklet containing 3-4 texts
• One hour to read texts and complete questions
• 35-40 questions each worth 1-3 marks
• Short closed response questions (e.g. multiple choice), short open response and longer open response questions, which require children to explain and comment on texts
• Paper 1 and 2:
o 45 minutes each
• Paper 3:
o Mental maths
o 20 minutes
At the end of each year, you should receive a report listing your child’s SATs levels for each subject. At the end of year 2, the expected level is 2b. A level of 2c or 1a/b/c is below expectations; 2a is above expectations and a level 3 indicates your child is doing particularly well.
At the end of year 6, a level 4 is the minimum expected level. Level 5 is above expectations and level 3 is below expectations. Some children may even achieve level 6, since schools have the option of giving very able pupils level 6 papers.
However, it is important to note that every child is unique and for some children, a level 1 in year 2 or a level 3 in year 6 might still be a great achievement.
Do the SATs matter?
Whilst there is no ‘pass’ or ‘fail’ with SATs, many parents are keen for their child to do the best they possibly can in these tests as good performance indicates a good, solid grasp of the primary maths and English curriculum. Strong SATs results in year 6 mean children hit the ground running as they enter key stage three; and results are passed on to secondary schools, sometimes forming the basis of initial pupil streaming. Also useful to bear in mind, is that many grammar schools will only accept applications for the 12+ tests from pupils who have achieved level 5s in their year 6 SATs.
How to help your child prepare
As a parent, you may well be wondering what you can do to help your child. Children should not need any extra preparation for the SATs since all the areas to be tested are covered in school. However, if your child is not working at expected levels for literacy and numeracy, any extra support you can give them will have a positive impact on their all-round progress, which will then feed into their SATs scores. Ideally, this should be ongoing support, rather than simply undertaken during the run up to the tests.
The good news is, that when it comes to raising literacy and numeracy levels, the best place to start is in the home and there are a number of simple activities that can make a positive impact without taking up too much additional time.
Key Stage One
If you child is in key stage one, the best support you can give them is to allow them plenty of time to play. Children in years 1 and 2 are still very young and the school day is long and often very tiring. Play provides them with an opportunity to express themselves and make sense of the world around them and is an essential part of a child’s development. Play with your child when you can, allowing them to lead the activities, rather than directing them. Also allow them time to play independently and with siblings and friends.
In addition to play, read regularly with your child: picture books, chapter books, fiction, non-fiction, poetry. Expose your child to a range of authors and genres and read with them and to them, modelling use of expression and discussing what you have read together. This time should be pressure-free and enjoyable for all concerned and should be in addition to any reading scheme books that may come home from school.
Key Stage Two
For older children, it is still important to allow plenty of time for play, along with time for them to pursue their own interests, or simply just to ‘chill out’. In addition to this, children requiring extra support with literacy and numeracy may benefit from some of the following activities but remember: with any activity, little and often are most effective and, above all, your child needs to be engaged and having fun to benefit fully from the experience.
• Reading and comprehension – encourage your child to read a wide range of authors and genres and talk to your child about what they have read. Encourage them to ask about unfamiliar words and to keep a word book for new words and definitions. Don’t expect them to write down every new word, though, as this could take the enjoyment away from the story.
• Developing vocabulary – particularly finding synonyms, antonyms, compound words and building lists of vocabulary around certain topics, eg. different occupations, animal family names etc.
• Regular spelling practice – use the Year 5 and Year 6 spelling lists (ask your child’s teacher or tutor) and help them to identify words that sound the same but are spelt differently (eg. hair / hare) and words that have different meanings (eg. row – to argue / row – a boat).
• Regular practice to increase speed of recall of maths facts, eg. number bonds, times tables and division facts.
• Developing rapid written maths skills.
• Practice of all key maths topics in the Year 5 and 6 maths curriculum.
There is a wealth of resources both online and in bookshops that can support the above activities; as well as many resources geared specifically towards the SATs.
SATs Stress Busters – How to stay calm and focused throughout!
During SATs week:
• Don’t do any practice the night before the tests. Instead, do something fun and relaxing.
• Have an early night each night. Ensure your child does a wind-down activity before going to bed such as reading a book or having a bath.
• Have a decent breakfast on the day (the brain needs food!)
• Drink plenty of water on the day (but not too much!)
• Leave home with a positive attitude – remind your child how much they know and reassure them that whatever the outcome of their SATs, you love them and are proud of them.
During the tests:
• Before each test starts, go into the ‘Learning State’. The Learning State is a good state to be in to enhance concentration and reduce nerves. (Good for parents too!) For detailed instructions, see the resources page of Flying Start Tuition’s website.
• Concentrate on the test questions throughout. Other children may be fidgeting but you should keep focused and not worry about what anyone else is doing. If you find yourself losing concentration, go back into the Learning State.
• If you are stuck on a question, don’t spend too long thinking about it. If possible, make a guess, then circle the question on the paper and move on. Come back to it later if you have time.
• Do the workings-out – especially if instructed to do so! Doing the workings-out makes answering the questions quicker, since you are less likely to lose your train of thought and you will also have something to check if there is time.
• For spelling questions, write out the words if at all unsure and this should help you to see the answer.
• If you are running out of time, aim to do the quicker questions first and then go back to the harder ones if you have any time left.
• If you finish a test before the time is up, check, check and check again!
• Above all, stay calm and focused and keep it in perspective. Simply treat the tests as any other exercises you do at school. Do the best you can with each one and then put it out of your mind.
For more detailed advice and guidance on how to support your child’s maths and English at home, please see the ‘resources’ page of www.flyingstarttuition.co.uk.
For information on Flying Start’s SATs or Primary Maths and English courses, please email: email@example.com or call 01494 772898.