KS2 SATs: How Best to Prepare Your Pupils
The Year 6 SATs are important to give teachers and parents an understanding of children's
strengths and areas that can be developed.
The results can help teachers focus on which pupils need extra support as they prepare to finish primary school and start secondary school. They're also used to help review the quality of education at schools across the country.
For anyone outside the educational sector who might be reading, we’ll provide you with a useful recap ‘Q&A-style’ first. This might be information you already know as a teacher or member of school staff, so if you like, you may feel like skipping ahead to the ‘How can we prepare children for Year 6 SATs?’ section lower down the page.
What are SATs exams?
Standard Assessment Tests (hence the acronym) are carried out by primary schools to measure pupils’ educational progress.
When are Key Stage 2 SATs?
The 2023 round of Year 6 SATs took place between Tuesday 9 May and Friday 12 May. If it helps you remember, that was the week immediately after King Charles’ coronation.
What do Year 6 SATs cover?
There are six SATs in total, focusing on English (grammar, punctuation, spelling and reading) and maths.
How are SATs marked?
In KS2, completed papers are sent away to be externally marked. Scores are on a scale between 80 to 120, with the mid-point (100) equating to the expected standard for this age. You’ll be informed of your child’s SATs score in July.
What are SATs used for?
Your child’s secondary school will likely consider their SAT score when deciding which group to place them in for Year 7. SATs are also important to schools, as they have to demonstrate certain levels of attainment or progress annually. If a school repeatedly fails to do so, the local authority (and potentially Ofsted) can become involved.
OK, you’re all caught up. Now let’s consider how you, either as a parent/carer or teacher, can help your child to do their best during their SATs.
How can we prepare children for Year 6 SATs?
As long as there have been exams, there’s been exam stress. Things such as the silence in the hall; the butterflies in the stomach; the splash of ice-cold panic when your mind goes blank at a crucial moment; the inexorably advancing hands of the clock – all these can contribute towards exam anxiety.
Eleven (in some cases ten) is, comparatively speaking, a tender age at which to undergo such a significant assessment. For the vast majority of children in Year 6, the KS2 SATs will be their first experience of a test under ‘traditional’ exam conditions – the unfamiliarity of which can add to their feelings of concern and nervousness sparked by the mere mention of the word ‘test’.
It’s clear, then, that both parents and teachers have a role to play in helping to reduce this pre-exam pressure on children, enabling them to perform as well as they can. You might want to check out our recent webinar presented by Professor David Putwain to get some advice and practical guidance on helping pupils to overcome exam anxiety, explaining the reasons and origins of the issue, and it's prevalence and the preventative measures schools can put in place, drawing on a 16 year programme of research.
Additionally, we also have a webinar on access arrangements for pupils with SEND (delivered by Karen Pilling, an experienced deputy head and SENCO) in relation to SATs that you may find useful as exam week draws ever closer, including adaptations that can be made for pupils with SEND and an overview of the application proces.
Can a child practice for SATs?
It’s difficult to ‘revise’ (in the accepted sense) for SATs because the questions are so diverse and tend to be self-contained within the test – it’s less about what specific information a child can remember than whether they’ve absorbed the principle behind solving a particular problem (such as how division works or how to make deductions from an extract of text, for instance).
Not knowing the answer is one thing, but not knowing how to work out the answer can be a far worse exam situation for a child to find themselves in.
At a general level, you could certainly consider showing pupils sample papers from previous years – so they can at least see the type of question they’ll be answering and be less likely to be wrong – footed by the paper’s format and layout once under test conditions.
Typically in SATs, research has shown Year 6 children tend to score less well on questions near the end of each paper – indicating that the time management aspect of the exam is often a challenge for them.
Rehearsal exercises where pupils answer a set number of questions in a given period can help them get used to keeping an eye on the clock and allocating a suitable amount of time to each question – neither rushing nor leaving themselves short.