In 20 years’ time, when you look back at your life with your child, how likely are you to say, “I wish he had done better in his SATs”? My best guess is that there is no likelihood at all. I expect by then you won’t remember what SATs are, let alone what your child’s results were. It is much more likely that you will be thinking about those golden early years and wondering where it all went. You will be wishing you had spent less time at work and more time together in the park.
But as we gear up for another summer season of examinations and tests, such as SATs, it’s easy to lose that sense of perspective. And it’s completely understandable.
Let our Kids be Kids
In recent years the testing of primary school children and in particular, SATS testing has become a hot topic of debate. Whether or not children should be tested at all and from such an early age, remains a controversial subject. Organisations like ‘Let Our Kids Be Kids’ which promotes fun learning are organising activities and protests throughout May in protest against the government and in support of teachers; a minority of schools are even refusing to hold the exams.
To add to the confusion, changes to the tests mean that both parents and teachers are questioning the relevancy of the questions in the tests. How many adults in the UK know the difference between a subordinating conjunction and a preposition, for example?
Navigating your way through the process
The reality for most parents however, is that regardless of their view on government educational policy or the questions in the paper, parents of Year 2 and Year 6 primary school children will have to support their children through the process.
Here are a few tips and ideas for the best way to support your child and to make the preparation and sitting of the tests as stress free as possible.
So, first things first, what are SATS?
SATS (Standard Assessment Tests) are given at the end of Year 2 and Year 6. They are used to show your child’s progress compared with other children of the same age. Using the results of these tests, teachers and parents can better understand their child’s strengths and weaknesses. Teachers can compare how well each child is doing with their peers, both in their school and across the country.
SATs can also measure how much each child improves from one Key Stage to another and are used to predict the likelihood of children achieving specific results in their GCSEs. The results can also be used to help identify schools that are struggling and schools that are doing particularly well.
What do the tests involve?
Children are tested on what they have been learning at school. Your child will take official SATs in:
Other subjects, including writing, speaking and listening and science (for a sample of schools at Key Stage 2) are teacher assessed.
Teacher assessment can help to judge children’s performance in a subject over a longer period of time. The results of teacher assessment are equally important, as a teacher may feel your child is doing better in a subject as a whole than in the parts of it covered by a test.
Will I be told the results?
Yes, by law parents must be given their children’s results, broken down by subject, at the end of the summer term in Years 2 and 6. Recently the measures have changed and instead of being given a level you will be told whether or not your child has met, is above, or below the national expectation.
How are SATs results used?
SATs are used to measure how well a child is progressing. This information is used by education officials to assess how well a school is doing; it can also be a useful measure for parents and teachers.
Year 6 SATs may be used by some secondary schools as a basis for Year 7 sets; others have their own measures and assessments. Even if SATs results are taken into account by secondary schools, sets can and do change throughout secondary school, so even if you son or daughter ends up lower than you expected, they may move up later on.
For Year 2 children, results can be used for initial planning in Year 3, but most schools will carry out their own assessments in September, partly because children’s levels can go up or down over the summer holidays. The end of year 2 SATs levels may be used as a guide for targets for your child to reach in Year 6.
What can I do to support my child?
Every parent wants their child to do well, but it’s important that children do not feel additional pressure at home. Encourage and support your child to do the work set by the school, but maintain perspective – SATS results will not be used for CVs and will not impact on your child’s future job prospects!
Don’t underestimate the importance for making sure that your child is well fed and rested around exam time and make sure your child is enjoying activities and conversation that is not related to tests!
Is there anything I should do to prepare my child?
Schools should prepare children for the tests by familiarising them with the test content and completing sample tests.
Helping at home
SATs preparation worksheets and test papers are freely available and some parents choose to go down this route. However, if the school is doing its job, there shouldn’t really be a need for additional home support. If you do decide to home tutor your child, this needs to be a positive reinforcement of what your child has already learnt at school and not something which makes them feel stressed or pressured.
If you opt for private tuition for your child, this should be done within the framework of improving maths and English overall, rather than just preparation for the test. A good tutor or tuition centre should be able to assess where a child is in relation to their school year in English and maths and seek to improve any areas of weakness or extend where appropriate. SATs are the beginning, not the end, for primary school children.
What results should my child get?
The government is trying to establish a national benchmark for children’s attainment in the UK. It is looking to improve the overall level of literacy and numeracy within the UK and ensure that the UK does not fall behind other industrialised countries and emerging economies. Your child’s results should be taken within this context and not as something which should predetermine your child’s individual future academic or professional success.
How important are the results?
It is difficult for any parent to remain detached, but it is a fact that all children develop at different paces and the younger the child the more variations in the speed of development there are. Different skills develop at different paces in different children. The results therefore are relative to your child and his or her overall progression.
Government measures change all the time and what seems important now may not be relevant by the time your child is at school leaving age.
If your child is below the national expectation then it would be sensible to ask the teacher why he or she thinks this is the case and whether there are genuine concerns that need to be addressed. If your child’s teacher thinks that your child is progressing well, then listen to the teacher. If the teacher thinks there is a reason to be concerned, then try and establish what can reasonably be done to support your child and improve performance or understanding in core subjects.
If you are concerned about your child’s progress in English or maths, Kip McGrath centres offer free, no obligation assessments. For further information or to book an assessment email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our assessment page .