My daughter had a hard time with SATs in Year 2. Her first few years at school were really up and down* and at that point we hadn’t yet cottoned on to the fact that there were some pretty big gaps in her learning foundations, particularly in maths. The school tried not to make a big deal about the assessments, they felt it was better that the kids weren’t aware and that seemed like a sensible approach. Unfortunately it turned out that for my daughter, being unaware meant being emotionally unprepared and after the first day of tests she was extremely anxious. On the second day she could barely speak when I collected her from school.
Fast-forward to Year 6 (and a different primary school, with a very different ethos) and once again we’re faced with SATs. This time the kids are of course very aware of what’s coming – they’ve had a couple of dry runs, one in October and another in January – SATs fever has definitely been growing, but so far we’re doing ok.
What’s different this time around?
Well aside from my daughter being ten not six and having developed a lot more resilience, I’d say the big difference is the school and how they value opinions and input from parents.
Because of the problems we experienced at my daughter’s last school, it’s really important to me that I’m able to share with her class teachers what we’ve learned about triggers for anxiety, and what approaches work and don’t work for my child. This isn’t something that comes naturally to me - I hate feeling like I’m being a nuisance or making a fuss, and I’m not around school a great deal because I work full-time - so for this approach actually to be welcomed by the school, it’s made it so much easier for me to relax and have really helpful, constructive discussions that benefit us all.
At the start of Year 6 I booked in some time to meet the class teacher and TA and we talked about what was going to be happening that year, how they would be able to support my daughter, and what we could do at home. So I knew from the start of the school year that:
- They’d be doing two lots of practise SATs, both before parents’ evenings so we could discuss how they went
- The children would work in groups with a teacher, a TA or the head to go over any areas they needed extra support with
- Should they wish to, those children who don’t cope well in an exam setting (for whatever reason) would be able to take their SATs in a smaller room with a TA present and they’d do some exercises or games to relax them beforehand
- The pastoral care team provide extra support for children that will benefit from it – 121 sessions, lunchtime club, group activities
- They’d be doing plenty of other learning too, it won’t all be about SATs!
And word quickly got out among the kids that the teachers make them bacon butties in the morning when they’re doing their real SATs – now there’s an incentive!
Let’s talk about fractions!
The children aren’t normally set homework during the holidays (I’m a big fan of that), but my daughter came home with a set of SATs practise booklets to do over the Easter holidays, together with instructions for parents on how long and how often they should spend time on Maths and Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar aka SPAG (little and often), and Reading (bit longer, less frequent) and how we can support them (answer sheets and instructions). This all came home just before the end of term, so for the more organised parents among us (sadly that’s not me!) there was time to ask questions or raise any concerns.
Whilst my daughter was a wee bit miffed about the homework (I’m being polite here), it had all been explained in class so she understood it was to reinforce all the brilliant work they’d been doing at school – a kind of use it or lose it situation.
I helped my daughter put together a homework timetable (a skill we definitely need to work on for Year 7) keeping clear a few days when we’d be out and about with friends and family. And she pretty much stuck to it. Pretty much. We agreed I’d mark her work so we could pick up on anything she might need a bit of help with. Maths has always been her nemesis (although she’s much better at it than she believes she is) but it flagged up that she’d forgotten some of the rules for calculating fractions. Turned out, so had I.
After some initial 'disagreement' about how we'd tackle said fractions, we agreed that:
- I would be allowed to help but first I would need a little bit of time to: dust off the cobwebs (retreat to another room with the laptop), remind myself how to do fractions (Google ‘Year 6 fractions’) and run through a couple of examples (YouTube instructional videos) until I’m happy I can explain it properly
- I am not to be disturbed while I’m doing this
- If she doesn’t understand it after we’ve worked thorough some examples together (with the online instructions and videos if necessary), then we write a note asking the teacher to please go over it again
Thankfully I found some really great free worksheets that explained it all brilliantly and I was able to help my daughter with her fractions (I’ll be suggesting the school provides some of this for parents in the future). Maths is WAY outside my comfort zone, and I did feel a bit dim having to teach myself stuff my 10-year-old has been learning, but do you know what? It was alright. It took no time at all to learn, and it felt really good being able to help her remember how to divide those pesky fractions.
So are we ready for SATs?
Before I answer that, can I just quickly point out that SATs are assessments not exams. They're a way for the school to measure progress and its own teaching efficiency - they're definitely not the be all and end all. Having said that, the reality is that the kids have been working towards them since September and they know their results will be fed into their secondary school, so understandably they want to do well.
So... ARE we ready? Well, there are a couple of weeks to go, but I’d say yes.
Because we were given lots of feedback at parents' evening last month, and because we were involved with the Easter homework, I know my daughter is prepared. So if she feels a bit wobbly over the next week or so I can confidently re-assure her and address any worries based on what I’ve seen her do and what we’ve discussed with her teacher.
She knows there’s an option to sit the tests outside of the main class if she wants to, but at the moment she thinks she’ll be ok. And she’s looking forward to the bacon butties!
*FYI: Good Ofsted rating and a good local reputation don’t necessarily make a school the right fit for your child.
Our blog is a place for a range of opinions and debate on parents and their role in their schools and their children’s education. Whilst we think this debate is really important, we don’t always agree with the views being expressed.