The school my children go to is a very good school, it hasn’t always been a good school but a new headmistress came in a few years ago and has turned it around completely – great breakfast club, excellent choice of out of school activities, brilliant results and a great staff of teachers who on the whole are very good with the kids.
The one thing that lets it down in my eyes (although I understand that this might be a plus for many other parents) is the amount of importance that they place on the Year 6 SATs. They are extremely focused on the results and it seems to me like Year 5 and Year 6 are completely geared towards achieving great results in these tests.
I feel like children should be children in Primary school and not have to overly concern themselves with exam results but the school seem determined to push and push the children despite the pressure that they’re feeling. When Miss Frugal came home one day last week devastated that she’s only got a 4b for her writing I realised just how much pressure she was under.
In case you’re not familiar with the way that Primary school levels work, there’s a great guide on Parentdish - a level 4b is actually the expected level of attainment for the end of Year 6 so to me, she’s already ahead of the game and is doing well. Not so to her teacher who told her that she was average and that the fact she cried at school was good because it meant that she cared about doing better.
She’s level 5 in her literacy which is above average and she’s just short of level 5 in numeracy but still she’s being pushed and despite my constant reassurance that I’ll be happy as long as she does her very best, she is definitely feeling the pressure and feels that she needs to push herself further to do even better.
I’m quite sure that no matter what I do and say, I’m not going to change the way she feels because the SATs are mentioned on a daily basis at school. As fast as I’m telling her to just do her best, they seem to be saying that’s not good enough and telling her to push harder.
So now I’m trying a different way of helping her, I’m trying to take some of the stress out of the exams for her by making sure that she is as confident as possible in her ability to do well before she sits the test.
Here’s my advice to help with exam confidence:
- Print out some sample SATs papers for your child to practice on beforehand to not only give them practice on the questions themselves but also to familiarise themselves with what to expect. I don’t need to do this as Miss Frugal has done a practice test paper every week since the start of Year 5! Sites like this one and this one share previous years papers so you can practice. A quick Google search brings up lots of results for this so you should find plenty to be getting on with.
- Make sure you take the time to read the papers yourself so you can see what they’ll be doing and try and do a few with them.
- Sometimes the questions aren’t worded in a clear way so help your child to decipher what the question is actually asking – this can be invaluable as some of the one’s I’ve done with Miss Frugal have been really long winded but actually the question’s been quite simple when you strip it back.
- Praise when they’ve done well and when they get questions wrong, don’t focus too much on the fact that the question is wrong, help them to understand why it’s wrong and how it should have been done. Then write a few similar questions of your own for them to check their understanding.
- Discuss exam techniques with them – I always used to find it easier to do the easier first, go back to the harder and spend free time checking over.
- Homework at this time of year is often specifically geared to SATs preparation so spend time with them when they’re doing it and help where necessary.
- Early nights and healthy breakfasts are even more necessary than ever during SATs week.
- Above all, make sure they know they can’t fail.
- It’s not always possible but something to look forward to after SATs is good – we were planning to go away for the weekend and we’ve timed it to coincide with the end of SATs so now it’s a ‘ Yeay! SATs are Over’ treat.
These tips are for children who are worried about SATs and could do with that extra bit of reassurance about them.
Personally, unless my child was worried or concerned about SATs I wouldn’t do any of the above other than the early nights and breakfast suggestion. If they’re not concerned about it and they’re doing their best at school then just let them get on with it and let the school guide them – any involvement from you may cause stress.
What do you think – are you a fan of Primary school exams like these?