What are SATs & What is Their Purpose?

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If your child is in Year 2 or 6, they will soon be taking their SATs. I have sat my SATs, so please do believe me when I tell you that there is no need to worry over them. Your child’s teacher will do most of the work needed, but additional help from home will make things even easier for your child. In this article, I will help you to understand what SATs are so that you can feel more confident in helping your child to prepare for them.

Standard Assessment Tests are more commonly known as SATs. You may also know them as National Curriculum assessments. Almost all children must sit these exams towards the end of Key Stage 1 and 2. These exams are composed of English reading; grammar, punctuation and spelling; and maths tests.

You will find even more information which will help you and your child with their SATs below, so keep on reading! I’ll dive into all of the information you could possibly need to know, and will offer some advice too…

What are SATs in the UK?

Standard Assessment Tests are a small set of exams. Children sit one set at the end of Key Stage 1, and the second set at the end of Key Stage 2. Although the tests are not strictly timed, I have included the typical times it takes pupils to complete each test below.

For the KS1 SATs, the tests usually include:

  • A 30 minute and a 40 minute English reading test
  • A 20 minute arithmetic (Maths) test
  • A 35 minute Maths reasoning test
  • Two optional 35 minute Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling tests

The KS2 SATs are usually made up of:

  • A 45 minute Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling (GPS) test
  • A 20 minute spelling test
  • A 60 minute English reading test
  • A 30 minute Maths arithmetic paper
  • Two 40 minute Maths reasoning papers

There may also be teacher assessments to assess your child in writing and science based on their classwork. For more information about this, check out this article from Third Space Learning.

What age do children take SATs?

For children sitting the Key Stage 1 SATs, they will usually be 7 years old, though some may be 6.

From the 2022/23 school year, KS1 SATs are to be replaced with a reception baseline assessment (RBA). If you want to learn more about the new assessments, have a look at this government website.

Those sitting the Key Stage 2 SATs, will generally be 11 years old, but it is possible that some will only be 10. For more information about how old you are when taking SATs, look at this guide by The School Run.

When are SATs exams?

For both age groups, the SATs will be sat across a week in May.

According to this government website, the KS2 2023 SATs will take place from Monday 8th May to Thursday 11th May. As of July 2022, the KS1 2023 SATs are only stated as taking place in May. The website has dates up to 2023/2024 but should be updated for following years.

What happens if your child has special arrangements for SATs?

If your child normally has specific arrangements, such as extra time, a reader, or a scribe so that they can take part in the test, then the teachers can make similar arrangements for the tests. Email your child’s teacher to ask for more information so that you can ensure they have the help that they need. To learn more about special arrangements for KS1 and KS2 SATs look here and here respectively for advice from the government.

Where do children take SATs?

The SATs will be sat by your child in their school. As SATs are informal exams, they will be sat in their usual classroom. This may help your child to feel more confident as large halls set up more exams are a terrifying thought for anyone. For more information about this, check out this article by Good Schools Guide.

There is also evidence to support the idea that sitting a test in the same environment that you learnt the information in can help you to remember more than you would otherwise. You can learn more about context dependent memory here at Simply Psychology.

Are SATs compulsory in the UK?

On the 14th of September 2017, the Department for Education  announced that from 2023, schools will be able to decide whether or not they ask their KS1 pupils to sit SATs exams.

SATs are compulsory for all Key Stage 2 pupils, and all Key Stage 1 pupils who were born before August 31st, 2015. If your child’s school has chosen for its pupils to sit the Key Stage 1 exams, then your child must sit the exams. For more information, check out this article by Third Space Learning.

Unless your child does not have the skills to take the test or are working well below the average level due to having Special Educational Needs or Disabilities (SEND), they cannot be excused. A lack of skills could be due to a language barrier if you have recently moved to the UK. For more information on SEND, click here to be taken to a government website. You can find more exceptions here on the government website if they are in KS1, or click on this governmental guide if they are in KS2.

How are SATs marked?

The Key Stage 1 SATs are marked internally by your child’s class teacher. Key Stage 2 exams are sent by the school to be marked externally. Scores are given on a scale of 80 to 120 points. The teacher will use the marks to decide on their teacher assessment judgments which you will receive by the end of the summer term. For more information about how they are marked, check out this guide by Good Schools Guide.

What are SATs used for?

Key Stage 1 SATs results will help your child’s school to identify if your child needs any additional support when they make the move from Year 2 to Year 3. The results will also be used to measure the school’s progress by looking at your child’s Key Stage 2 SATs.

SATs are used to monitor the attainment of pupils and to compare their progress on a local and national level. This in turn allows them to assess how well schools are doing at teaching their students. Your child’s individual results will not be published by either their school or the Department for Education. For more information about how SATs are used, look at this article by Third Space Learning

Do private schools do SATs?

SATs are a legal requirement for all state schools to have their pupils sit. As private schools are different from state schools, some of the government’s requirements do not apply to them. SATs are one of such examples. As a result, it is not an obligation for pupils at private schools to sit these exams. However, some private schools do choose for their students to sit the SATs.

Most of those which do not opt to do SATs will run their own set of tests to assess their pupils. If your child attends a private school, then you may find that this Think Student article will help you to learn more about the difference with private school ‘SATs’.

How do you prepare your child for SATs?

Your child’s school will most likely have the classes do some practise papers so they can understand the types of questions they will need to answer in a test environment. This should help your child to feel more comfortable with the idea of sitting exams.

To prevent your child from stressing themselves out too much, is to stay calm yourself and to not make such a big deal about the SATs at home. If they see that you are relaxed, they will realise that they also do not need to be stressed so they can stop worrying. You can also remind them that there is no way to fail a SATs exam as they only reflect how well they have been learning at school. For more ways to prepare for SATs, look at this guide by Exam Papers Plus.

Revising for SATs at home

With your child, create a small revision plan so they can prepare outside of class in addition to whatever they might be doing in class. Just remember that you must ensure they have enough breaks when you revise together so that they do not become restless and lose their concentration. This is especially important if you are trying to revise with younger children.

The Pomodoro method recommends that there should be a five-minute break after every twenty-five minutes of work. To learn more about the Pomodoro method and for other revision techniques, have a look at this website from Birmingham City University.

If your child is in Key Stage 1, then listening to them read is very important as it will allow you to correct any mistakes they might make. Reading is a very important skill when it comes to taking tests, so if your child can read confidently, then it is for the best!

If you want to do some extra exam practise with your child, you can find past papers for both KS1 and KS2 SATs exams on this government website.

Further advice to prepare for SATs

Ask and follow the advice of your child’s class teacher as it is their job to ensure that they are well prepared. They will also be able to point out any weaker areas that your child has so that you can improve them.

The NHS has a page dedicated to helping your child to beat exam stress, click here to be taken there. One of the things listed there which I must highlight is getting good sleep. I can tell you first hand that there is a huge difference in my performance when I am sleep deprived compared to when I have had enough sleep for several nights leading up to a test. This is exactly the same for everyone!

For more information, the Department for Education has created a SATs playlist on YouTube, which you can find here.

Why are SATs important?

Some secondary schools may use your child’s SATs scores to give them an indication of who might need extra support so that this can be arranged early on in the year. This does not mean that if your child did not perform their best in the tests that they will be put in a low set as soon as they start year 7. After all, some secondary schools will have their new students take their own tests to help them to understand what level your child is working on.

Your child’s class teacher will use both their SATs results and will also consider their classwork from across the year to make their own informed judgement about the standards at which your child is working at for each subject. For more information about the importance of SATs, look at this article by the BBC.

When will you find out the SATs results?

In July your child will receive a report which will contain their raw score and (as of 2016) their scaled score and whether or not they achieved the national standard. Your child’s class teacher will also form teacher assessment judgments for each of their subjects by also taking their class performance into account.

A raw score is the number of marks they attained in the tests. A scaled score is a conversion of your child’s results that has been edited to make a score that can be used to compare your child’s SATs results with results from across the years.

The average scaled scores for Key Stage 2 between 2016 and 2019 were as follows:

2016 2017 2018 2019
Reading 103 104 105 104
Maths 103 104 104 105
Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar 104 106 106 106

Your child is expected to reach the national standard in both sets of their SATs. This is the score which the Department for Education believes all children should be at by those stages in their education. To meet this expectation, your child must achieve at least 100 marks in reading and maths tests. To learn more about when the SATs results come out and these average scores, check out this article by Third Space Learning.

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