Major changes have been made to the 2013 SATs exams for Key Stage 2 pupils in the UK. This year is the first time that children will be doing the spelling, grammar and punctuation exam, and the first year in which there will be no writing paper. Here are some basic facts you need to know:
1. In all state primary schools in the UK, SATs exams are held in May.
2. Children in year 6, will be assessed in Maths and English (spelling, grammar, punctuation and reading) externally. Levels 3-5 of the national curriculum will be tested. There is an additional level 6 paper for children working above level 5.
3. English writing will be assessed by your child’s class teacher throughout year 6 based on the work your child completes in class.
4. English speaking and listening will be assessed by your child’s class teacher.
5. There are 3 Maths tests, mental maths, non-calculator paper A and calculator paper B.
The results are usually out in July and are often shared with parents in end of year reports. SATs exam results are used by schools to measure performance and the average year 6 child is expected to get a level 4b in Maths and English. The teacher assessments are passed onto high schools for them to put children into ability groups in year 7.
What are the implications of these changes when it comes to preparing your child for the exams?
How can you help your child to prepare for the exams?
Where do you start?
As a teacher and a parent, I would start by finding out what level my child is working at. You can speak to your child’s class teacher about this. I should warn you that some teachers may come up with comments like “your child is working at a level 4c”. Unless you are a teacher or are familiar with the grading system used in schools, this doesn’t really tell you much. Try to get more specific feedback which you can work on. For example, if you want to help your child with maths, then ask the teacher which topics you should be revising to improve the grade. If you can get the teacher to put this in an email to you or to just jot down a few bullet points, then it’s easier to refer back to it to see if you are covering the right topics. There’s no point in guessing what your child should be doing because if the works too easy then your child isn’t learning anything and if it’s too hard then you’ll end up getting frustrated and losing patience. The key is to cover topics at the right level for your child.
Once you have determined what level of work you should be doing, then it’s time to practise the skills needed to improve. Doing 20 minutes three times a week is better than doing an hour on one day. As with revision, repetition is important and you should go over the same topic many times. Sometimes your child will understand straight away, whereas at other times it may take weeks to conquer a subject. I remember teaching a child about equivalent fractions, and thinking that the child would never understand. He would turn up to lessons having forgotten what I had taught him the previous week. It was frustrating but we persevered, and eventually, it clicked!
English skills need drilling as well. What I mean by drilling is practising. With the introduction of the new spelling, punctuation and grammar exams, this is now even more essential. The skills needed to improve in these areas need to be registered in a child’s long-term memory. I’ve seen many children who get 10 out of 10 in their weekly spelling tests, but spell incorrectly when using those same words in a sentence. One of the reasons is that the spellings have been crammed and learnt for the test, registered in the short-term memory and then forgotten. Long term memory can be improved by repeated exposure. So to help a child remember a spelling, I would get him/her to learn them, use the words in sentences, use the words in stories, put the words in alphabetical order, think of rhyming words, draw pictures to illustrate the words or write out the words in different colours.
Punctuation and grammar have to be learnt in such a way that they become a habit. It should be learnt so that the child doesn’t have to be reminded to use capital letters and full stops and if they do forget, then there’s a niggling thought in the back of their mind that something is missing from the sentence.
I’ll leave you with links to sample papers and mark schemes for the new style SATs tests introduced for 2013.
The exams are just 5 months away, is your child ready? Do you think you can help? If not, then we are just a phone call away.