How to Prepare Your Year 6 Pupils for SATs

How to Prepare Your Year 6 Pupils for SATs

SATs blog image

As we head into Spring term, we know Year 6 teachers across the nation will be 100% focussed on the upcoming SATs, wanting their pupils to be as prepared as possible for the tests. Many of you will be seasoned at guiding your pupils through and have well-oiled processes in place, that you’ve tweaked and honed over the years.

Seasoned or not, there is one indisputable truth about SATs and that’s that this will be the first time around for your pupils. As such, it’s vital that pupil wellbeing is considered every step along the way. SATs aren’t the be-all and end-all and in the bigger scheme of events, your pupils’ mental health is much more important than a set of results.

That said, there is a lot you can do to prepare the children for their SATs, that will help them perform to their best and feel more confident about them. This blog uncovers some of the key aspects any SATs-readiness plan should encompass.

  1. Preparation is key
  2. Mix it up
  3. Manage exam stress
  4. SATs Week itself
  5. Summary

Let’s go!

1. Preparation is key

As with all things, forward planning is vital, and understanding how you performed last year is central to the plan you need to put in place. The first things you really need to ask therefore are:

  • How did we do last year?
  • Where did we perform well/less well?
  • How did we compare to the national average?

From the answers you gain, you’ll see your strengths but more importantly your weaknesses, which will tell you whether you need to completely overhaul last year’s plan or just tweak it.

So, how did SATs go last year?

Last year, the SATs results showed similar attainment in all areas compared to 2022, despite a reading paper that many thought was very challenging.

  • 59% of pupils reached the expected standard in all of reading, writing and maths, unchanged from 2022 
  • 73% of pupils met the expected standard in reading, down from 75% in 2022 
  • 73% of pupils met the expected standard in maths, up from 71% in 2022 
  • 71% of pupils met the expected standard in writing, up from 69% in 2022 
  • 72% of pupils met the expected standard in English grammar, punctuation and spelling, unchanged from 2022 

On the positive side:

The percentage of pupils achieving the expected standard in both maths and writing has increased by 2%.

On the negative side:

There was a 2% fall in the percentage of pupils achieving the expected standard in reading.

2. Mix it up

A sensible approach to SATs preparation could involve any or all of the following:

• Whole-class teaching and revision
• Targeted interventions
• Homework clubs, where attendance is initiated by the children
• Formative assessment
• Revision advice
• Individualised recommendations for support
• Exam practice, including the completion of mock exams

Past SATs papers

Past papers offer great material for SATs practice. From a pupil’s perspective, they help the children understand the language used, the general structure of the exam and the marking schemes employed. For teachers, they give a guide as to whether the children will meet the expected standard. Was the pupil’s raw score sufficient for them to pass in the year of that test? (See table above.)

Whilst offering great insight when they’re completed independently, they are equally useful when tackled by a group of pupils.

Find a question that you know your pupils will find tricky – this could be because of the content or because you think it will be misread or misinterpreted – and ask them to work on it in class.
You’ll see the obstacles the children face in working out the answer, and where they fall down, but also see the thought processes taking place as they seek out the solution. This will reinforce previous learnings, allow you to see where misconceptions are occurring, and help the group as a whole identify strategies to adopt next time.

Targeted interventions

Once you’ve identified key areas of weakness and pupils that need help, you can feed the necessary interventions into your plan so that the areas can be addressed in turn.

Busy Things have a whole host of activities that may be instrumental for this, so it’s well worth looking through the Curriculum browser at all the Key Stage 2 activities and games.

Sample book extract for grammar

In English, for instance, you may want to practise identifying the different types of clauses within a sentence, which our book extracts can help with.

The extract to the right is from Michael Morpurgo’s ‘The Dancing Bear’ and here we are highlighting the relative clauses in the text.

Sample maths activity, that's great for SATs preparation

In Maths, calculations is a very important area of study. We have lots of activities, which focus on adding, subtracting, multiplication and division, including this ordering interactive worksheet.

In addition to this, you can create your own worksheets (with answers), tailored to your pupils’ precise needs, with our Printable resource maker.

Maths printables for SATs preparation

3. Manage exam stress

Preparing children for their SATs needn’t be stressful but can result in ‘strung out’ children if handled badly. In order to minimise this, make sure you have time in your plans to cover exam technique and relaxation. Tips to share could include the following:

Exam technique for SATs

  • Read the question, then re-read it. It’s good practice for pupils to underline or circle important words within the question, so that they really focus on what they’re being asked.
  • Show your workings. Evidence is key when answering a question, so pupils should show their workings out even if they just ‘know’ what the answer is. For reading questions, pupils need to refer to the text to support their responses.
  • Don’t waste time on questions you just don’t get. Pupils can spend so much time on questions that they find difficult, that they don’t get time to answer the simpler questions. Remind pupils that they don’t have to complete the answers in any particular order, so if they feel stuck, it’s best to move on and come back to the trickier ones later. This will not only stop them wasting time, but also keep their spirits high.
  • Double-check your answers. If your pupils have got time at the end, instil in them the importance of checking their answers. They’ve nothing to lose as they need to be sat there anyway, but they could pick up a few extra marks by rectifying silly mistakes. It’s also worth getting them to check they’ve completed every question and every page. There is nothing worse than finding you’ve missed a whole section the minute before the test ends!
  • Encourage slow workers to tackle the higher-value questions first. If pupils are unlikely to finish, this may be the best course of action to maximise their scores. Ensure they can do this quickly, however, otherwise the strategy could just add to their stress.

Relaxation techniques

In terms of relaxation, children should be made aware that nerves can help their performance. The surge in adrenalin can focus the mind and so help them achieve their best results. If it’s all getting too much though, and they’re starting to feel overwhelmed, taking a few minutes away from the test paper in front of them to focus on themselves is absolutely fine.

Encourage them to take deep breaths should this happen, and to close their eyes, until they feel calmer.

4. SATs Week itself

So, preparations are complete, King Charles III is crowned. SATs Week is here!

It’s time to focus and ensure everyone’s able to give of their best. With all the planning, teaching and individualised coaching involved, it would be a huge shame to fall at the last hurdle.

For SATs Week, we think the key is to keep the mornings calm and the afternoons fun. Here are our recommendations:

  • Encourage the pupils to come in early so they have time to let off steam and calm down.
  • Provide a filling but not sugar-fuelled breakfast to sustain the children’s energy throughout the test, whilst not giving them a sugar rush. Breakfast bars are good, as are pastries.
  • Keep afternoons light to save your pupils’ brainpower for the next day. Don’t cram for the next test but let the children have fun outdoors and get some fresh air and exercise.
  • On Friday afternoon, reward the children’s hard work and dedication with a real treat. What this could entail really depends on the group of children you have, their passions and the budget available. If they’re an active bunch, perhaps hiring a bouncy castle would be an option. If they’re animal lovers, maybe invite a touring zoo into the school.

So there you have it, the key elements of a successful SATs preparation plan from analysing last year’s results, to skills practice and intervention, to actually preparing the pupils on the day and getting through the tests themselves.

5. Summary

We hope this blog has highlighted something that you’ve not thought of before so that you can tweak the plan you have and be even more successful as a school.

Activities and more activities

As you know as part of the blog, we’ve mentioned a couple of sample activities you could try. If you’d like to see these or some of our other activities, we’d love you to take out a free 28-day trial with us! Simply click here for this. You’re more than welcome to have a virtual tour via Zoom too. If you’d like one, contact us here and we’ll get in touch!Feel we’ve missed something out, then let us know and we share your insights with other schools for the greater good.

This blog was revised and updated in February 2024.

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