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What are level 6 SATs?

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Highly able children could be entered for the Level 6 SATs papers at the end of Year 6 until 2015. But what did these tests involve?

As of 2016, Level 6 SATs – additional tests that were taken by highly able children – were discontinued as a result of the overhaul of the National Curriculum and the SATs system.

From May 2016, all Year 6 children will take the same SATs papers, but they will include some questions of a higher difficulty level, designed to stretch the children who would previously have been entered for level 6 SATs.

This article explains what Level 6 SATs involved.

What were Level 6 SATs?

Level 6 SATs were additional tests intended to challenge Y6 children who were excelling in maths and/or English. Under the old SATs system, the standard SATs papers allowed a child to achieve National Curriculum Levels 3 to 5 (with 4B being the average mark); the additional papers allowed them to achieve a Level 6 – a standard that the average child doesn’t reach until Year 10. The tests were taken on the same day as the standard SATs paper in that subject.

When were Level 6 SATs introduced?

Level 6 SATs were reintroduced in 2012, after a 10-year absence. The Government’s intention was to stretch the most able pupils, but critics claimed that parents would use them to judge the merits of a primary school, and might dismiss a school as substandard if it didn’t offer Level 6 tests.

Who took Level 6 SATs?

Level 6 papers were only intended to be sat by pupils who were exceptionally able in English and/or maths, and not all schools offered them. ‘At our school, only one child sat the Level 6 paper last year,’ says Y5 teacher Catherine. ‘It involved a lot of extra preparation and paperwork, so we had to be pretty confident that children were likely to achieve a Level 6 if we entered them.’

Bethan, who teaches Y6, found the system worked slightly differently in her school. ‘Usually, we’d put children in for the Level 6 SATs if they were on the Gifted and Talented register for maths or English,’ she explains. ‘However, because Level 6s reflected well on the school, our head strongly encouraged us to enter as many children as possible, which was a bit of a gamble.’

Pupils could be entered for the paper in either maths or English, or in both; around one child in nine took the maths test, and one in 11 took the English test. If, when the papers were marked, a child hadn’t achieved a Level 5 on the standard paper, their Level 6 paper was not counted.

What sort of skills and questions were involved in Level 6 SATs?

The Level 6 SATs maths test required children to have mastered complex skills such as algebra, geometry, data handling, and number concepts like percentages, sequences and ratio. For example:

Two numbers are in the ratio 3 : 2
One of the numbers is 0.6
There are two possible answers for the other number
What are the two other possible answers?

For the English test, children needed to use varied sentence structure, past, present and future tenses, an extended range of connectives (such as ‘similarly’ and ‘for instance’), a full range of punctuation (including colons and semi-colons), spell harder words accurately, and develop their ideas throughout a piece of writing. For example:

The teacher dictates: ‘He gave a subtle hint about the surprise.’
Spell the word subtle.
Insert a colon in the appropriate place in the sentence below.
I  have  three  pets  a  hamster  (called Frankie),  a  goldfish  and  a  cat.

How were the results used?

Your child’s SATs results are mainly used for the school’s benefit. ‘It reflected well on the school if they achieved a number of Level 6s, and they got “bonus points” when it comes to assessing performance and achievement,’ explains Bethan. ‘Ultimately, the schools with the best results are placed higher up the league tables, so Level 6 passes were highly meaningful.’

For pupils, however, there was no concrete benefit in sitting the Level 6 paper. ‘It’s good for able children to be extended, and it can also be helpful when they start secondary school as they’re likely to be streamed with equally able children,’ Bethan says. ‘But while it was nice for pupils to achieve a Level 6, remember that, really, it’s just bragging rights, and not something to get stressed about.’

What about standard KS2 SATs?

For more advice about standard (Level 3-5) KS2 SATs look through our advice about the Y6 tests, find out about the new Spelling Grammar and Punctuation Test and review this year's SATs schedule

To download free KS2 SATs past papers for maths and English browse through our extensive selection.

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