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What are SATs?

Mum and daughter studying
No doubt you’ll have heard a lot of talk about SATs, but do you know what they involve or how you can help your child to prepare? Here’s the lowdown on everything you need to know.

Given that SATs occupy a huge amount of teachers’ and pupils’ time as they prepare for the tests each May, they can loom large enough to overshadow everything else at school. Read on to find out exactly what to expect from them, so you and your child can keep them in perspective. 

Who takes SATs?

Children in English schools take SATs twice during their school career.

The first time is in Key Stage 1, when they will have tests in Year 2, at the end of infants (aged 7). They are tested in maths and English (reading and spelling, punctuation and grammar). Teachers generally try to keep the testing procedure informal – the papers are not strictly timed, and are usually taken in a normal classroom situation to keep the pressure off children. 

On 14 September 2017 it was confirmed that the KS1 SATs will be made non-statutory (so schools will be able to choose whether to adminster them or not) from September 2023

In Years 3, 4 and 5 some schools test end-of-year progress by using tests known as optional SATs. The results won't be nationally recorded, but optional SATs help teachers assess children's progress and are used to help children get used to working in exam conditions. 

The next time your child will take SATs will be in Key Stage 2 in Year 6, aged 11. More formal than Key Stage 1, these written tests (in English, maths and sometimes science) are 45 minutes long and can be quite daunting for this age group. The papers are sent away for marking and the results are known before children leave primary school in July.

What are SATs for?

According to the experts, SATs aren’t about passing or failing, but are used to reflect the level your child is working to. So SATs should never be seen as a one-off period in the school calendar but as a part of the overall teaching your child receives.
Whether SATs are the best method for assessing learning and teaching has been in question for some time, but for the moment the tests remain. So it’s just a matter of supporting your child through what can be a stressful time.

For a parents' guide to how SATs results are used by secondary schools, Ofsted and the Department for Education, read our article What are SATs results used for?

How parents can help with KS1 SATs and KS2 SATs

The key to making SATs less stressful for your child is not to panic yourself, says deputy headteacher at Uphall Primary School, Redbridge, Sherlyn Ramsay. "This will put your child under enormous stress and this makes it very difficult for a child to learn."
"Children are well prepared for SATs throughout their school life, as teachers regularly carry out this type of assessment," says Sherlyn, "but you can support your child by regularly supporting them with their homework."
"There are also a lot of commercially published and very useful practice materials available and a number of very good websites to support learning in general – but remember to give them extra work to do in moderation."
Use our handy SATs action plan and revision guide for English SATs and revision guide for maths SATs to support your child through their preparation. 

The format of SATs and the mark scheme changed in 2016 but the new-style papers are available to download for free:

You can also download lots more free SATs past papers from TheSchoolRun; they can be helpful for familiarising your child with the sort of questions they might encounter.
Avoid putting pressure on your child, though, and offer plenty of rewards for all their hard work.
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