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Year 6 SATS – all they’re cracked up to be?

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What are Year 6 SATs?

Essentially they are tests in the core subjects which students take in the May of Year 6 to find out how they are progressing and whether they meet the expected level. They give an idea on how much each student has progressed from Reception (or in the past KS1) to Year 6, and whether they have reached the required level in each subject. They can be used to inform decisions on sets for secondary school, and contribute towards a student’s Progress 8 score. For more information see They also give an indication of how the school is doing for its students – what are the progress scores like, how many children are at the required levels in English and Maths etc. This can help parents make decisions about whether the school is right for them.

This all seems important but…

They are useful, and serve many good purposes as outlined above. Some schools have an excellent, balanced approach to them – Year 6 learning continues as per normal, and some practice papers are brought in a few weeks before the SATs to get the pupils used to the format and know what to expect. They don’t make a big deal out of them, and pupils feel relaxed (for the most part).

But sadly this is not the case in all schools. I have heard of instances where students have been asked not to come in on days when SATs exams are administered. This is purely because the school does not want the suspected negative results to impact their profile and standing in progress/levels league tables. In other cases, students have been doing practice SATs papers since the beginning of Year 6, and even stopped learning any new Maths in the Spring Term to focus on revising for SATs. I find this really sad. That is so much lost learning time, when kids are so young.They are going to be examined to the hilt in secondary school, and the needless stress that these exams can put on young children when they are given such prominence and importance makes me angry.

I am not against these exams taking place. Monitoring progress, and holding schools to account is important. But they are only truly a reflection on how a child is doing if they are a snapshot rather than the result of a year’s preparation purely for the exams. And it’s hard to get a good comparison given the vast difference in preparation styles of schools. In a non-selective state school, there will be a wide range of academic levels, and that’s to be expected. I’d prefer a school that taught my child in their teaching hours rather than prepped them to the hilt for exams that ultimately will have no real impact on their lives (and that most of their private counterparts don’t even do). Of course give them practice papers so they know what to expect. But don’t deny them so much learning at such a prime age – catch up those who are falling behind, and stretch those who are bored.

Just my two-pennies worth.

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