SATs are Cancelled, but Children Should Still Study for Them
May 19, 2021
Parent and toddler having a discussion about dinner

SATs stand for ‘Statutory Assessment Tests’.

If you have a child at primary school in Britain, or you are the child at primary school reading this then hopefully you are aware of SATs. This year the tests will not take place due to the coronavirus pandemic, however, children should still be encouraged to prepare for them as if they were happening. Whether you are already clued up on the matter or need to know a bit more about them then this blog is here to take you through step-by-step and give you the inside information about these types of exams. In this post, we provide tips and advice on preparation, break down what you can expect from each level, and look at how both parents and children can work in tandem for a positive outcome.

What exactly are SATs?

As eluded to above, the letters themselves actually stand for Statutory Assessment Tests.

However, they are known as National Curriculum Tests to the education authority. They are carried out in UK schools by the Standards & Testing Agency and both descriptions are commonly used terms and each accurate in their own right.

SATs provide education regulators evidence that each school is teaching correctly and the teachers themselves along with parents can track, monitor, and measure the children’s progress. These standardised tests are actually known as End of Key Stage Tests and Assessments but typically referred to as SATs for general purpose.


When do you take them?

SATs are national tests that children take twice during their primary school journey on separate occasions spaced out at different ages. Firstly, at the end of Key Stage 1 (KS1) in Year 2, and then further down the development and learning road, at the end of Key Stage 2 (KS2) in Year 6.

What is the main objective of SATs?

SATs are predominantly an indicator of the progress your child has made at school so far. They are also a measurement of teaching standards in that particular school but this is a secondary aim. The primary focus is the progression and developmental monitoring of the child. SATs basically show what level your child is currently working to and are not intended as a measure of whether your child is passing or failing.


Are SATs suitable or controversial?

The answer is they can be both, depending on which perspective you come from. Every year, there is a debate about the effectiveness of SATs, whether this is warranted is up to you to decide. The best advice is to find out your child’s preferred learning methods and support them during the build-up to the exams as it can be a lot of pressure for young pupils. Is it best practice to give such young students tests where they are assessed against the national expectancies? Here are some examples of why they are scrutinized intensely each year by some:

  • Increase in anxiety and depression in students recently (even panic attacks)
  • SATS offers a very limited way of assessing the right school for your child – they don’t take into consideration sport, arts, attitude towards kindness, pastoral care, and extracurricular activity.
  • May cause an over-focus on English and math while ignoring science
  • Can encourage schools to work against each other rather than working together
  • High stakes limit the chances of exploration in the classroom, pressure of having to perform

SATs have undergone structural changes in recent years, maybe due to increased criticism from parents and known organisations. In light of this, having previously been marked using ‘levels’, national SATs results are to be reported only in the form of scaled scores and have been this way since 2016.

The practice in exam technique and doing tests is a useful skill to develop. It is worth bearing this in mind if you find yourself against the SATs because if nothing else they do represent an opportunity to gain valuable experience for what is to come further down the road in terms of GCSE’s and A-levels.


What to expect from SATs at KS1

KS1 tests are assessed by teachers therefore there is no external marking. The only exceptions are the occasional random ones for moderation purposes. The tests themselves are typically informal, in a bid to reduce unnecessary pressure on young pupils. In Years 3, 4, and 5, some schools choose to have children take optional SATs, which enable teachers to assess a child’s progress, however, the results from these tests are not recorded nationally. KS1 SATs are split into the following sections:

What to expect from SATs at KS2

Pupils sit their second set of SATs at KS2 level in Year 6. In contrast to the previous tests, these ones are more formal than those taken in KS1. For example, they will have set exam days as well as external marking in the majority of schools around the country. KS2 SATs are split into the following subjects:

At both KS1 and Ks2 levels, pupils are encouraged and taught towards reaching and achieving the national standard. The national standard score for both is currently set at 100.

When Do We Get SATs Results?

Once the KS1 and KS2 SATs are complete, the latter will be sent away for external marking and children should receive their results towards the end of the summer term in July of Years 2 and 6 respectively. You will receive a report stating your child’s scores in the following format:

  1. Raw score (Marks achieved in their SATs)
  2. Scaled score (A year-on-year comparison conversion score)
  3. Expected standard (National standard or below)
  4. Consequences of failure


There is no automatic, direct consequence for dropping below national standards and a (state, non-selective) secondary school most certainly cannot refuse to accept a pupil based on KS2 data. So it isn’t the scores that count, but what they represent. Poor literacy impacts across the curriculum at secondary so being able to say what you mean in written format is really helpful.

If you don’t ‘reach the expected standard’ then nothing terrible happens. Not achieving national standards doesn’t affect your school place. The only knock-on effect it may result in is which set you are initially placed in for some subjects at secondary school, but many schools use CATs or assessments in the first few weeks for this purpose. A decent well-governed school should adjust sets as and when needed in year 7.


For the school

The primary school is anxious because it is judged by its pupils’ SATs results. This is very much not your problem of course so do not allow yourself or your child to stress over it.

It will affect the base measure that a secondary school is measured on for progress made at GCSE. Underachieving against ability in SATs may mean that less is ‘expected’ at secondary and so interventions aren’t done. (Though similarly overachieving may mean the child is told they are under-performing throughout secondary).


The results will be given to the child’s secondary school – and how they are used will very much depend on the school. They could be used to set/stream the child; to set GCSE targets; even, if it’s a poor school, to limit GCSE options. A good school, however, will do its own assessments, and take the KS2 data with a pinch of salt.


How, as a parent, to support the preparation for SATs?

The good news is that a lot of this will be covered in class but you still have an important role to play. It is vital that you give your child the best opportunity to express their abilities by nurturing an environment where they can excel. Additional home learning and preparation will be key to the overall outcome, as will planning and revision structure assistance where and when required. Ultimately if you are a source of support, guidance and there to provide a boost to your child’s confidence and self-esteem you will have done your part. Why not try the following as a base;

  • Set up a revision timetable and ensure they stick to it
  • Keep a positive attitude. Yes, SATs are important but if you stress about your child’s upcoming tests, it might rub off on them.
  • Vary their learning with different methods and techniques
  • Allow them breaks
  • Revising little and often; asking children to concentrate for 45 minutes requires practice, so don’t overwhelm them.
  • Offer learning-based challenges and incentives
  • Take SATs practice papers. Practice papers will go a long way in helping to familiarise your child with the types of questions they might come across.
  • Maintain a normal routine and don’t build pressure


How crucial are the practice papers for revision and preparation?

SATs practice tests cover all the topics your child will need to know for the real exams. They are updated regularly to ensure that they are current and accurate. Detailed mark schemes are included. And are hugely beneficial. This also allows the opportunity to practice the most important aspect of all which is reading over your answers.

Double-checking what you have written down is imperative and needs to be drilled into your child’s mind by both the teacher and you as parents. Reading the question thoroughly at least twice before answering it and once again after drafting an answer for assurance is equally as important and scanning your overall submissions at the end of the test paper.

Below are just some of the of using practice papers as part of your child’s exam preparation:

  • Improve time management
  • Identify knowledge gaps
  • Track progress
  • Recognise question types


What SATs preparation materials can I get in advance?

Try not to bombard them or overwhelm them at what can be a difficult time. The usefulness of material items and indeed words of wisdom from the parent will come down to the individual style of learning and how the child prefers to revise and prepare. That being said, a general guide for prep materials for the SATs exam could include:

  • A study planner
  • A SATs reading list
  • Incentives
  • Practice SATs exam papers
  • A grammar checker
  • Research helpful websites and blogs to share
  • Flashcards


Encourage Variety

It is also important to encourage variety in the way in which students prepare for the SATs. Often when students are most excited about a topic, they produce their best work. If they come to loathe revision because it’s just the same thing day in, day out, it is likely that they could spend time studying without taking things in. Examples of adding variety to their preparation could be incorporating days out or fun activities into the students’ day – e.g. working out how much the total cost of what they have bought out is.

Don’t neglect the basics

Focus on the basics. There might be a lot to cover in SATs but it really is important that the student is familiar with the core concepts of their subjects. This is a little more tricky for science-based subjects – but it’s fair to say that measurements will be useful and a great tip is to centre learning around the human body (how do humans relate to food, plants, materials, circuits). In maths, this form of preparation would take the shape of familiarisation with the times tables – as multiplication is crucial to feeling confident in this subject. If the student understands multiplication fully, it is likely they will understand division, addition, and subtraction too. For English, this really comes down to the students’ ability to read and write. What is most important is that the student can adequately express themself. Second, to this is an understanding of how the English language works.

The value of reading

It may sound too simplistic, however, for English – the best preparation may in fact be reading. When a student comes across a text and reads it, they are building the foundation for understanding all the concepts that an English lesson will introduce to them. Whether they can spell words freely or not, they are getting a grasp of how these words can be used in a sentence and how people or the text responds to that. Further, they start to identify pronouns without knowing what a pronoun is, the same is in effect for all the technical language of English. This means, more often than not, that the more a student reads and is familiar with more complex texts, the quicker they will pick up new concepts within the subject of English. When a student opens the SATS paper, they want to be sure they understand every word exactly – then they can see what every question is asking them with accuracy.


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