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As a parent, it can be with a sense of disbelief that you realise the time has come for supporting your child with SATS. After all, it seems like seconds ago that you walked them to school for the very first time, dropping them off with a sense of trepidation. Would they cope without you? Would they cry? Would they remember where they put their lunch box?
Now however, they are facing a different kind of challenge, the end of Year 6 and with it, the dreaded SATS tests. And, as many parents do, you’re wondering how on earth you can help them.
Endless revision, extra booster classes, maybe even Easter school, your child has probably faced some, if not all, of the SATS preparations that schools undertake. If, like me, your child is worried about the month ahead, it can make you wonder what you can possibly do to make their journey a little smoother. How you can support their emotional wellbeing as much as their educational prowess.
So in this blog post, we’ll explore what supporting your child with SATS might actually look like, giving you ideas and techniques to ensure your child feels ready to take on the tests with confidence.
In the weeks prior to SATS, your child will probably experience a range of emotions. From worry and anxiety to determination and, sometimes, even anger. Questions such as, ‘Why do we have to sit these tests anyway?’ and ‘What happens if I don’t do very well?’ are common. As parents, we need to be able to answer these questions and support these emotions in the best way we can.
So you know exactly what your child will be facing during test week, download some of the past papers that are available online. Sit with your child and let them talk you through it. Don’t ask them to complete it, just show an interest and develop an understanding of how the tests are put together. Ask your child if their teacher has suggested any good tips for test completion. If so, what are they? This will only reinforce their understanding of test technique.
The power of positive affirmations is rarely disputed. From the most successful athletes to business leaders around the world, the power of positivity can have a profound effect on the way we view a challenging situation. Replace negative self-talk with more positive phrases and over time, this will encourage your child to change their mindset.
Notice negative talk from either your child or, dare I say it, from you, about SATS and change it to something positive. This will go far in helping to take the fear out of the whole process. It all comes down to how we talk about it.
Going hand in hand with positive affirmations is visualisation. Creating an image in our brain of success can be a powerful way to spur us on to achieve that success in real life. If it can help athletes achieve Olympic glory, it can certainly help a child in their SATS test.
Encourage your child to picture sitting in a test and support them to:
It can be tempting to encourage your child to revise as often as possible, for as long as possible. In fact this can be counter intuitive. Little and often is far less stressful. Twenty minutes a day is sufficient. After all, they will be doing plenty of revision at school. Home should be about rest and relaxation, recharging those batteries ready for tackling the work the following day.
Instead of traditional revision techniques, why not try one or two of the following?
If your child is overly anxious or worried about the tests, it’s best to keep lines of communication open between home and school. Talk to the teacher so that they can work with you to develop strategies to help your child further. Teachers want to support the children in their class, so don’t be afraid to let them know.
SATS Week (13th – 16th May 2019)
During SATS week itself, your support is even more invaluable for your child. Even if they’ve been fairly laid back in the weeks preceding it, it’s likely that they will find test week quite stressful…and you need to be ready for that. With much of the academic work out of the way, this is the time to really focus on your child’s emotional wellbeing.
Put together all the work you’ve been doing with positive affirmations and visualization and use them during the week. Work with your child to become mindful about the way they are feeling and how they are going to respond. If they feel overwhelmed, use focused breathing to help them feel calm again. Picture success and speak as positively as you can – it can really help.
Praising the effort and not the outcome is key to helping your child’s emotional stability during SATS week and beyond. It can be hard to lose the fixed mindset approach of focusing on test scores, so work on acknowledging your child’s effort instead. Research shows that it’s more likely they’ll put that effort in (and more) the next time they face a test or a challenge.
No one in life succeeds without making mistakes. It’s how we learn from these mistakes that makes us who we are.
It can be all too tempting to ask your child, “So how did it go?” when they come out of school after a test day. It’s the obvious choice. But what if you could ask them a question that would increase their confidence at the same time?
Try asking them, “Tell me about a success you had in the test today…” Doing this forces them to focus on something positive, even if they felt as though they didn’t do as well as they’d hoped. It encourages them to realise that something went right, even if it was only small.
Asking this question often will encourage your child to look for the small successes in life in whatever they’re facing. It’s a great habit because it encourages you to do the same in your life too.
You’d be surprised at the number of children who turn up to school for their SATS tests without having had breakfast. It seems crazy to have to make a point of it, but it’s so important.
Research has shown that children who don’t consume breakfast are working with a brain capacity of an 80-year old by the time it’s 10.30am. Get breakfast down them, even if it’s only a piece of toast. Their brains will thank you for it.
SATS tests can do surprising things to children’s emotional states and you may see a side to your child that you’ve never seen before. It’s important to realise that this is when they need your love and support the most, particularly if they experience a new and unusual range of emotions.
Give them the space they need to truly unwind after their day. If they don’t want to talk about the test straight away, don’t push them for information; they’ll be unlikely to say very much. We’re entering the ‘tween’ years, people, we may as well get used to it…
At the end of SATS week, your child is likely to be emotionally and mentally drained. Performing under test conditions is more stressful for them than many of us realise. It’s important for us to acknowledge this and give them the opportunity to unwind.
This is a contentious topic as some parents promise the earth to their children in order to get them to do their best. How you reward your child for their hard work is, of course, entirely up to you. But I would make this one request. When rewarding your child, make sure they know it’s for the effort they’ve put in, for trying their hardest.
If you want to see a true change in your child’s approach to testing as they go through secondary school, praise the effort, not the outcome. It’s a game-changer.
In my humble opinion, it’s important for children to know that SATS are not the be all and end all of life in Year 6. Personally, I don’t think one day is going to give them the opportunity to show all the things they’ve learned throughout Key Stage Two and all the experiences they’ve had.
SATS are simply a way for schools to measure progress. When your child is your age, they’ll barely remember what they got in their SATS. They’ll remember the school trips, the fun topics and that time Jimmy farted during the science test.
Secondary schools will test your child in September anyway. Yes they look at SATS scores as a way to predict KS3 results/for progress indicators, but they don’t use them half as much as you might think they do.
SATS can be a stressful time of year for our children. The experience of structured testing is alien to them and it’s hard to predict how they are going to react and manage.
It is our job as parents to support them in the best way we can and give them the tools and techniques they can use now and, more importantly, as they embark on their next adventure at secondary school.