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SATS Preparation: A School’s Guide for Supporting Pupils and Teachers

sats preperation

Toilet rolls, hand sanitizer and impeccable levels of hygiene. Just a few of the things currently on the minds of headteachers across the UK. You add SATS preparation into the mix and you’d be forgiven for rocking gently in your chair.

Sitting in your office, you wonder if children have sung ‘happy birthday’ enough times while washing their hands, sneezed effectively into the crooks of their elbows and managed to give each other foot pumps in greeting. Amongst the chaos, SATS preparation becomes doubly hard.

Listen, we know you’ve got the academic preparation nailed, you’re the pros after all. But we’re here for that all-important emotional stuff, ready to swoop in with our Corona-fighting, SATS awareness capes on and give you the top tips for supporting your pupils and staff in the build-up to the tests.

SATS Preparation for the Whole School Community

1. Model Positivity

It is all too easy, as headteachers, to let negative thinking escape from your lips and into the words you say to your staff. Keep the language you use about the upcoming SATS as positive as possible. Encourage teachers to do the same, reminding children that it’s an opportunity to show off what they’ve learned during KS2. Yes, it’s only a snapshot of what they’re capable of, but it’s important for the experience to be as positive as possible for all involved.

Children express their limiting beliefs more readily than adults do. If you hear negative chatter from pupils, challenge them in a supportive way. Remind them that our brains believe what we tell them. Instead of thinking of everything they can’t do, introduce them to the magic word, ‘yet.’

Eliminate ‘can’t’ from their vocabulary and change it to, “I’m not able to do it…yet’ or ‘I’m still learning to do this.’ The more you respectfully challenge negativity, the less you’ll hear it.

2. Continue to Develop Growth Mindset

Good old growth mindset, it’s certainly been doing the rounds in schools over the past few years, hasn’t it? A good thing really, as it’s particularly handy for SATS preparation too.

A growth mindset helps children understand that knowledge and personal growth isn’t fixed and that learning from our mistakes is imperative to success. It’s just as important as learning the 7x table or understanding the present perfect tense.

Unlike throwing in examples of the passive voice to meet the expected standard in writing, growth mindset is a life skill. Not only will it help children to manage their SATS, but also any challenges that come their way as they move through secondary education. Not sure if you know the best ways to approach it? Luckily for you, we have a fantastic, ‘Growth Mindset for an Amazing Brain’ workshop for pupils, so why not have the experts in?

Encouraging a growth mindset in children is a winning strategy, but what about developing the same skills in your staff? It’s often easier with pupils; age is on their side. Fixed mindsets in adults can take a long time to change, but it’s worth a try. Leading by example is important here, as is celebrating different approaches to success. Get rid of an attachment to the ‘right way’ and embrace all the other possible ways, including any mistakes, along the way.

3. Practise Mindfulness

Mindfulness is growing in popularity in schools and for good reason. For staff dealing with SATS preparation, it can help them to avoid the feelings of overwhelm that can rear their ugly heads. A great technique is to bring your attention to your toes; it helps to ground you, causing your thoughts to come down from your head and into your feet.

When children are in stressful situations, they can also rely on mindfulness techniques to help them feel calm again. One of these techniques is focused breathing. Encourage your teachers to use this at various times of the day with the children – how about during that wonderful transition between lunch and afternoon lessons?

Support the children to close their eyes and count each breath in and out until they reach ten, focusing on their chests rising and falling. Ask them to notice how they feel at the end of it. Encourage them to use this technique before opening a SATS paper or when they feel overwhelmed learning a new concept.

4. Encourage Visualisation

Visualising achievement is what the most successful people do. Those high jumpers on the TV that you see closing their eyes, mimicking the movements their body will perform? They’re using visualisation to help them leap higher and better than they ever have before.

Encourage the children to visualise their success as part of their SATS preparation. Ask them to picture finishing the test and closing the booklet with a big smile on their face. Can they imagine tackling that long division question with ease? How will they feel when they’ve completed it?

For teachers, encourage them to visualize a successful SATS week. What will they do when it’s over? How will their class be feeling? Little and often works well, particularly at the start of each day.

Our brains can’t tell the difference between an imagined image and a real one, so why not take advantage of that, helping children and staff visualise the success they deserve?

5. Use the FLIP Approach

Flipping and re-framing negative emotions to positive ones can have a profound effect on how children feel as they prepare for SATS. Our bodies and minds do funny things when we’re nervous, scared or under pressure. It goes into ‘protection mode’ to stop us getting hurt.

Sometimes, however, it mistakenly stops us doing things we would really like to try and are capable of. Flipping our thoughts helps our brains and bodies to be calm and to cope when things seem tough.

One of our most popular workshops is FLIP It! Keep Calm and Carry On, so why not book one in for your Year 5 or Year 6 children? Encourage teachers to stay in the classroom during the workshop too, so they embed the strategies that they’ve learned and use them to reframe their own thinking when needed.

A Positive Approach to SATS Preparation

Research by Dr.Dave Putwain, from Edge Hill University, found that, ‘pupils who worry about their exam performance are more likely to do badly than those who are less anxious.’ SATS pressure can be colossal for teachers and children.

Developing a positive culture across the school can, therefore, do wonders for everyone’s SATS preparation, as well as their overall self-confidence. Viewing it as an experience to tackle, rather than one to be fearful of, will change everyone’s approach to the situation.

And sooner or later, we’ll have stopped singing happy birthday in the bathroom and be able to hug each other again. Even more marvellous for everyone’s wellbeing, wouldn’t you agree?




Steph Caswell, sats, growth mindset

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