I don’t imagine there is a school in the country that doesn’t talk to their Year 6 children at some point in the year about the upcoming Sats: I think we would all accept how important it is that the children know what is on the horizon, what’s expected of them and how to approach Sats week. We want them to be prepared, without feeling scared.
But how often do we take a similar approach with parents?
When we are in a school and working with the children, it can sometimes become easy to presume that parents should or will know things that they don’t. Communication with parents about your school’s approach to Sats and what the tests involve is vital to getting the support from home that the children need and deserve.
Here are four tips for doing just that.
1. Start early
Some schools barely mention Sats until May, while some start in September by having extra classes instead of PE or after school for those that need ‘boosting’. I would not advocate either approach, but an early start in talking to parents is really useful. The more information you share with parents and the more open you are about how you will be approaching the preparation for Sats, the more informed they are to support you and their child. Make it a priority in September to detail in a newsletter to them what the school’s approach to Sats will be and what their role can be in supporting their child.
2. Suggest resources or websites
There is a huge array of websites, study books and other resources available to parents. Some parents (you know the ones) will invest in anything and everything available in the belief that it will help their child if they sit them down for two hours before school every morning. Other parents might not have the time or money, or know where to start with helping their child. Both approaches, however well-intentioned, can be equally damaging to a child’s motivation, understanding and self-esteem. Sending out a list of handpicked websites or suggested books they might use – ones you know are most effective for what you are trying to achieve with your class – can help parents to focus on the best ways to assist their child without panicking them. But also stress that extra work is not required, and any additional help given should be kept to the minimum.
3. Hold a meeting
Once Sats preparation is in full swing and that week in May is looming, hold a meeting for parents to explain what Sats week entails. Be prepared for an avalanche of questions. It’s useful to have past papers available for the parents to look at (I have even worked in one school where the Year 6 teacher used to make the parents take part of the spelling and Maths test so they really knew what it was like!).
4. Share advice for the weekend before and week of Sats
It is important for parents to know that putting pressure on their children or promising rewards to them based on grades is often counterproductive. They need to know how to support their child and help them to prepare in the best way possible. Giving parents tips about helping their children to relax in the run-up to and during Sats week can be helpful, such as spending a family day at the park or beach (weather permitting) or indulging in a family meal at their favourite restaurant.
Rachel Lopiccolo is Year 5 teacher and English and history subject leader at Waddington and West Bradford CE Primary School, Lancashire