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This month:national test hints

* If you have two or more parallel classes doing the national tests, make sure they have the same experience - the same opportunities for extra playtime, same notes of encouragement and reassurance, same pep talks and so on. Teachers must work together on this. Differences in approach can show up in the test results.

* In the hall? Or in class? Whatever thedecision, the needs of the child take priority over the convenience of the school. Many schools find that junior children manage the school hall perfectly well. Don't forget, though, that there might be noise from the kitchen, and the acoustics might not be ideal for mental arithmetic tests. If the children are to take tests in another room, or in the hall, give yourself and them lots of experience of working there beforehand.

* The more adults you involve, the more you can make sensible groupings - all children likely to need help during the test can beseated near each other, for example. Have a careful briefing session for adults, expaining exactly, using the written guidance, what they can and cannot do. Remember there's a role change for classroom assistants, who are accustomed to explain and give help which they now cannot provide. In this briefing session, listen to experienced adults who will recall incidents and needs from last year.

* During test week, run a different timetable in non-test time. Don't try to do revision lessons. You'll transmit your anxiety.

* In a mixed-age class, it's not a good idea to run Year 5 and Year 6 tests simultaneously. The instructions are different, and one group will be trying to work while the other listens to instructions. Make sure all your adult helpers are on board. Use every available space - one school last year had a group in a governor's front room.

By Gerald Haigh, with teachers in the Midlands.

We will pay pound;30 for each tip that we publish. Send brief ideas for teaching, admin or how to cope in school to TES Primary, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX, or e-mail primary@tes.co.uk.

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