By now, as a Year 6 teacher, you're probably fairly fed up of Sats-related advice, but bear with me. You see, there's always the chance that some minor detail has been missed. Sure, your scripts are all locked away in the safe, you know which test is happening on which day and you can bet that the children are as ready as they can be, but is there anything else you need to sort out in these last few days before the Key Stage 2 Sats tests kick off?
Here's my personal last-minute checklist, which I will be running through in the next few days.
- Address common errors in test technique
It's too late to teach any new content, but reminding children of simple test techniques that will help them avoid mistakes is worthwhile. Common errors – such as not ticking the correct number of boxes, copying numbers incorrectly and being a bit slap-dash when reading the instructions to questions – may be avoided if you spend a little time before each test explaining to the children how they can avoid these pitfalls. (I have prepared some lighthearted and humorous PowerPoints to cover all of these common mistakes, available on the TES resources site.)
- Stock up on stationery
Check your stationery stock to ensure you have enough of the required items to hand. You'll need pencils (sharpened each day) or pens that are dark enough to make it through the online marking scanners. It's also a good idea to have a good stock of rubbers available alongside the usual rulers, protractors (make sure they're not so scratched that children can't use them) and mirrors. Don't forget that tracing paper is no longer a part of the official equipment list, nor is squared paper. Calculators went out years ago.
- Plan the downtime
In the flurry of activity to ensure the tests run smoothly, it's easy to overlook the rest of the time during the week. It's a fine line to walk between keeping kids "in the zone" and not piling on more pressure. Whatever it is you've decided to do, be it a little more gentle revision or otherwise, make sure you've got non-test time well planned and prepared.
- Factor in staff training
A bit of last-minute training before each test with all staff involved won't go amiss – even the most experienced administrators, invigilators, prompters and readers might struggle to remember what they can and can't read to the children in a maths test. It's worth giving everyone a copy of the relevant information from the latter pages of the Test Administration Guidance (TAG) and keeping a record of training, too.
- Sort the snacks
Many schools like to provide children with a bit of a sugar boost. If you're planning to do this don't forget things like jugs, cups and the odd plate or two as well as the packets of bourbons and bottles of blackcurrant and apple. If you can allocate juice-making and digestive-distribution to someone else, then that's one thing off your mind.
- Plan for wellbeing
While student wellbeing is always on our radars, Sats week may throw up the occasional curveball. You can't really pre-empt the who or when, but it's worth thinking now about how you might tackle a few different scenarios: for example, tears before, during or after a test, unexplained absence or admissions of under-confidence. Have a read of the TAG (section 12 particularly) and allow that to influence your approach to anything that occurs during test time.
- Prepare the test rooms
Prepare your test rooms to make sure they provide a calm and comfortable environment for the children to work in. You will need to remove or cover anything that could help pupils. Consider the arrangement of furniture so that children can't cheat, but also so that they have enough space to work. Section 6.3 of the TAG gives more information about how to set up rooms for the test.
- Be ready to celebrate
I don't know a single school that doesn't do something by way of celebration once the tests finish. Most would agree that after the four mornings of testing the children (and staff) can be allowed some light relief. Just make sure, as with the rest of the week, that it is well planned. Consider children whose behaviour may be a little more challenging than usual; think about how you will support them in their celebrations.
While this is by no means an exhaustive list, it will hopefully have got you thinking about the week ahead. Spend a little longer playing through each day in your head – or, even better, talk it out with a colleague to ensure that all the fine details of the Sats week have been thought of. Ironing out all these creases before the week kicks off will give you much more peace of mind, leaving you more able to support the children emotionally through the week.