School Guide's top 5 tips for stress-free Year 2 SATs

I feel as though we are preparing for the 7+ exams #SATs #stressful #parenting

So read the tweet posted on @SchoolGuideUK's Twitter feed last week by a worried parent. For many, the start of Key Stage 1 SATs on Monday marks their child’s first encounter with proper performance testing. SATs are a milestone for a little person aged six or seven but adding pressure to an already new experience will probably end in tears.

Easier said than done when the playground may have been bristling with stifled murmurs about bulk-buying practice workbooks and revision rotas for weeks. Let’s face it; we all want our children to do well.

How can we help our children be well prepared for their first tests but at the same time reduce pressure?

Our tips aim to give all-important perspective and help maintain a sense of business as usual at home. Some can be applied to older siblings sitting Key Stage 2 SATs but our main focus is on children in Year 2 entering assessments for the first time. These practical low-level tips will help navigate unchartered test territory. 

Firstly, what are KS1 SATs?

SATs or Standardised Assessment Tests are national tests that children in England currently sit in Year 2, (end of Key Stage 1) and again in Year 6 (end of Key Stage 2). Testing reading, writing (including spelling and handwriting), maths and science,  they are designed to assess your child's learning abilities and ensure they receive the appropriate support to progress according to national standards.

The Key Stage 1 tests are not externally marked, and are designed to be just like any other end of term, small group assessment so are unlikely to wrong foot a child in any way. Teachers will take into account illness and use any assessments carried out across the year to provide a balanced and appropriate 'level' of ability. This level will appear in the end of school report and most seven-year-olds would be expected to achieve Level 2 in reading, writing, maths and science. If a child is assigned a level significantly below or above the national average, then the school is required to provide them with extra support to ensure progression.

School Guide's top 5 tips for stress-free KS1 SATs

1) SATs, what SATs?

In 2007 the Cambridge Primary Review Trust published an independent report stating that primary school children "suffer stress" as a result of needing to perform well in tests.

Okay, so it may seem obvious, but playing down an impending test of your child's learning abilities can lead to a greater degree of calm during the school run. Avoiding parental discussion in the playground can also help to minimise the pressure on little heads, who we know listen to every word, even if they're seemingly occupied by comparing book-bag keyrings.

Maintaining routine at bedtime, but also keeping up after-school clubs and play dates with friends will all help to keep your child relaxed.

2) Exercise the body, exercise the mind
Research shows that aerobic exercise in children has a proven positive effect on cognitive performance. Not only can it make a child more focused and less impulsive, but it also improves reaction skills.

So will enrolling your child into fitness boot camp make them boost their SATs level?  The research draws a careful line here and implies a degree of enjoyment is required; a play in the park or a spot of tree climbing should be enough to release the necessary endorphins and oxytocin.

3) Step away from the sugar
We're not suggesting that you begin the day with an argument about why your child's favourite breakfast cereal has mysteriously gone missing, but perhaps adding a sliced banana, strawberries or blueberries to the mix wouldn't go amiss.

Good breakfast combinations might be wholegrains, seeded breads with jam or eggs, porridge or low sugar cereals with low fat milk. Anything containing white flour or fats takes extra time and energy to digest and can lead to sugar highs and lows.

Good snack foods include walnuts, blueberries, sunflower seeds, dried fruits, figs, and prunes, oranges, strawberries, bananas and cantaloupe melons.

For more information on brain cell boosting superfoods check out the smart-sounding Institute for Food, Brain and Behaviour.

4) It's a partnership
Schedule a quick appointment to speak to your child's teacher if you feel you do want to use some extra support materials with your child. SATs week itself isn't the time to be taking on new challenges; small brains will be tired. But you can always ask for some example worksheets if you haven't been shown them already by the school. These may help put your mind at rest about what they will be facing during the SATs period. 

BBC Bitesize revison resources can offer fun and interactive ways of engaging your child to help with their learning, and can be helpful to consolidate knowledge in areas of concern after the SATs. 

There are also plenty of revision workbooks on the market but unless your child is engaged by their content, it can lead to more anxiety. Trust your instincts, you know what sparks their imagination better than any mass marketed study guide.

5) Make plans to celebrate hard work

It doesn't need to cost the earth, or be conditional on a level of achievement, but by simply asking your child what they would like to do to celebrate the end of a period of 'special' booklets and hard work, you are giving them ownership of their learning.

Plan a celebratory picnic, trip to their favourite park or a family outing that isn’t result dependent. It’s an important early life lesson for our children to understand that getting through a slightly more challenging or strange-feeling period is a success in itself.