Prepare for KS2 SATs like a pro: the 5 step holiday plan for Year 6 teachers
Here's how to make the KS2 SATs in 2017 a successful, stress-free time for Year 6 teachers, primary school SLT, and your Year 6 pupils. Take these 5 simple steps and get prepared early for the National Assessments.
If you're a Year 6 teacher this Easter, you definitely don't need me to wax lyrical about the pressure you're feeling right now. Teachers up and down the country are, in their own way, stepping up their preparations for that one week in May that so much of their year seems to have been geared towards. Instead, I’d like to offer some advice from my own practice.
With that in mind, as we draw nearer to the Easter holidays and ultimately to the KS2 SATs, what should you be doing to ready not only the pupils, but yourself as well?
1. Start preparing now for SATs week
Preparedness is the ultimate strategy when it comes to dealing successfully with a stressful period of time, such as the run up to SATs week and the National Assessments.
In many ways Year 6 teachers have been making preparations since September. Your carefully planned and delivered curriculum, the constant assessment and intervention, the practice tests, not to mention the the development of children's stamina and resilience - the impending arrival of SATs is not going to come as a surprise to you!
However, there are other things to be considered to keep you SATs ready without panic come May:
Making these kinds of preparations will put your mind at ease allowing you to stress less during the holidays and in the two weeks in the summer term before SATs hit.
2. Have confidence in yourself and your Year 6
Now may not be the time to rest on your laurels, but it is the time to admit to yourself that the next few weeks, although important, are nothing when compared to all the time you've spent preparing your pupils since September. And these coming weeks are a drop in the ocean when compared to all the time your Year 6 children have spent in school.
It is also hugely important to remember that these aren't Year 6 tests, they are Key Stage 2 tests. The success of your pupils does not rest entirely on your shoulders.
Teachers can run themselves into the group in the run-up to the SATs, but please don't take this approach. You will have worked diligently throughout the year and will have taught to the best of your ability. So, be pragmatic! You’re not superhuman and you can't change anything that's gone before: what's done is done. This is not defeatism but an acknowledgement born of experience that we need to accept the state we're at by now.
3. Don't neglect your pupils' mental wellbeing for their KS2 SATs
So you've taught your socks off all year, and every second of every day has been filled with learning opportunities for the children. Their brains are almost visibly overflowing with facts about relative clauses and multiplying fractions and you're probably thinking ‘enough is enough’.
While you will use these remaining weeks for revision and reminders of test skills, it's also hugely important that you consider the mental wellbeing of your pupils too. Third Space Learning's Year 6 SATs Wellbeing Resource includes excellent resources for teachers, children and parents packed full of great advice on how to do this, including what pupils should do to prepare during the holidays (clue: lots of fun and outdoor activities!). I won't reinvent the wheel here but recommend you download the guide and give it to your colleagues, children and their parents - even @TeacherToolkit considers it a ‘very valuable’ resource.
Children need to be confident and positive in the run-up to the test week, not to mention during it. If we can reassure them that they are well-prepared and that they do know all they need to know then they will feel ready to take the tests come May. This can be a huge weight off both your shoulders.
4. Seek support from SLT
None of the above should be left solely to class teachers, or even phase leaders. The Headteacher of your school is ultimately responsible for all of the preparation - so make sure they are involved. Hopefully, this support is already present in your school but if you feel like it isn’t enough, be proactive: call a meeting, prepare an agenda of what you feel needs discussing, and approach it in a positive manner.
For your own peace of mind, you should also check in with your school's leaders. Reassure yourself by checking that they think you have been doing a good job this year, or ask if they think anything needs to be done during the remaining weeks in the lead up to the tests.
Don't underestimate the power of community in schools, knowing you're not alone in the next few weeks before SATs and that you have the backing of your bosses will preserve your sanity no end!
5. Enjoy a relaxing and SATs-free Easter holiday
Easter has the potential to be the best of all the school holidays: not too long, not too short, no rushing around seeing family and a bit of weather good enough to enjoy. It’s a dream.
But worrying about SATs can put paid to all of that, so don’t let it.
Plan plenty of things that you enjoy to keep your mind off the impending test week. Spend time with people who won't let you dwell on what you could have done differently or on the thought of what might face the children on 8th May.
To help you do this it'll also be worth spending the last few days of this term before the Easter holidays getting all your planning and marking wrapped up so that you can totally take your mind off the job altogether.
Everyone has different ways of dealing with stress and, hopefully, you will know exactly how you can approach the National Assessment period with optimism and serenity. However, following the above steps will certainly help towards ensuring yours - and your pupils - better wellbeing over the SATs period.
Remember, SATs should be a time to show off the incredible teaching and learning that has been conducted in your classes throughout since September, so be prepared, be calm, but most of all - be proud!
Tweet us @thirdspacetweet and tell us what do you do to prepare for Easter SATs? Do you have any tips for other Year 6 teachers?