Review of Maths KS2 SATs 2017: the Good, the Bad and the Even Better If

So now the KS2 SATs 2017 are finally over, find out whether your reaction and that of your Year 6 pupils matches those of other primary schools across the UK.

With due deference to the DfE rules on discussing in detail the content of the Arithmetic or Reasoning SATs tests, this much we know from a survey sent to the 550 schools who we’ve helped revise for KS2 SATs 2017 on our 1-to-1 maths intervention programme.

We also asked our teacher networks on Twitter and Facebook, and receive input from our Maths and Wellbeing Year 6 Teacher consultant That Boy Can Teach. The review from teachers and pupils follows below.

Update – Now the DfE embargo has been lifted, take a look at our detailed analysis of the Maths SATs questions in the KS2 SATs papers 2017.

Update – Take a look at the 2018 SATs Question Breakdown and What The 2018 KS2 SATs Results Mean For Your School

Level of difficulty of the maths papers for the KS2 SATs 2017

Overall the complaints were not as vociferous as last year…

“From social media, the reaction seems to have been more positive with words like “fairer” and “kinder” being bandied around a lot. The decision from the STA announced in April to restructure the tests in order to make the earlier questions easier (so as to not demoralise children) certainly helped. Alongside any changes that have been made, and the normal variations in how easy the tests are (anyone familiar with past papers will know it has always fluctuated), I think we must remind ourselves that this year we were better prepared.”
Aidan Severs, That Boy Can Teach

KS2 SATs 2017 Arithmetic Paper looked similar to last year

Of the respondents to our poll of schools using Third Space Learning’s 1-to-1 tutors, 59% thought the level of difficulty of the KS2 SATs Arithmetic Paper was about the same with only 20% thinking it was more difficult than last year.

While the sequencing of the questions in this Arithmetic paper had changed from 2016’s SATs test and the sample materials, the style was still fairly similar.

It was still quite a feat of stamina and speed to get through it all in the time, especially as there were more questions, but provided you’d covered the topics and had good mental maths recall, the feedback generally was that it wasn’t too bad.

Did you download our 3 free maths SATs papers Key Stage 2 this year? Tweet us at @thirdspacetweet and tell us, do you feel they matched up to the actual papers?

What did Year 6 teachers have to say?

“There seemed to be a lot more crammed into the time given. The children had an awful lot of work to do in the time provided and many of ours struggled with the time limits.”
Y6 Teacher

“Couple of questions in the middle of the paper worth one mark to stall the pupils.”
Y6 Teacher, Magdalen Gates Primary

“Arithmetic seemed to have been harder much sooner in the test compared to last year.”
Y6 Teacher

“The arithmetic was mostly straightforward for children who have a firm grasp of the 4 rules.” 
Y6 Teacher

KS2 SATs 2017 Reasoning Papers were “OK”

70% of Third Space Learning’s school respondents thought the SATs Reasoning Paper 1 was about the same level of difficulty as last year, with the remainder fairly evenly split between those who thought them easier, and those who thought them more difficult.

Many of the reactions to Reasoning 1 it appears focused on chickens, cats and somersaults – a heady combination…

One has to take one’s hat off to the creativity of the test-writers: how do they come up with so many new ways of presenting the questions?
Aidan Severs, That Boy Can Teach

SATs Reasoning Paper 2 contained a very good run of fairly straightforward questions, although the latter third of the test seemed to ramp up in difficulty and children struggled to finish in time. There seems to be some agreement that this was the harder of the two reasoning papers. More aspects of the ‘new’ curriculum appeared to be present this year too, proving that an incremental change to what’s tested is taking place.

Don’t forget that your current Year 6 cohort have only been working under the new curriculum since they were in Year 4.

Feedback from Year 6 teachers:

“Despite the reasoning papers not being particularly more difficult overall than previous years’ tests some children will have struggled with them as they have not yet benefited enough from a whole-school curriculum which emphasises fluency, problem solving and reasoning.”
That Boy Can Teach

“There were definitely some red herrings in there that increased cognitive demand.”
Y6 Teacher

“Fair. Nothing out of the ordinary. Careful reading always required!”
Y6 Teacher

Download Free Resources

KS2 Maths SATs Set Of 3 Practice Papers (Pack 1)

3 free practice Reasoning and Arithmetic exemplar national curriculum assessment tests

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 How well prepared were our Year 6 pupils for the KS2 SATs 2017?

As you’d expect, a lot of our focus at Third Space Learning this year has been on the pupils who have been receiving specific SATs preparation with us, many from the beginning of the Autumn Term. After the first iteration of the new-style SATs tests last summer, we focused on providing much more practice SATs-style questions with their 1-to-1 tutors.

The reactions from the teachers we polled have born this out – 96% agreed that Third Space Learning’s weekly 1-to-1 Maths tuition had been an effective preparation for SATs. Even those schools who haven’t used our interventions, it seems felt more prepared than last Year.

“Last year’s tests were so difficult that we have all raised our game as teachers, teaching more and more difficult concepts and skills, even when we believe that children shouldn’t have to sit these test or know some of these things at their age. We’ve also had the benefit of more SATs-focused resources and KS2 SATs papers which we know to be fit for purpose and in line with the new style national tests in maths.”
That Boy Can Teach

What did pupils struggle with on the KS2 SATs 2017?

Drilling down into the detail of the survey results we received it’s clear that there are 4 things in particular that pupils struggled with:

1. Timing and Stamina

“There seemed to be a lot more crammed into the time given. The children had an awful lot of work to do in the time provided and many of ours struggled with the time limits.”
Y6 Teacher

Wednesday was a particular challenge for some with two papers in one morning.

2. Complex language in the questions

“Some questions have been fine whilst others seem to be worded in a complex way.”
Y6 Teacher

This was especially but not exclusively an issue for EAL pupils. “Many of the reasoning questions were set up so children had to read between the lines which many found difficult,” is a sentiment echoed by several. Also, we heard “trying to catch children out,” (Headteacher, MK) and questions worded “to trip pupils up,” (Blake Prince, Maths SL, Ingleton Primary School).

3. Reasoning and problem solving

Interestingly there seems to be much less of the ‘shock’ around the level of reasoning required compared to last year, but there is an acknowledgement that work still needs to be done in school to get up to the standard required and give pupils as much practice as possible.

“There were definitely some red herrings thrown in that increased the cognitive demand.”
Y6 Teacher

“The first reasoning paper began well but got quite hard very quickly – questions presented in a form not seen before.”
Y6 Teacher

4. Dominance of one curriculum topic

I think we all know what this is, but DfE rules withstanding, we’ll focus more on this when the embargo’s lifted on 22nd May and we follow up with more specific content detail (now available here in our analysis of the Maths SATs questions in the KS2 SATs papers 2017 ). Suffice to say, if your pupils weren’t as strong in this area, they would have found the Arithmetic paper in particular very tricky.

What would you do differently for next year to prepare your Year 6 for KS2 SATs 2018?

The responses from teachers to this question from our survey were remarkably similar, reflecting on their experience of the KS2 SATs 2017 maths papers.

1. Start interventions and SATs preparation in September

Here’s what teachers had to say:

“Administer sample tests to Year 5 during Summer 2 to give a starting point and baseline”. (Y6 teacher)

TRY THIS FREE RESOURCE: Set of Year 5 Diagnostic Quizzes on Number, Place Value, Fractions, decimals, Percentages, 4 Operations 

“Start preparing children earlier by helping them to see the different ways that questions can be worded. Work on speed from earlier in the academic year.” Y6 teacher

TRY THIS FREE RESOURCE: Set Of 3 maths SATs Papers KS2 including 2 reasoning papers

“I would begin interventions in the autumn term rather than waiting for January.” Y6 teacher

READ THIS BLOG POST: Why your Maths interventions should not start in Year 6

We encourage schools to start our 1-to-1 Maths tuition with pupils who are falling behind in Maths in Year 3 or Year 4 to really make a difference.

But, if you’re only looking at Year 6, Autumn’s the time to start according to teachers polled. We deliberately start our Intervention Programme (weekly 1-to-1 interventions) in September every year  in order to spend that first term plugging pupils’ gaps, developing their confidence and starting out their question practice.

2. Introduce SATs style questions and revision earlier eg to Year 5 and in Autumn

The need for intervention at an earlier age was clear:

“More SATs style problems from the start of the year to introduce many question styles.” Y6 Teacher

TRY THIS FREE RESOURCE: Set of 3 topic based Practice SATS tests on Number, Place Value, Fractions, decimals, Percentages, Addition and subtraction

“I will start with the arithmetic tests much earlier.”  (Y6 Teacher)

“Teach reasoning skills from the start of Year 6.” (Y6 Teacher)

“Start the Year 5s off earlier in revision in the summer term working alongside the Year 6.” (Marie Corbett, Teacher)

Our 1-to-1 interventions include over 900+ SATs style questions which pupils can work through with their tutor during each Year 6 lesson. The questions are differentiated as working towards, meeting or exceeding levels so that pupils of all ability levels get the practice they need without being disillusioned in attempting questions they’re not ready for.

Are you considering our 1-to-1 maths interventions for your school?

If you’re looking for a way to make a drastic improvement in maths attainment this year, particularly for SATs, you can take advantage of our KS2 SATs Intervention Programme now.

Book your no commitment 10 minute demo to discover the impact our 1-to-1 interventions can have for your pupils – it’s never been easier or more affordable. Call us on 0203 771 0095 or contact us here to learn more about how we can help turbocharge maths in your school, even for low prior attainers!

3. Continue to work on reasoning and mastery skills

Many people suggested driving improvement in reasoning and mastery skills:

“I would include further reasoning practice external to the normal Maths lessons – coverage of 3 or 4 step problems.” (Y6 Teacher & Maths Lead, Thornley Close Primary School)

“Still trying to catch up on reasoning.” Y6 Teacher

“Spend more time on reasoning preparation.” (Leanne, Teacher, Chase Lane Primary)

Many pupils still struggle with reasoning, and as we know it’s a key part of developing the fluency required for a mastery approach to mathematics.

That’s one of the reasons our interventions are 1-to-1 – it gives pupils the opportunity to develop their reasoning skills and talk through their understanding with a tutor.

TRY THIS FREE RESOURCE: Ultimate Guide to Problem Solving Techniques

4. Ensure each pupil is secure with concepts for each year group before Year 6

A large proportion recommended securing knowledge earlier down the line:

“Continue to work lower down the school to secure children’s knowledge and understanding before the end of Year 5. Treat Year 6 more like a revision year without having to treat some areas of the curriculum as new topics due to lack of work done lower down the school.” Y6 Teacher

“Higher focus on arithmetic throughout the school and more problem solving (as always).” Y6 Teacher

“Adapt the Maths curriculum for lower years to ensure they are secure in previous year’s content (evident in tests).” Y6 Teacher

“More intervention boosters in all other years.” Emma, Headteacher

This is something we hear from Year 6 teachers time and again – a lot of the topics their pupils struggle with are ones which should have been secured lower down the school. If they don’t know their times-tables up to 12 by Year 6, their ability to access ratio or fractions questions will be very limited.

READ THIS BLOG POST: How to teach times tables so pupils learn instant recall from KS1 to KS2

5. Start Third Space Learning earlier and with more pupils

As mentioned, the Year 6 teachers polled were schools who already use our 1-to-1 tuition, so this one won’t apply to all schools. However it’s incredibly rewarding for us to hear that the schools we work with can see so clearly the impact that weekly 1-to-1 Maths lessons have had on their target pupils:

“Start Third Space Learning from Autumn term to address gaps sooner.” Year 6 Teacher

“It would be great to have more children benefiting from Third Space Learning. We are beginning with some Year 5 children soon.” Karen Vince, Year 6 TA, Good Shepherd Primary School

As Maths intervention specialists, we’ve got a lot of experience in what your options might be, particularly in tighter budget times, so do call our schools team to pick their brains at any time on 020 3771 0095 before you make your plans for the Autumn term.

If you know already you have target pupils with curriculum gaps in Maths, or those who need a boost to accelerate their progress, enquire now about securing a slot for your target pupils on our next SATs revision programme

Final word: time to celebrate the passing of your KS2 SATs 2017!

Of course, now KS2 SATs 2017 are over the speculation about pass marks and SATs results will begin. Try to avoid thinking about this now. When the time comes we will again share advice and insight from our schools and other teachers, but right now give yourself a massive pat on the back.

Well done for all your dedication and determination with your Year 6s this year. Enjoy the sun, your half term holiday and the last few weeks with the children after SATs before they make that big step to secondary school.

Update – With the results now out take a look at our post on what your KS2 SATs Results 2017 mean and how to discuss them with pupils, parents and staff.

Update – Take a look at the 2018 SATs Question Breakdown and What The 2018 KS2 SATs Results Mean For Your School

Update – Take a look at the 2019 SATs Paper Question Breakdown and KS2 SATs Results 2019: How To Look At The Data And Plan The Next Steps For Your School

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Learn about the SATs revision programme or request a personalised quote for your school to speak to us about your school’s needs and how we can help.


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