Review Of Maths SATs 2019: Results Of Our Teacher Survey! What Do You Think?

In our review of the Maths SATs 2019, results have been gathered from teachers all across England. As we’ve done every year since the new style national assessments were introduced, we’ve asked over 10,000 teachers about all aspects of their experience of the three maths papers.

Looking for our Review Of Maths SATs 2023? Click here to read!

Added to which we’ve spoken to SLT members of schools that have used our 1-to-1 maths interventions this year and we’ve taken to social media to gauge the reaction from both the Facebook and Twitter teaching communities.

We’re well aware of the embargo so to save blushes, we’ve removed some of the detail on the papers we received but rest assured we’ll be back in two weeks when the papers are released for a full analysis of what was on each paper and what it tells us about how these papers are set.  

Read more: KS2 SATS 2019: Maths Papers Question Breakdown (published post embargo)

As always, it’s been a long week but you’ve made it!

Now it’s time to sit back and see if you agree with all the teachers and SLT who answered our survey. Do let us know your thoughts too – in our Year 6 Facebook group or on Twitter @thirdspacetweet.

Which 2019 KS2 SATs Papers Did We Ask Over 10,000 Teachers About In Our Survey?

Paper 1: Arithmetic, 15th May 2019

Paper 2: Reasoning, 15th May 2019

Paper 3: Reasoning, 16th May 2019

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The hardest of the papers fell on a slightly ironic day too, as Year 6 teacher Sophie Bee points out:

Maths SATs National Numeracy Day 2019

How Difficult Were The 2019 KS2 Maths SATs Papers?

It is clear from the results of our survey and the accompanying chatter on social media that the tests were tricky for most pupils. In a nutshell:

Arithmetic Paper – This was seen to be a fair test by most, with 57% of teachers comparing its difficulty to last years.

Reasoning Paper 1 – This was seen by many to be an extremely difficult paper with a large number of difficult and word heavy questions that some pupils may have struggled with.

Reasoning Paper 2 – Whilst slightly easier than Reasoning Paper 1, this was still seen by many to be a tough test for Year 6 pupils.

A large number of teachers found the tests to be harder than their 2018 counterparts, and there was a lot of discussion around the difficulty of the language used across both reasoning papers.

Many teachers commented that language used throughout the papers was overly wordy, and that this caused otherwise capable EAL pupils to struggle.

SATs Survey For MAths 2019

Were The 2019 SATs Papers A Fair Reflection Of Pupil’s Maths Understanding?

Interestingly, when presented with a 0-10 scale (0 = not at all confident and 10 = very confident) which asked how confident they were that the 2019 SATs papers would provide a fair assessment of their pupils’ understanding of maths, teachers gave an answer of 5.5.

This reflects the general mood around the papers, with many teachers thinking that when averaged out the 3 tests were quite tough.

The 2019 Maths Arithmetic Paper Was Much The Same, If Not Slightly Harder When Compared To Last Year

From the teachers that answered our survey, 57% thought that the 2019 arithmetic paper was roughly as difficult as the 2018 equivalent.

25% of respondents felt that the paper was harder, so whilst most teachers thought that the paper was similar to last years, if you think that is was slightly trickier you are not alone.

An interesting point to note is that when we look back at the results of our 2018 SATs survey, we can see that 40% of respondents thought that the 2018 paper was more difficult than the 2017 paper.

This could mean that the new curriculum tests could be levelling out when it comes to their difficulty, as the majority of teachers have said that the arithmetic papers have been “much the same” as the preceding years tests for 2 years running.

For Many, The Content Of The Paper Was As Expected

Due to the test framework, examiners are limited in the types of questions they can ask and this was evident throughout the paper with many expected topics making an appearance.

There were some relatively easy marks available in the first half of the paper, especially if pupils were fluent and able to identify the mental/written method.

Lots of the questions on the arithmetic paper were designed to test whether or not a pupil was truly fluent, and this meant that if pupils opted for the written method for every question they may have run out of time.

This is in a similar vein to last years arithmetic paper and underlines the importance of maths fluency being ingrained in pupils by the time they sit the paper.

What Are Teachers’ Thoughts On The Arithmetic Paper?

“The questions were expected. The last few were more challenging but they were pretty standard examples of what we’ve come to expect.

Rachel MacInnes, Year 6 Teacher, North East

2019 Maths SATs Results Survey

“Similar range of questions; there were no ‘trick’ questions or things that they (the children) hadn’t seen before.”

Emma Bellerby, Year 6 Teacher, Greater London

“There was a lack of straight forward questions.”

Simon Ingram, Year 6 Teacher, Yorkshire and the Humber

Maths SATs Teacher Survey 2019

“It took the children in my class longer to answer the questions than I expected.

Emily Weston, Year 6 Teacher, South West

Views From The Pupils On The Arithmetic Paper

“That paper was fine as we’ve done Fluent In Five so it didn’t confuse us!”

Year 6 Pupil

Download a free sample of Fluent in Five to see how daily arithmetic practice can help pupils in your school.

For Many, Compared To Last Year, Reasoning Paper 1 Was Harder…. A Lot Harder

A whopping 71% of respondents to our survey said that they felt the 2019 Reasoning Paper 1 was harder than last year, and this sentiment was echoed all over social media and other teacher forums.

Whilst the first six or so questions in the paper should not have posed any real issues for most pupils, however after this the difficulty level drastically increased.

As would be expected, reasoning really was at the heart of this paper and if children didn’t take time to think and reason there is a real risk that their scores will be lower than expected.

Similar to the Arithmetic paper, true fluency and conceptual understanding were put to the test in this paper. Children who were able to work out the connections between the information given and the calculations needed are likely to get higher marks than those who have learned answers by rote.

Real World Examples Inspired By 70s-Style Buffet Tables

The SATs examiners’ attempt to bring real world context into the papers as always elicited some exasperation. This year jelly, cheese and orange juice were their weapons of choice in testing pupils’ reasoning ability.

The structure of most of the questions were similar to previous years, however a few common themes stood out:

A couple of mathematically straightforward questions threw pupils off with the unusual wording and context of the question.

For example, the ‘explain’ question was far trickier than last year’s.

Maths SATs 2019 Question Confusion

And Headteacher Michael Tidd wasn’t the only one flummoxed by a question on Reasoning Paper 1:

Mr Booth SATs Paper 2 Comment

What Are Teachers’ Thoughts On Reasoning Paper 1?

“Our middle ability children struggled to finish in time. What they did complete they did well on, but a lot of time wasted on children trying to understand what calculation was required.”

Helen Cullen, TA, Greater London

SATs Survey Results Blog Quotes

“There was a BIG cliff edge in difficulty – fairly straight forward questions for a while and then “wham” (to quote one of the children who sat the paper), it was straight down into questions with very high cognitive load, even if the content level was lower.”

Year 6 Maths Consultant

“I have one child in my class who has developed a phenomenal amount this year and has just started to believe that he is capable of maths. This paper was utterly soul destroying for him. He was crying by the end of it and I feel like a whole year of hard work on his part and confidence building from me has just been destroyed!”

Anisha, Year 6 Teacher, East Midlands

Maths Reasoning Paper 1 Sats Review

However, not everyone thought this paper was too tricky.

“They were accessible and fair questions.”

Anglena Moore, KS2 Leader, South East

“Children seemed able to tackle the questions and felt largely positive at the end of the test.”

Joe Sheekey, Deputy Headteacher, Greater London

Teachers Said Reasoning Paper 2 Was Much The Same As Its 2018 Counterpart

Reasoning Paper 2 was generally a fairer paper than either the Arithmetic Paper or Reasoning Paper 1, and 56% of teachers surveyed said that it was much the same as the 2018 equivalent.

However, if it was sat in a year that didn’t contain the dastardly Reasoning Paper 1, many may have said it was a challenging test in itself as yet again there was a steep ramp up in question difficulty as the paper went on.

Following yesterday’s pattern, this paper put pupils’ ability to make mathematical connections to the test, and for certain questions a lot of work was needed to obtain just one or two marks.

An interesting take away from our brief content analysis on the 3 papers is the fact that almost all of the test framework has been tested over the past four years. This means that next years SATs papers are likely to be a free-for-all in terms of content, and anything could come up on the papers.

For now, the approach of working out what didn’t appear in last year’s paper to help with this year’s is over…

What Did Teachers Think Of Reasoning Paper 2?

“Incredibly difficult. SEN children struggled to access the paper and understand what to do.”

Philippa, Year 6 Teacher, West Midlands

Reasoning Paper 2 Maths Sats Review

“Poorly worded questions, lots of working for only a few marks.”

Sarah Burton, Year 6 Teacher, South West

“Multi-step questions needed a lot of thinking to work out what to do. One question meant a lot of wasted time for many children, so taking marks away from others as they didn’t have much time to complete them.”

Paula Loxton, Deputy Headteacher, South West

And What Did The Pupils Have To Say?

“What silly stories they make up for the questions- the need to get real life!”

Year 6 Pupil

“This was easier than yesterday, but still made me think.”

Year 6 Pupil

Which Reasoning Question Do You Feel Pupils Would Have Found The Most Challenging?

A clear winner emerged when we asked this question: Congratulations Adam…

A large number of teachers said that the visualisation element required for this question pushed it beyond the ability of most KS2 pupils with one teacher declaring

SATs 2019 Question Confusion

Of course the arrival of Adam meant only bad news for SATs examiners and teachers favourite Chen… 

Maths SATs Chen

How Well Prepared Were Pupils For The 2019 Maths SATs Papers?

SATs preparation techniques vary from school to school and pupil to pupil, and we wanted to take a look at how well prepared teachers felt that their pupils were for the 2019 SATs.

It’s worth saying at this point that the vast majority of respondents came from the 700+ schools using our 1-to-1 interventions in their schools to prepare for SATs or from the  90,000+ teachers signed up for our blog posts and other resources, many of them through the online maths hub where over 1,000 resources and CPD videos are available for your school to download on a subscription basis.

Using a scale of 0-10 with 0 being very unprepared and 10 being very prepared, our survey respondents rated their preparation levels at 8.2. This means that the vast majority of teachers felt that their pupils were well prepared for this years tests.

Of the schools using our 1-to-1 maths tuition as preparation for SATs, 84% said that it had been an effective preparation method for target pupils sitting the 2019 SATs.

When asked whether Third Space Learning’s maths resources had helped them to prepare for SATs, 96% answered either “yes definitely” or “yes to some extent”.

In the 2018/2019 academic year, we have helped more schools than ever to prepare for the SATs, so if you would like to see how we can help your pupils achieve everything you know they can throughout KS2, then get in touch today.

What Have Year 6 Teachers Said They’d Do Differently To Prepare For The KS2 2021 Maths SATs?

We asked teachers what they might do differently next year to prepare for the 2021 SATs, and they said the following:

1. Have A Firmer Focus On Learning Vocabulary Throughout The Year

“Next year I’m going to insist that lower KS2 teaches vocabulary and methods until children cannot get them wrong rather than leaving anything to us. Our curriculum is full already.”

Peter Roberts, Year 6 Teacher, South East

“Next year we will do more work on mathematical vocabulary.”

Paul Ramsey, Year 6 Teacher, South East

And one teacher took the need to read to a whole other level!

“Speed reading. There’s way too much for youngsters to read in the given time. We will definitely do poetry next year as it will surely appear on next year’s paper!

Liz, Year 6 Teacher, East Midlands

Download our free Ultimate Maths Vocabulary List.

2. Start Interventions Earlier

“Next year I would do interventions much earlier.”

Emma Charlesworth, Maths Teacher, Yorkshire and the Humber

2019 Maths SATs Teacher Quote

3. Ensure Focus Is On A Mastery Approach

“Next year we will have a mastery approach which is much more reasoning focused.”

Helen Taylor, Assistant Headteacher, South West

“Next year we’ll do much the same…possibly more practical work and mastery skills.”

Gina Wright, Year 6 Teacher, North West

Download the Ultimate Guide To Maths Mastery

4. Expect The Unexpected

“Be prepared to be surprised. Make sure there is more variation in the questions in class.”

Victoria Cass, KS2 Leader, East Midlands

“Ensure there is enough time to cover the more obscure topics”

Samantha Forster, Year 6 Teacher, Greater London

Read: 9 Effective Questioning Strategies for Maths Teachers

5. Nothing At All

This year, we were delighted to receive a large number of survey responses that showed amazing confidence in teaching abilities and pupils.

“Nothing. Children work incredibly hard and take revision seriously. Can’t do any more!”

Michelle, Year 6 Teacher, South East

“Nothing – I am retiring!

Anne Pillar, Year 6 Teacher, East Midlands

And Last But By No Means Least…. A Huge Congratulations To Everyone At Your School!

SATs drawing to a close means that both pupils and teachers can take some time to sit back and relax, but for a large number of educators the tests ending does not mean the worrying does, especially for some headteachers…

SATs stress for headteachers

Many teachers will spend the next few weeks anticipating the 2019 SATs results (this page will be updated as soon as we have the detail on them in July). Don’t! Now is the time to try to avoid thinking about the 2019 SATs and spend as much time with your pupils as you can.

2019 Maths SATs- The Results of our teacher survey

Rest assured that when the time comes we will share advice and insights from our expert teachers and schools to help you get through this tricky time.

For now the most important thing is to say well done to yourself and fellow educators, and give yourself a firm pat on the back!

Everyone here at Third Space Learning would like to pass on our congratulations to the teachers, teaching assistants, pupils and other staff members in your school, and we hope that some post SATs positivity is already spreading round your school!

Further Reading

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Since 2013 these personalised one to one lessons have helped over 150,000 primary and secondary students become more confident, able mathematicians.


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.


FREE KS2 Maths SATs Practice Papers (Set of 6)

Get ready for KS2 SATs tests with this set of 6 maths SATs practice papers.

Includes 2 Arithmetic and 4 Reasoning Papers, with mark schemes and answer booklets, that follow the National Curriculum Assessments.

Download free