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Review Of Maths SATs 2022: Results Of Our Teacher Survey! What Do You Think?

Originally published Thursday 12th May 2022

After a two-year break, SATs are back, and so are we with our popular review of the maths SATs 2022 papers. Hundreds of teachers all across England gave us their thoughts on the 2022 maths SATs papers.

We’ve also been keeping an eye on social media to surface reactions from both the Facebook and Twitter teaching communities to give an even fuller picture.

Fear not, the survey didn’t go into question-level detail, and we will not be sharing information on specific SATs questions until after the embargo is lifted. Look out for a full question breakdown and analysis of the maths SATs papers in a couple of weeks!

Tweet about specific SATs questions

It goes without saying that this year was a particularly strange one in SATs history, so if one thing’s for certain, it’s that comparing 2022 to 2019 is not a like-for-like comparison. Fancy travelling back in time? You might enjoy some further cross-year comparisons with the previous two versions of this blog!

Lots of survey respondents suggested that the papers were similar in difficulty to previous years, but this did not take into account the levels of learning loss and potential curriculum gaps. Pupil and teacher wellbeing has also been brought to the forefront in light of the pandemic.

We know it’s been a stressful week for teachers and pupils up and down the country, but it’s finally over! So, make yourself a well-earned tea (or something stronger), and see if you agree with the teachers and SLTs who generously shared their impressions on SATs. In fact, 62% of our respondents were Year 6 teachers or Maths Coordinators.

Get involved with the conversation on Twitter @thirdspacetweet.

Looking to use your school led tutoring funding to support your Year 6 pupils next year?

Looking to use your school led tutoring funding to support your Year 6 pupils next year?

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Which 2022 KS2 SATs papers did we ask teachers about in our survey?

  • Paper 1: Arithmetic, 11th May 2022
  • Paper 2: Reasoning, 11th May 2022
  • Paper 3: Reasoning, 12th May 2022

2022’s papers were generally on par with previous years

Around one-third of respondents embarked on their first SATs season this year, and the remainder had been through the SATs experience before (i.e. at least in 2019).

This latter two-thirds gives us a valuable insight into how SATs 2022 stacked up, but both groups were united by supporting a cohort of Year 6 pupils that had their learning disrupted for the past three academic years.

Keeping the embargo in mind, at surface level, just over 50% of teachers felt this year’s papers were about the same compared to previous years, but hoped it would have been a bit easier given the circumstances. This was followed by a sizable minority (around 30%) that thought this year’s papers were actually harder for pupils.

Bar chart showing comparison of maths SATs 2022 to previous years

But teachers’ overall experience was more challenging

In terms of the whole SATs experience (rather than just the physical papers), those that thought it was slightly more challenging or about the same, sat neck-and-neck at around 35%. So, it seems that most thought the papers were about the same, but the actual experience was more challenging overall. Only around 8% of people thought the SATs experience was less challenging than before, which suggests limited accommodations for Covid impact. 

Teachers who’d used Third Space Learning’s online maths tuition in the lead up to SATs tended to have found the experience slightly less challenging than those who hadn’t.

Let’s dig a bit deeper into the reasons behind these trends!

Quote about SATs questions being wordy
  • Notably ‘wordy’ questions
  • More reasoning required
  • Difficult first questions
  • Lots of multi-step problems
  • Working harder for single marks
  • Didn’t finish completing paper(s)
  • Learning gaps in the curriculum
  • Less time for revision and preparation
  • More interventions required pre-SATs
  • High levels of pupil anxiety
Amusing tweet about SATs questions being excessively wordy

The pandemic has impacted this year’s cohort in more ways than one

Clearly, it hasn’t been smooth sailing for this year’s Year 6 cohort, and we’d all agree that the disruption of the last few years has had an impact on their overall SATs experience.

We asked teachers how they felt the pandemic had affected their SATs experience this year. The number 1 answer? The fact that they had gaps from Year 1-5 to address before even getting to the Year 6 curriculum – let alone leaving time for SATs revision! As one respondent put it, ‘so many gaps to fill and not enough time’.

Ranking factors on what the biggest impact was for supporting Year 6 pupils through SATs
  1. Gaps from Year 1-5 (most impact on SATs)
  2. Wide variety of gaps
  3. Lack of revision time
  4. Pupil and/or staff absences
  5. Low pupil confidence
  6. Poor pupil stamina and concentration (least impact on SATs)

Many respondents told us that they felt they were ‘starting on the back foot’ this year; that the task of preparing this year’s cohort for SATs felt almost impossible when there was so much gap plugging to be done before pupils could really access the Year 6 curriculum or spend time practising SATs-style questions.

Disadvantaged and greater depth pupils have both been impacted

It’s clear that the huge variation in each pupil’s learning experience during school closures and remote learning has had a big impact here. Our survey respondents certainly feel that those pupils who had more opportunities to learn during school closures have fared better this week than their – often more disadvantaged – peers.

Quote about disadvantaged pupils in the context of maths SATs 2022

Several teachers pointed out that they felt they’ve been able to get their pupils to the expected standard, but the difference since Covid is that there are far too many gaps for pupils to reach greater depth.

Quote about greater depth students

It’s not just academic attainment that’s suffered

While pupil mindset seemed to be ranked towards the bottom when it comes to the impact of Covid on this year’s SATs cohort, it was something that came up again and again in the comments. Plenty of teachers have seen an impact on the social skills of their pupils, leading to more disruption in the classroom and therefore less learning time. 

The impact on their mental health was also a common theme, with lots of teachers telling us that pupil anxiety was higher this year than in previous years. Motivation and drive to succeed also seem to have been negatively affected, which has become apparent over this past week. Pupils also appear to be slightly less mature and have less of an understanding of how learning is there to help them, which has impacted their effort and engagement in the classroom and in SATs week.

Tweet showing end of SATs week celebrations in a school

Teachers felt more could be done to accommodate for the disruption to learning

A huge number of respondents don’t feel that this year’s papers gave enough allowance for the disruption this cohort has faced, and many are hoping that the scaled scores/grade boundaries will be updated to reflect this. In particular, teachers would have liked to see:

  • SATs happen later in the year
  • Advanced information, as has been the case at GCSE
  • Cancelling SATs again until 2023
  • More focus on Teacher Assessed Grades

Because of this, teachers don’t feel too confident that the 2022 maths papers will provide a fair assessment of their pupils’ understanding of maths.

This is not because they don’t feel confident in their pupils’ abilities, but because they simply don’t feel that these papers catered enough to the specific challenges this cohort has faced.

Quote about Covid disruption to children's education

Many also commented that the wordiness of the questions meant that pupils who might be more than capable of understanding the underlying maths were stumped by the way they were phrased. As well as this, many thought these papers required pupils to have their exam technique really nailed in order to pick up the marks.

Quote about wordy phrasing of maths SATs 2022 questions

Teachers who’d used Third Space Learning’s online maths tuition in the lead up to SATs felt more confident overall that the papers will provide a fair assessment of their pupils’ understanding of maths.

Our Year 6s have shown huge resilience

Of course, the last two years have placed a huge toll on this year’s cohort, and there’s no doubt that teachers feel that this has impacted their overall SATs experience. But, if there’s one word that stands out the most from the survey it’s ‘resilient’. It’s clear to see that teachers are absolutely beaming with pride for their pupils after this week, and know that they’ve given it everything they’ve got despite the challenges they’ve faced.


Teaching v. revision: the content coverage issue

If you didn’t manage to cover all topics before this week, you’re not alone!

Just over half of all survey respondents weren’t able to cover the full curriculum, and only 7% of teachers managed to cover everything with plenty of time for revision.

Bar chart showing how many teachers were able to teach all the content before maths SATs 2022

Out of those teachers who had to leave topics uncovered or not cover topics in full, the majority chose to miss out properties of shape.

Ranking of curriculum areas that weren't covered before SATs

So, if you decided to put shape, statistics or ratio and proportion to the back of the queue in the lead up to this week, you’re not the only one.

Interestingly, these findings correlate with the subjects that most teachers felt their pupils struggled most with; ratio and proportion and properties of shape. This was closely followed by fractions, decimals and percentages, but only 2% of teachers reported leaving this out of their teaching or not covering it in as much depth as they’d like this year. 

Diving deeper into our survey respondents, it’s clear that even where all topics were covered, these were not covered to the depth that teachers would have liked. 

Quote about cramming for SATs

As we’ve seen, many teachers felt SATs should have been pushed back to later in the summer term, giving everyone more time to cover more topics in more depth.

Quote about delaying SATs

Reasoning has been hit hardest by the pandemic

Reasoning was clearly the paper that teachers felt was most impacted by the pandemic, with nearly half (49%) of all respondents opting for this one. Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar (22%), plus Reading (21%) were both less than Reasoning combined.

Pie chart showing which maths SATs 2022 paper was most impacted by Covid

This corroborates with the recent Centre for Education and Youth (CfEY) ‘A Space for Maths’ report, which concluded that maths was the worst-hit subject as a result of Covid. A study cited in the September 2021 report estimated a 10-24% widening of the gap in maths.

Tweet about maths progress disproportionately affected by Covid

Teachers and pupils felt fairly well prepared for this week

Preparation is key, but how did this age-old phrase actually play out with Covid thrown into the mix? And how did this compare between pupils and teachers in their SATs experience?

Pupil preparation

While respondents varied in their rating of how prepared they felt their pupils were, this peaked at 7/10 (around 25%), with 6/10 and 8/10 following closely behind.

Scale showing how prepared pupils felt for SATs

Teacher preparation

We saw a similar picture for how prepared the actual teachers felt, which was no doubt based on how effectively they’d been able to prepare the pupils sitting the tests.

On a scale of 1-10, around 24% of respondents sat at 7/10 (10 being very prepared), with slightly more teachers falling into the 8/10 bucket (20%), rather than 6/10 (15%).

Scale showing how prepared teachers felt for SATs

A broad curriculum and gaps in learning stopped teachers and pupils from feeling completely prepared

Only 10% of teachers felt very prepared for SATs in 2022. Why could this be?

  • Futile to plug gaps from 2+ years of disrupted learning
  • Finishing the curriculum in time proved challenging
  • Difficult decision to cut down on other curriculum subjects
  • SATs were seen to create more pressure than ever
  • SATs themselves could have been done differently
  • Everyone did everything they realistically could
Quote about SATs preparation
Quote about not covering all content before maths SATs 2022

A somewhat difficult set of papers for 2022

Overall, a huge majority (nearly 90%) of respondents felt that the maths SATs 2022 papers were either average (48%) or difficult (41%). While only around 6% thought the papers were very difficult, only just over 3% thought they were easy or very easy.

Teachers who’d used Third Space Learning’s online maths tuition in the lead up to SATs reported that the papers were slightly less difficult than those who hadn’t.

It’s obviously worth bearing in mind that all of these responses come from individual frames of reference, teachers, pupils and schools, with their own contexts, strengths and challenges.

Bar chart about how teachers fond the SATs 2022 papers

The majority (75%) felt the papers were either as they expected, or more difficult than they expected. Around 13% were pleasantly surprised that the papers were easier than expected, versus the 10% that thought it was much more difficult than expected.

There was a greater proportion of teachers who’d used Third Space Learning’s online maths tuition in the lead up to SATs who felt the papers were easier than expected than those who hadn’t.

While wanting to remain embargo-compliant (we won’t go into the specifics of which particular questions pupils likely found most challenging), we can still extract general trends from the types of questions that appeared to present problems.

The clear front runners were heavily worded questions and multi-step problems, which several respondents felt were trying to catch the pupils out.

Quote about maths SATs 2022 testing reading more than maths

For most, the arithmetic paper wasn’t too difficult

Of the teachers that answered our survey, 65% felt that the Year 6 arithmetic test was average, followed by nearly 18% that thought it was difficult. In our previous SATs survey back in 2019, 25% of respondents felt that the Arithmetic paper was harder than in 2018.

Tweet about length of maths SATs 2022 arithmetic paper

Although this was a single answer selection to represent the whole paper, the general impression was that it included quite a tricky start, which seemed to knock pupils’ confidence in the remainder of the paper.

Bar chart showing how easy teachers thought the arithmetic paper was

There was a notable number of survey comments essentially saying that this paper was ‘standard’, ‘fair’, ‘expected’, ‘similar’, in line with their expectations, and children could answer the ‘range of questions’. 

Tweet about arithmetic paper being reasonable in difficulty

However, there was also a number of respondents who were more negative and felt that pupils were quite thrown by the Arithmetic paper.

Quote about arithmetic paper requiring conceptual understanding
Quote about cramming for SATs

The reasoning papers were harder on the whole

Although respondents again predominantly remarked that Reasoning 1 was average, it appeared more difficult overall than Arithmetic. This was a similar story for Reasoning 2, with the average and difficult selections more evenly matched than with Arithmetic.

Bar chart showing how easy teachers thought reasoning paper 1 was

Exactly 50% said that Reasoning 1 was difficult or very difficult, and only 5% thought it was easy. This again boiled down to unnecessarily wordy and ambiguous questions. Lots of teachers felt as though they were trying to trip pupils up, as well as making pupils work harder for each mark. 

Tweet about convoluted questions on maths SATs 2022 papers

Although this is more complex than a basic dichotomy (and will massively vary between students and cohorts at different schools), the clearest theme that has emerged from the survey is more complex wording obstructing potentially more straightforward maths.

Quote about reliance on reading in maths SATs papers
Quote about reading comprehension versus maths knowledge in maths SATs 2022

Online tuition, resources and blogs helped teachers feel prepared

As well as how they found the papers this year, our survey also focused on what teachers used to prepare for SATs this year.

Around 25% of respondents had used Third Space Learning’s school led tutoring this year, and the majority of these had used our dedicated Year 6 SATs revision programme to give their target pupils the opportunity to practise SATs-style questions with their own tutor. 

Quote about school using Third Space Learning tuition for SATs

90% of teachers felt the one-to-one tuition had been effective at preparing their Year 6 pupils for SATs.

Quote about a school's Third Space Learning journey

In particular, they reported ‘improved confidence and engagement’ and ‘plugged gaps in learning’ in their Year 6 cohort. 

We asked them what they saw as the main benefit of the tuition sessions for their pupils…

  • ‘The children having to read the reasoning questions and explaining their reasoning, verbally to the tutors’
  • ‘By being able to set the sessions myself I have used them to revisit the week’s in class learning but with more of a focus on the SATs style questions’
  • ‘Giving them one to one and a different way to learn, it engaged all the learners’

78% of respondents had used Third Space Learning resources this year, and 98% of these found these to be helpful in preparing their pupils for SATs this year.

There are no surprises for which resource teachers found most helpful; our most popular resource, Fluent in Five! This daily scheme helps pupils practice arithmetic skills in just 5 minutes a day.

Schools with premium access to our online resource library, the Third Space Maths Hub, can access the full yearly set of Fluent in Five, whilst schools with free access have benefited from a 6-week set of each. You can download the first 6 weeks of Fluent in Five for free.

Positive quotes about Third Space Learning's Fluent in Five resource

Fluent in Five’s reasoning counterpart Rapid Reasoning has also proved popular for helping pupils develop the skills they need to master papers 2 and 3. As with Fluent in Five, schools with premium access can download the full yearly set of Rapid Reasoning, whilst the first 6 weeks are available for all.

Quote about Year 6 teacher using Third Space Learning's Rapid Reasoning resource

There were also plenty of shoutouts for our SATs Practice Papers and other SATs-style question packs.

Quote about SATs-style papers from Third Space Learning

As well as these resources, it’s clear that the teaching tips, activities and guidance on the Third Space Learning blog have also helped teachers through this SATs season. One of the most commonly referenced blogs was our hugely popular breakdown of all Year 6 maths revision topics by the number of marks, the likelihood of appearance and average difficulty.

Quote about Third Space Learning's content offering
Quote about Third Space Learning blog

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Could starting earlier next year be the answer?

With SATs now over for another year, thoughts are now already turning to what happens next, especially for next year’s cohort.

We asked teachers if there was anything they’d like to do differently next year. An overwhelming number of respondents said that they’d like to start earlier. 

For some, that will look like starting specific maths interventions for their current Year 5 pupils. For others, they’d like to focus on ensuring all their current Year 5s have covered the curriculum before they reach Year 6. As one responder puts it, ‘This issue is not Year 6, it’s getting the children ready in Year 3, 4 and 5’!

Quote about starting SATs maths interventions earlier

If this approach is something you’d like to try, we’re here to help. Our Year 3-5 Catch up Programme is designed to help pupils plug gaps and build solid foundations early on, ensuring they’re able to really make the most of their time in Year 6.

For others, starting earlier will mean introducing booster groups from September or starting revision earlier in the year. Hopefully less disruption next year will make this possible.

Quote about starting to revise for SATs earlier versus learning content
Quote about running booster groups for SATs earlier

Looking to take this approach? The Year 6 Catch Up Programme ensures pupils are secure in their understanding of core KS2 content in the autumn term. Then, from January, the SATs Revision Programme gives them regular opportunities to practise and verbalise SATs-style questions with their own dedicated tutor.

Another common answer was to introduce more regular arithmetic and reasoning practice into maths lessons and ensure pupils feel confident and familiar with these types of questions. Comments like ‘more arithmetic and multi-step problems from the beginning of the year’ were extremely common.

Looking for an easy way to bring arithmetic and reasoning practice into your lessons? Our daily arithmetic and reasoning schemes are the perfect way to build these skills in just 5 minutes a day!

Teachers signed up to our free online resource library can download the first 6 weeks of Fluent in Five and Rapid Reasoning. Already got premium access? You can download the full 36-week set of Fluent in Five and Rapid Reasoning.

There were also plenty of teachers who are hoping to plug gaps throughout the year, ensuring pupils are ready to hit the ground running when revision comes around.

Quote about gap analysis at the start of Year 6

This is exactly what we aim to achieve in our tuition programmes; each pupil begins with an initial assessment to diagnose individual learning gaps and their learning journey is personalised to suit. Why not learn more about how it works?


What is next for this year’s SATs pupils and teachers?

Wondering what to do after SATs? Check out a few of our blogs and resources!

Series of tweets showing end of SATs week celebrations in schools

If there’s one thing that’s clear from this survey and the comments left by those involved in SATs this year, it’s how hard you’ve worked and how proud you should be of all you’ve achieved. Not just this year, but the last few years too. You’ve coped with disruption, uncertainty and ever-changing rules and regulations, and you’ve still helped your pupils head into this week feeling calm and prepared.

Your pupils have shown huge resilience, and they’re incredibly lucky to have had you guiding them through this journey. You should all be very proud of them, no matter their results.

We’re so proud to have been part of the journey for so many of you and can’t wait to continue supporting you through the summer term and beyond.

We’ll be back with a full Question Level Analysis after 20th May, but for now, we’re wishing you a wonderful SATs-free weekend and a huge congratulations from us to you. You did it!

KS2 SATs Papers 2022


Further reading:

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Lucy Inskip
Lucy Inskip
Third Space Learning
Content Team
Lucy edits most of the content you see on the website, and with any time left over, she writes articles showing how Third Space Learning can help you and your pupils in school.
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