Year 6 SATs Revision Planning Sorted – A Three-Phase Template For SATs Preparation Based On Findings From 100,000 Pupils and 3,000 Schools

Creating Year 6 SATs revision plans, making sure every gap you can possibly fill in your class is filled, and coping with the everyday demands of a primary school classroom… When it comes to teaching Year 6, nobody needs reminding that this is a particularly important and taxing year.

It goes without saying that teachers and school leaders do all they can each year to effectively (and supportively!) prepare their Year 6 pupils for the SATs each year.

However, every year teachers are asking themselves the same kinds of questions:

  • When should I start Year 6 SATs preparations?
  • What kind of a Year 6 SATs revision plan is best?
  • What should SATs revision look like at different points of the school year? And no, that doesn’t just mean weekly Year 6 SATs maths papers

We understand that helping pupils reach their expected goals in the SATs is very important, but as teachers we should also try to remember that we are working to ensure that every member of our class is in the best possible position to move on to secondary school come the end of primary school, and a good Year 6 SATs revision plan can help with this too.

Here, we look at some of our findings from teacher surveys as well as the data we have gathered from teaching some over a million lessons to KS2 pupils to give you a template for how to think about your own Year 6 SATs revision plan.


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We asked Year 6 teachers: What would you do differently in your SATs revision planning next year?

The responses we got when we asked teachers this question were varied, but it soon became clear that the vast majority of the answers fell into one of five categories when teachers considered what they would do differently for their next Year 6 SATs revision plan.

1. Start SATs preparation, especially interventions, earlier in the year

“Start a little earlier in the year”

“Use earlier boosters”

“Start in Year 5”

“Start prep in summer term for Year 5”

“Cram more in somehow. Start booster work to secure arithmetic in Year 5”

Read more from Assistant Headteacher Aidan Severs why your KS2 Maths SATs interventions should not start in Year 6.

2. Push arithmetic hard particularly further down the school

“Begin practice arithmetic questions and daily fluency sooner”

“Start arithmetic in Year 4”

“Continue to push arithmetic hard (particularly further down the school)”

Over 20,000 teachers use our Fluent in Five Arithmetic Resource to practise daily arithmetic skills from Year 1 to Year 6. Register now for free on the Maths Hub to download 6 weeks for free.

Read about the importance of arithmetic skills in SATs.

3. Use streaming at the beginning of Year 6

“I would stream from September”

“I’d stream groups from the start of the year and spend longer at the start of the year going over curriculum gaps from KS2”

Teaching mixed ability groups, particularly in maths can be difficult (especially in the run up to SATs.) That is why you need to make sure you use the right maths activities with mixed ability groupings to help every member of the class prepare both for their upcoming tests and subsequent move to secondary school in the best way possible.

4. Use practice SATs questions to familiarise the class with the questions in maths

Some teachers also said that they would do the following differently in the run up to this years SATs:

“Implement more SATs style questions into lessons exploring a range of strategies”

“More work on resilience to take on the more challenging reasoning questions”

“Give pupils experience of more challenging problems”

Try these single topic based SATs-style questions, a selection of typical Year 6 maths reasoning questions or our Year 6 SATs Revision Resources for more questions.

Read more: 8 Strategies For Answering SATs Questions

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5. Bring problem solving and reasoning into the classroom earlier in the year

Highlights from the survey included:

“I would start reasoning work earlier in the year”

“I’d like to do more problem solving in the Autumn term”

With problem solving in maths playing such an important role, not only during the SATs period but also throughout the transition into Year 7 and beyond, it is key that pupils get to grips with problem solving techniques before Year 6.

Read more: Fluency Reasoning And Problem Solving in Every Lesson 

One clear conclusion from the survey: Start earlier

From all of the answers we got in our survey, the uniting theme that emerged was that almost all teachers wished that they had started their SATs preparation earlier.

Whether it be simple steps such as “making reasoning and problem solving lessons incorporate even more elements that pupils must use and then apply”, or something longer term like including “more work on resilience to take on the more challenging reasoning questions”, a lot of teachers said that they wanted to start preparing earlier in the year one way or another.

That does however lead to the tricky question…

How early is too early to begin your Year 6 SATs preparation plan?

The survey showed us a range of responses, with some teachers saying that they wished they had begun SATs preparation earlier in Year 6. However, many others stated that when given the chance again, this year they would work to address basic maths skills, particularly arithmetic skills for SATs, in Year 5 or even earlier.

What about when pupils reach Year 6 and still need additional help?

Even with an effective and well thought out approach to teaching maths across Years 3-5, the reality is that some Year 6 pupils will still benefit from a bespoke KS2 maths intervention programme or series of maths booster lessons early in Year 6 and all will benefit from specific SATs preparation, especially those pupils at risk of not making expected progress.

So, does that mean diving straight into SATs-specific preparations and talking to Year 6 pupils about their impending exams right from the start of the autumn term?

According to educational mental health expert Rachel Welch, the answer is no.

Rachel advises teachers try not to talk much about SATs until ‘well into the Spring Term’ to avoid having a negative impact on pupil wellbeing, a topic which is thoroughly covered in our Guide to Pupil Wellbeing During SATs.

She said:

I wish I had started my SATs preparations earlier in the year!

Year 6 SATs preparation should be all about offering pupils the right support at the right time.

It’s about using the time each term provides effectively. Provide pupils with the opportunity to plug gaps, grasp key concepts and address misconceptions early on to ensure that, by the time the spring term rolls around, pupils are ready to move on to consolidation, revision and practice SATs-style questions.

The focus for pupils should be firmly on improving their maths skills and abilities and not the word “SATs”. That is why here at Third Space Learning we take a multi-step approach to the SATs preparation we provide.

A three-phase approach to SATs preparation – Foundation, Consolidation & Transition

Having prepared over 100,000 pupils for SATs through weekly online one to one maths lessons, we’ve learnt a thing or two about what works when it comes to SATs preparations throughout the year.

This is the approach that has worked for us on our online tutoring platform, but you can easily adapt it and use the three stages in your school to help ensure that SATs preparation goes to plan.

We believe the most effective way to approach SATs preparation and revision is to ensure you have a clear focus for your pupils at each particular point in the term.

So, to help you do the same in your school, we’ve broken down how we do it.

In our KS2 SATs Revision Programme, we take a structured three-phase approach to provide the ideal combination of support throughout the year for your target pupils.

3 phase plan sats

Schools can sign their pupils up at any point throughout the year, but the type and focus of support our tutors offer, as well as the lesson content, will differ depending on the time of year…

Let’s take a closer look at how it works.

Autumn Term – Year 6 SATs Revision Planning

  • Phase: Foundation
  • Key Focus: Plugging gaps and addressing misconceptions to build solid foundations

All too often, pupils start Year 6 with outstanding gaps from Year 3-5. However, it can be difficult in a class of 30 to revisit this content without slowing down the rest of the class.

Rather than waiting until January and rushing to revisit content from lower down the school and revise for SATs, schools who sign up during the Autumn Term use our weekly one to one lessons for target Year 6 pupils to plug gaps in a one to one environment early on, leaving them with a solid foundation of knowledge to build upon the following term.

At Third Space Learning, our diagnostic assessment engine determines which pupils have which gaps to be filled. Some may need help with fractions, others with problem solving questions – and the Autumn Term provides a fantastic chance to help pupils really grasp the concept at hand before moving onto the more SATs focused revision.

lesson map for Third Space Learning
A sample of the range of over 200 lessons available to Year 6 pupils to plug any significant gaps before moving on to the SATs revision programme.

Spring Term – Year 6 SATs Revision Is Underway

  • Phase: Consolidation
  • Key Focus: Applying knowledge to SATs-style questions and refining reasoning and problem solving skills.

In January, the lessons used in our KS2 SATs Intervention programme switch from our standard curriculum to our dedicated SATs lessons.

Pupils then work with their tutor each week to quickly recap knowledge of core topics before applying it to SATs-style questions. Tutors talk pupils through a range of methods to approach problems, showing them how to break them down into manageable steps.

Third Space Learning supports pupils to undertake an initial assessment whenever they start with us, whether that’s January when the online tutoring for SATs opens or later in the year.

Pupils are asked a series of carefully levelled diagnostic questions to enable our intelligent online platform to identify their individual key focus areas and suggest relevant lessons.

These are based on expert analysis of past SATs papers to identify the topics worth the greatest proportion of marks. You’re then free to pick lessons from that list, ensuring the most valuable or high impact lessons are easily prioritised.

high impact SATs lessons
Over 25 SATs revision lessons are available to choose from – arranged in order of impact

Read more about the science behind the lessons that make up our Year 6 maths revision programme and how you can implement something similar in your own school.

Summer Term Before SATs – Year 6 SATs Questions and Confidence

  • Phase: Consolidation (Confidence building and last minute revision)
  • Key Focus: Plugging any gaps that are left amongst pupils before the SATs, and building confidence before exams

There may only be three weeks or so between the beginning of the summer term and the SATs, but this is the time when any last minute gap plugging can occur, and a firm focus can be placed upon building confidence for the tests.

By this point in the school year, pupils should be comfortable with most topics that are likely to come up in the SATs papers. This gives you the chance to help your class understand that whilst SATs might seem like the most important thing in the world right now, there is a life beyond May and maths will play a big part in it.

sats revision planning - multiplication and division lesson
SATs style question from Third Space Learning’s SATs revision lesson
sats revision planning - multiplication and division lesson support slide
Support slides for the above SATs style question

Summer Term After SATs – Year 5 SATs Preparation Plan  

  • Phase: Transition
  • Key Focus: Plugging outstanding Year 3-5 gaps in your Year 5 pupils, to ensure a smooth transition to Year 6.

After SATs week, many schools switch their focus to their Year 5 pupils, ensuring that they make the most of their last term before their SATs year and are prepared for the transition to Year 6.

This means that, by the time they reach Year 6, pupils have already plugged outstanding KS2 maths gaps and are ready to hit the ground running. They’re ready and able to explain their reasoning, justify their answers and meet each new challenge with enthusiasm.

Whilst we do vary our approach in the summer term dependent on the year group, one thing is always at the forefront of our mind and that is helping pupils to build confidence in their maths ability.

Regardless of whether a pupil in the summer term is looking ahead to make the transition into Year 6 or about to take part in their SATs, if they have confidence in their maths ability they will be more accomplished mathematicians in the long-term, which is what primary school maths is all about!

It’s a really helpful step heading into Year 6 because now it means they have that confidence to go and try it, which at the start of Year 6 is very valuable. We’ve certainly agreed it’s a good thing this is happening in Year 5 as by Year 6, it’s almost too late.

Tim Jackson, Maths Coordinator, Pangbourne Primary School, Reading

How this three-phase SATs preparation plan can help your pupils to achieve in SATs and beyond

SATs is always in the back of the mind of most primary school teachers and the need to start preparations earlier in the year is apparent from our survey. For these reasons, it can be difficult to know when to start working towards the SATs.

However, with our specially designed three-phase approach for SATs, it doesn’t matter what stage you are at in your school; we can help. From the early interventions and gap plugging of the Autumn term sessions, to the revising of key concepts in the Spring term and the transition period of the Summer term, our tutors are trained to help your pupils get the most from maths.

Our three-phase approach to SATs has worked for thousands of schools, all across the UK. Now see how how we can boost SATs results in your school. 

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Every week Third Space Learning’s specialist primary maths tutors support thousands of students across hundreds of schools with weekly online 1 to 1 maths lessons designed to plug gaps and boost progress.


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 Year 6 Survival Pack

A selection of fun activities to use with your Year 6 class after SATs plus our most downloaded free SATs resources to support next year's cohort.

Includes KS2 maths games and investigations and our most popular resource, Fluent in Five!

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