Thanks to Joanna Keelan, Year 6 Teacher at Walton-le-Dale Primary School for the following article
I believe the new style SATs tests are challenging, which all of us in the profession knew when the new curriculum came out in 2014. Little did we know how challenging until SATs in 2016, however, the tests the children sat this year, gave all abilities in that year a chance to show their ability.
It does not stop the pressure the staff in Year 6 feel, when trying to prepare the children for these tests. We want to give them the best chance of showing a true reflection of their knowledge, and in the time scale we’ve got, for some children it is impossible. We are lucky enough in our environment, to have two strong TAs placed in year 6 full time, who take children out for interventions in more specific areas. I truly believe this makes all the difference.
After the hype of last year’s paper, it made me rethink my approach to my teaching of reading and comprehension, which I hope has a great outcome. The paper as usual contains the three texts, all of which I felt were fair and not as ‘wordy’ as 2016’s, but still the stamina of reading the children needed to complete the paper was high. The first text, although deemed the ‘easier’ of the three, had questions that went alongside it which were very tricky, in terms of knowing the meanings of a word or matching the word to its context, it was clear that the expectation of the comprehension standard remained high at this early stage. For the second section, a lot of children and staff enjoyed reading the non-fiction text, the questions were either fact or opinion or true of false. Again there was a huge emphasis on their understanding of what they have read, but this time with options which could ‘distract ‘ their thoughts. Moving to the final text, a lot of the slower children or those working below Year 6 standards did not manage to get on to this text. It was most definitely a challenging text to read, which you would expect it to be. It was here you found the 3 mark questions, when all their brain power was nearly empty. I and a few of my colleagues believe these should have started earlier on in the test, so children can show off how they might tackle a question like this. Again, this final text challenged the children to read between the lines and beyond what the text was actually telling them; almost having to imagine they were the character and put themselves in the shoes of the boy to form opinions they may have.
I feel this paper was fair, it covered a lot, if not all of the areas of grammar in some way. There were a lot of ‘tick one’ out of four questions and the other options were very similarly written to try and catch the children out – testing their knowledge and understanding to the max. Other questions such as ‘which sentences uses round as an adjective’, with four possible options, was also a feature on this paper. I do think that if they are asked to circle three, it should be worth more than one mark, as if they get one wrong but two correct that is the mark gone. The paper did get gradually harder as the test went on, especially the final question on the paper. Which I would imagine challenged a few adults. The spellings were fair, tricky towards the end but all in all a fair test of what the children should have covered by this point in their education.
The arithmetic paper was full of questions which gave the children chance to show their skills. The children enjoy this paper the most out of the three. I must say I prefer this paper to the old mental maths, it caters for a range of quick maths needed across difficulty levels.
Both the reasoning papers seem to cover all areas of maths, some of which Year 6 needed to revise as they may not have covered it discretely since Year 3 or 4. There were a lot of real life problems, allowing the children to put them in to context, such as millilitres of milk left, posting letters, cooking time with weight, reading a high school timetable and scale of distance. On reflection of the papers, they gave the children of all abilities a chance to get questions right and challenged the children who are working at a greater depth. The usual questions the children found difficult were the co-ordinates and the algebra.
Joanna Keelan Year 6 Teacher Walton Le Dale Primary School