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A "No Panic" Parents' Guide to the Key Stage 1 SATs

If your child is in Year 2 in England, you have probably heard that they will be sitting a Key Stage 1 test during the month of May.  In this article, I'll provide an overview of the Key Stage 1 test, as introduced in 2016, explain why they come so early in your child's education. 

I'll also suggest how you can help and explain why you shouldn't be overly concerned about them. 

First, I should make clear that I'm going to steer clear of the "should we or shouldn't we test at this age" debate. The fact is the tests will happen in May.

The tests will take place during the month of May for all Year 2 pupils in England (there are no fixed dates) and they cover three curriculum areas: Maths, Reading and Writing (grammar, punctuation and spelling or SPAG). 

It's probably fair to say that the SPAG test was the most controversial. It was withdrawn in 2016 after it was mistakenly published on the Gov.uk website prior to the testing period and will be optional in 2017. Check with your child's school if they are opting to run this test.

The tests will be in your child's usual classroom, with their usual teacher, in small groups or sometimes as a whole class. 

Each test lasts around 30 minutes, although they won't be strictly timed. Children won't sit in an exam style arrangement - so there's a chance your child might not realise they're doing a test at all. 

After it's all over the tests will be marked in school and at the end of term, you'll be informed of the results - I'll explain how.

There are six tests in total, 4 compulsory and 2 optional: 

  • Maths - Test 1 Arithmetic
  • Maths - Test 2 Reasoning
  • Reading - test 1
  • Reading - test 2 which is longer that test 1 and more challenging
  • Spelling - 20 questions read by the teacher  Scrapped in 2016 and optional in 2017
  • Grammar & Punctuation  Also optional in 2017 after being scrapped in 2016.

Let's take a look at the tests in more detail: 

Maths Test 1 - Arithmetic

The arithmetic test has 25 questions and lasts approximately 20 minutes. It starts with number bonds to 10 and 20 and ends with more difficult topics such as fractions and division. 

The arithmetic questions have no context just calculation. Pupils write their answers onto the sheet. 

Here is a selection of questions from the sample paper from Gov.uk. We've shrunk the size - the actual test paper has big writing and lots of blank space for working out.

Key Stage 1 SATs Maths Test - Arithmetic

Maths Test 2 - Reasoning

This maths paper requires pupils to apply their knowledge of maths to solve simple problems. The problem is usually described in a picture. 

This test may take a little longer - approximately 35 minutes. The questions start easy and get progressively harder often requiring a calculation to get the answer.  

Here is a selection of questions from the sample paper from Gov.uk: 

Key Stage 1 SATs Maths Test - Reasoning 1

Key Stage 1 SATs Maths Test Reasoning 2

Key Stage 1 SATs Maths Test Reasoning 3

Key Stage 1 SATs Maths Test Reasoning 4

Reading Test 1

This test lasts around 35 minutes and can be broken into shorter tests. Pupils are provided with written information to read and questions to answer.

Key Stage 1 SATs Reading Test 1

Reading Test 2

Most pupils will also sit the second reading test. This is more of a traditional comprehension exercise with a longer passage of text and a series questions that require retrieval of information or the meaning of phrases.

Spelling Test (Optional)

In 2016 the spelling and grammar test was scrapped as it was accidentally published on the Gov.uk website. Here's the BBC news report. In 2017, these tests are optional and up to each school to decide if they will administer them.

In the spelling test, the teacher reads out 20 sentences which use the word to be spelt in context. As with the maths test the spellings get harder towards the end of the test.

Key Stage 1 SATs Spelling Test

Grammar & Punctuation Test (Optional)

In 2016 the spelling and grammar test was scrapped because it was accidentally published on the Gov.uk website. Here's the BBC news report. In 2017, these tests are optional and up to each school to decide if they will administer them.

The grammar test starts with using the rules for punctuation and moves onto constructing a correctly structured and punctuated sentence answer.

Key Stage 1 Tests Grammar & Punctuation

Key Stage 1 Tests Grammar & Punctuation 2

Key Stage 1 Tests Grammar & Punctuation 3

Scoring and Reporting

The tests are scored are reported in three separate sections: maths, reading and writing - which comes from the spelling and grammar tests

The raw scores are standardised or "scaled" across the whole country so the average score nationally is fixed to be 100. This means if your child has a "scaled score" higher than 100 they are doing better than average in maths, reading etc . .

Key Stage 1 SATs Scaled Score

Towards the end of the summer term, your school will report back to you on the May Key Stage 1 test results. 

It's possible they'll give the scaled scores for maths, reading and writing, but my guess is it's more likely they will summarise the score in a general statement such as "your child is working at the national standard".

In order to spread all pupils across a scaled score range - from say 70 to 130 - the test must include some difficult questions that most pupils will get wrong. The class teachers will manage this by allowing pupils to skip questions.

For more on this, ready my follow up article from Summer 2016 - "A Guide To My Child's (Somewhat Confusing) Key Stage 1 SAT Results."


How Can Parents Help?

The resounding advice coming from teachers is to remain calm and not to panic or worry as your anxiety is likely to be passed onto your child.

In addition, it's really just general advice which goes all year round for supporting your child's education:

  • Maintaining a good attendance record.
  • Ensuring children complete homework tasks.
  • Supporting learning with good reading habits.
  • Sufficient rest and a healthy balanced diet.
  • Contact with the school - attend parents and information sessions. Read school notes/emails and any other communication initiatives your child's school provides to keep parents informed.

You may also find our article and video "7 Tips to Boost Your Child's Concentration" worth a look in the run-up to the tests.

Final Thoughts

Reassured?  I hope you are! The tests are intended to be as informal as can be. 

You may well ask why bother having them at all? The answer is about measuring learner progress both individually and at school level. To measure progress, you need a before and after measurement and that's where the Key Stage 1 and 2 tests come in. 

They will eventually allow the department of education to rank primary schools in terms of the "progress value" they have provided pupils. I say "eventually" because it will be five years before the current year 2 pupils get their Key Stage 2 test. 

If you'd like to check out the sample tests you can find them here on the Gov.uk website.


I'm Ged, Co-founder of Komodo, ex-maths teacher and dad. If you have any questions please get in touch.

About KomodoKomodo is a fun and effective way to boost primary maths skills. Designed for 5 to 11 year olds to use in the home, Komodo uses a little and often approach to learning maths (10 minutes, 3 to 5 times per week) that fits into the busy routine. Komodo users develop fluency and confidence in maths - without keeping them at the screen for long.

Find out more about Komodo and how it helps thousands of children each year do better at maths - you can even try Komodo for free.

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