SATs: How I can help

When children come to take their SATs in Years Two and Six, it can be a stressats 1sful time. Schools are, understandably, very keen for pupils to perform at their very best as the results are presented in league table format and reflect on the reputation of the school.

At present, children will sit SATs papers in mathematics, English reading and writing, and spelling. In mathematics, there will be two papers plus a mental paper. There will be a ‘reading’ paper, in which children are presented with texts and then have to answer questions on it. There will be two writing papers – a short writing task (usually 20 minutes) and a longer writing task. There might also be a spelling test. There are some variations between the Year Two and Year Six tests.

It is important for schools to create a relaxed atmosphere around the tests, particularly in Year Two where children are not necessarily used to the structure of tests. Many schools try to put their Year Six children at ease by providing them with breakfast on test days, to ensure they are well fed and in good condition for performing at their very best.

Children should be encouraged to do their best in their SATs, but should not be put under too much pressure. They are useful for teachers to uncover gaps in the learning of their pupil, and analysis of the papers can be very helpful.

So how can a personal tutor help? Well, often children feel better about tests if they have encountered the particular style of test before. A tutor can help work through previous papers, talk about the style of answers, and can discuss how to present responses so the maximum number of marks can be awarded. Many teachers will do this on a class basis and will be very efficient at doing so.

However, much can also be achieved on a one-to-one basis. I would look in detail at responses children have given in tests and how these could be improved. I would look at mark schemes and examiners’ reports. What is the very best way of securing three marks out of three on this question? How should you present the workings on this mathematics question to get the most marks? How should I plan this long piece of writing, faced with a blank sheet of paper?

I would be happy to discuss with parents how I can help their children face up to SATs with confidence, and calm, so they can do their best.

English: How I can help at primary level

My initial approach would be to have a discussion with you about the issues facing your child. Ideally, I would then look through some of their recent work to discover their strengths and weakness. They might have issues moving from simple to compound sentences, or from compound to complex sentences.

Other issues might include spelling, punctuation or general grammar. They might need to focus on using more connectives, or adverbs, or working on their descriptive skills.

I would look at the requirements of their particular National Curriculum level and design work, which we would do together, to support them. I might also look at end-of-term or end-of-year tests (for instance in shorter or longer writing) and then model an approach to answering the question. We might do the plan together and then discuss how to transfer this to a written paragraph.

If there is a particular topic or issue which your child is covering at school, I could offer support in our 45-minute sessions. Hopefully, this would transfer to greater confidence and achievement in the classroom.

My aim would be to support the work of the class teacher and to complement whatever was going on in the classroom. I hope this would help!

Answering a GCSE English question

The question is: Write an entry for your blog about your favourite time of year. (16 marks)

Aah summer. I just can’t wait. Imagine those long, warm evenings sitting on the boundary watching a game of cricket gently unfold. Shouts. Laughter. The occasional moment of excitement. My son grabs a catch, an appeal is turned down: but it’s not really about the game. It’s about the feeling. Somehow, worries melt away and the drudge of work becomes a faint glimmer, outshone by the brilliance of sunshine and blue skies. Calm descends and, as the evening light eventually fades, even the darkness cannot overcome the simple joy of summer.

The sense of enjoyment continues: perhaps there are television highlights of the Test Match to watch. Maybe there is the chance to catch a game live, as long as the weather holds. Best of all, though, is the playing – taking on my son.

We haul the wickets to the rugger field and set up our mini-game. Real ball, real bat – and, as the young terror turns teenager, so the pace of the ball quickens. Some I see, some I don’t, but the days of letting him win or offering up steepling, but simple, catches are long gone. This is a battle to the death, a matter of survival. It’s either him or me: and these days, much to my emerging pride, it is almost always him.

What a privilege to witness his growing bravado, his genuine pace and his towering, angry strikes when facing my throw-downs. How much longer will I be competent enough to even stand up to the bombardment of vicious deliveries which he subjects me to?

It seems like long ago now, when summer nights meant knockabout matches in the back garden. Endless searches for missing tennis balls saw us groping through trampled foliage, poking among harsh branches in our beech hedge, or constructing increasingly ambitious structures with picnic chairs and brooms to reach over to next door.

Almost imperceptibly, something changed.

His shots were suddenly hitting the middle of the bat. I was having to dive this way and that not to catch the ball – but to avoid it! Thrilling drives were banging into windows and prompting shouts from within. The shed was cleared in one hit, the roof was reached: and the only target left was to strike a ball clean over the entire house.

I miss those days. I miss pretending to be famous players. I miss the comradeship and mock anger when we blamed each other for losing the ball. But I know everything changes. One summer is never like another. We grow older together. We can hang on to the past only in our recollections. We can comfort each other with the thought that next summer could be the best ever.

It will be the best ever.