In a couple of months, we’ll be entering the super stressful week that seems to be SATs week! And as schools gear up for the tests with increasing time spent on the dreaded practice papers, you might have noticed your child starting to feel the pressure a little.
In recent years testing primary school children and in particular SATS testing, has become a bit of a hot topic. Whether or not children should be tested at all and from such an early age, remains controversial. As does the question of whether SATs really test the child, or the school.
But the reality for most parents is, regardless of whether you think the tests are unfair (or whether questions about subordinated conjunctions are really relevant!!) parents will have to support their children through the process whilst it’s there. So what can you do to help your child?
SATs are difficult for both children, schools and parents
SATs are difficult for everyone involved. For teachers there’s the expectation that their pupils need to meet certain standards and the pressure of having their teaching and provision judged and publicised through league tables. And for parents it’s the worry that your child may not be performing in line with expectation or at the same level as their classmates or siblings. But have you ever thought about the impact this is having on your child? Because I can tell you it most definitely is!
Repeated preparation for SATs, completion of past papers, as well as continued focus on who’s a level 2.3 and who’s a 2.5 can cause a heavy atmosphere around kids. A child scores a point or so lower than their best friend in the Maths paper and all of a sudden, they think they’re rubbish at the whole subject.
Similarly, many children have a natural urge to please. Whether that’s their parents or the favourite teacher they’ve bonded with over the last few terms. They want to do well for them. And even if they’ve been told the results don’t matter, the fact that they’ve been doing so much SATs preparation means they won’t always believe this. Kids’ built in lie detectors see through the words. The pressure is totally, innocently passed on.
All of this means that even the most outwardly relaxed child could be feeling stressed and anxious as test week approaches!
So what’s the solution?
Usually articles like this list tactics such as telling your child not to worry, taking a break from revision, drinking lots of water, getting plenty of exercise and a good night’s sleep. All of which can be help, but I’m going to go a bit deeper into the problem and the solution.
When I’m working with children, I see some that are stressed about SATs and some that aren’t. And of course, stress levels differ. But if it was the tests themselves that were stressing kids out, then there wouldn’t be any difference in attitude, because all kids sit the same ones.
Instead, it’s about the different level of meaning some children attach to the outcome of the tests that causes the stress. And if you can change that level of importance and help them manage their feelings towards it, then you can get your child feeling more relaxed about sitting them.
So how do you do that?
I wish I could give you the solution right now on this web page, in one simple easy-to-do tactic. But we’re talking about your child’s emotions here and all children are different. I’d suggest it’s about asking them questions to get them to think differently about how much SATs matter. For example, letting them know that there is no pass or fail rate. That this is simply their teacher looking at where they’re at for this point in the year. And discussing how they should work to do the best that they can do and not compare themselves to their friends and others in their class. It’s important to note that the more you realise this for yourself as a parent, the easier it’ll be to coach your child.
There’s another way too – that’s to empower your child with techniques they can use to manage how they’re feeling about a situation. Again, I wish I could tell you how to help your child change his or her emotions in this blog post, but I can’t. Because it’s like riding a bike, you can’t learn how to do it by reading about it. You have to do it ‘on the job’.
Which is why I work with children to run fun, group activity sessions to help them learn how to manage their attitude toward SATs and their stress levels. In them I help children learn to
- Get a good night’s sleep before the tests, stay calm during them and do their best.
- Ignore others, believe in themselves and achieve their true potential.
- Use these confidence and resilience skills for a smoother transition to secondary school in September.
I’m running a FREE session that covers all of this on 14th April, 11am-12pm at John Lewis, Leeds. Come along, you and your child will have a lot of laughs and learn how to sail through SATs with some stress-busting techniques. Click here to see how helpful children have found them in the past and to book your free place.
If you’d rather not come to a group session or can’t make it, but would like to chat to me about helping you and your child give me a call on 01423 359 379 and I’ll do my best to help.