As a former primary school teacher, I think it is entirely unnecessary and inappropriate to make children undertake revision for the SATs children take in Year 2 and Year 6 of primary school, even more so during the holidays.
It’s easy to forget that SATs are designed to measure pupil progress. Additional revision outside school means that teachers won’t get a realistic idea of how your children are progressing. SATs aren’t qualifications: they’re guidelines for schools and teachers, to help them plan how best to support children during their time at school.
MPs and headteachers have repeatedly said that SATs are putting too much pressure on pupils and causing them unnecessary stress. For parents to add to it is unforgiveable.
For young children, holidays and half-terms should be about be about activities, family time and, most importantly, fun.
Tutoring for SATs is an even worst idea an could even harm their education. It could push children way beyond what they are capable of during the school day. This could cause children real problems as they move from primary to secondary school as secondaries use KS2 SATs results to place pupils in attainment-based maths and English sets. Children who are placed in sets which are ‘too high’ may struggle to keep up, and lose confidence. It can take time for teachers to place them in the set that matches their abilities.
Instead of revision or tutoring for primary-age children, my tips for holiday learning are:
- Allow for free, undirected time for children to play with friends and siblings.
- They will find creative ways to pass the time, which is a skill in and of itself.
- Most learning during term time takes place inside, but some of the best learning happens outside the classroom.
- Get out into the park, go for walks, explore forests and gardens, go rock-pooling, beach-combing, metal-detecting, geo-caching (outdoor treasure-hunting) – whatever! Children learn loads when they’re exploring outside!
- Check out pinterest for some great art/cooking ideas for rainy days.
Of course, when it comes to GCSE and A-level preparation at secondary school, revision is definitely effective. But the time spent on swotting should be agreed with the student rather than dictated to them, and how that time is managed should be the responsibility of the children themselves (not to say that adult assistance with this isn’t often necessary or helpful).
Here are my tips for exam preparation without tears:
- Help your child to make a written/drawn weekly planner, or use a physical calendar/diary. They should plan to do a little each day, ensuring that the revision is varied.
- Recommend that they use a countdown timer. Suggest that they revise in blocks of no more than 25 minutes, and plan for short five-minute breaks after each block (three-to-four a day at the most in the holidays). Ideally, get them out of the way in the morning (after a lie-in!), in a single session rather than split up throughout the day. That’s just too dispiriting.
- Students should tick off each revision task on their planner – it feels great and they can see what they’ve achieved!
- Help children avoid procrastination by ensuring they have a tidy, light, clean, dedicated space to study. A corner of a dining room table is fine as long as it’s kept clear and ready to work at.
- Create an environment where they can work quietly without distraction. Instruct younger siblings to stay away; quiet music, ideally without vocals, in the background can act a bit like ‘white noise’ and help with focusing on revision, and masking distracting background sounds.
Oli Ryan is a former teacher and now works at Plan
Bee, which produces ready-to-use lesson plans for