Thankfully my daughter is only 8 years old at the moment – she’s is in Year 3, mid-way through her Primary School. Friends, whose children are in Year 6 and about to sit Standard Assessment Tests (SATs), also called National Curriculum Tests, have been commenting recently on how stressed their children are.
From what I understand, SATs are compulsory for all 7 and 11 year old children in UK state primary schools, and tests what they have been learning at school. SATs help teachers and parents learn what their child’s strengths and weaknesses are, how they are doing compared with their peers in their school and across the country. SATs results are also used to help headteachers, local authorities and the Department of Education to help identify how well a school is performing overall and will determine a school’s position in the national league tables.
For my daughter, her SATs in Year 2 passed by without any additional stress, as most schools and teachers tend to play them down and the children barely notice they are being tested, as at this stage the SATs are teacher assessed.
Year 6 SATs are externally set and get much more serious, with children being drilled on past papers and some schools offering after school clubs (and some even bootcamps it seems!) to help prepare the chidren for the tests in May.
My heart goes out to children in Year 6 this year, who have to contend with the additional stress of not knowing what level of achievement they are aiming for in their SATs. Not knowing is very unsettling for anyone, and especially so for Highly Sensitive Children. This is the year that a huge overhaul of SATs is taking place to coincide with the introduction of a new national curriculum. Children sitting SATs in May 2016 will be the very first to take the new SATs papers and will be setting the standard for following years. The Department of Education has released one set of practise papers, but one set doesn’t give the Year 6 children or their teachers much of an idea of what to expect.
In addition to having to sit SATs, Children in Year 6 are also in their last year of Primary School, a place they have probably been in since they were 5 years old, where teachers and friends are familiar and known quantities. They are on the cusp of leaving Primary School and joining a most likely much bigger Secondary School, full of new children and teachers and new ways of doing things, full of the UNKNOWN.
It’s a wonder that we don’t hear of groups of Year 6 children collapsing into quivering heaps in the corners of the school playground!
Here are some tips to help you help your HSC transition from the known to the unknown, with the least stress possible:
- Let your child know that they can only do their best – this is a powerfully positive message that tells your child you are expecting their best effort, but no more.
- Talk about a time in the past when you did a test or exam and how you coped or didn’t cope – the important thing here is perspective – to show your child that whatever the outcome, you moved past it and it was a small part of your long and illustrious life!
- Acknowledge that SATs can be stressful, especially this year because things are changing but everyone else in Year 6 this year is in the same boat. They are all going through it together.
- If your HSC wants to do extra work to prepare for their SATs, support them in whatever way you can, but if they really don’t want to, trust that their school is doing enough to prepare them.
- Speak to other parents of HSCs who are about to do their SATs, exchange ideas and support each other!
Starting Secondary School
- Help your child familiarise themselves with the Secondary School that they will be attending – make as many visits as you can & that your child needs.
- Find out which of your child’s friends will be going to the same school.
- Talk to the teachers/counsellors/support staff in the Secondary School about your child being Highly Sensitive and ask if they can keep an eye on your child in their early days at school.
- Plan something that your HSC will really love and look forward to doing during the Summer Holidays, so they have something other to focus on than their new school.
- Stay calm and positive about the transition yourself – your HSC will quickly pick up on any worries or concerns that you have!
If you are a parent of a Year 6 Highly Sensitive Child, good luck! Remember that their notional ‘bucket’ is going to be very full, and can mean more meltdowns, tantrums and tears. Stay strong and console yourself with the knowledge that when I’m going through all of this in 3 years time, your HSC will be nicely settled..
We’d love to hear how you are coping with this challenging year – please share some of your thoughts and tips in the comments below. And if you are a teacher guiding a current Year 6 through this process, we’d welcome your thoughts!
If it’s all getting to be too much and you’d like to connect with other parents and carers of Highly Sensitive Children, do join us for our Coffee Morning.