National reading and numeracy tests – 5 things parents can do

The kids are back in school after what was (hopefully) a lovely Easter break in some pretty decent sunshine. Now attention turns to the national reading and numeracy tests which are due to start in a week or so. You don’t read quite as much about the Welsh tests as you do about the SATs that take place in England around the same time. SATs have been hugely controversial and I have read some very powerful articles written by parents who claim that their children are ‘wilting’ under the pressure.  However, there have been calls by parents for the Welsh tests to be scrapped as well, especially for younger children.


National Reading and Numeracy Tests

As a parent you have several options. Here are 5 of them!


5 things parents can do about national reading and numeracy tests


  1. Do nothing whatsoever. You have the option of doing nothing. For some parents this means taking their children out of school on the day of the test and refusing to participate. This may work for younger children. It’s harder for older children because they will be very aware of what is going on and may want to talk to you about it. You can hardly refuse to do so!
  2. The minimalist approach. You make sure that your child is in school on the day that the tests take place. You want them to be fed and rested, you will have tackled any anxieties that they have. This may mean playing down the importance of the tests if they have been hyped up by their peers, or even the school. You leave all academic matters to the teachers.
  3. Get active in the process. Some parents take on a more ‘active’ role. You can access huge quantities of resources on the web to help your child prepare for the tests. In the weeks leading up to the tests you can work through a few past papers with them so that they get used to the style of the questions. They will probably be doing some past test papers in school as well.
  4. The ‘I’m all over this’ approach. This approach is best adopted a few months prior to the tests. You can track down resources to help with national reading and numeracy tests and work through them with your child. BBC Bitesize is an old favourite as is Sum Dog. You can use SATs papers (which are the English version of the test) to get some more test practice.
  5. Get someone else to do it. Finally, there is the ‘full on’ approach where you effectively coach your child in test technique, spend hours poring over test questions and hundreds of pounds on private tutors!

Pick what works best for your child

So, what is the best approach? There isn’t one. You have to pick what works best for your child. The approach for a child in Year 2 may be entirely different to a child in Year 6. By the age of 11 years, a child is capable of understanding what the test results will be used for – especially as they make the transition to high school. For anxious children you may need to play them down. For children who can’t be bothered you may want to stir things up a bit!

As things stand,  a child’s academic attainment is mainly recorded via tests and exams. Learning how to play the game is an important skill. The age at which children should learn that skill is open to debate.

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  36 comments for “National reading and numeracy tests – 5 things parents can do

  1. April 26, 2017 at 2:03 pm

    Rightly or not, ive got no concerns whatsoever about SATS. Our 7 year old is a bright girl but even if she wasnt, i wouldnt be mentioning them to her at all. I know that her teacher wont be putting undue pressure on either. Theres a place for tests and knowing the impact results will have and a 7 year old doesnt need to immerse themselves in that unnecessary pressure yet! As long as shes happy, so am i!
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  2. April 26, 2017 at 6:12 pm

    Personally I think that STATS are a waste of everyone’s time, it can cause unnecessary stress to children and do the results really mean anything?
    Karen, the next best thing to mummy recently posted…How I achieved an outstanding ofsted gradeMy Profile

    • April 27, 2017 at 11:02 am

      I know a lot of parents feel the same way Karen but I have a feeling they are here to stay – at least for a while. 🙂

  3. May 2, 2017 at 10:55 am

    We were lucky enough to never feel any particular SATs stress with my elder 3.School had a great approach with having all the kids in for breakfast together each morning before the tests and a treat week the week after. I can understand concerns if your child is a little more anxious though. As you say, only you know the right direction to take for your child #TweensTeensBeyond
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  4. Fee
    May 2, 2017 at 1:47 pm

    We take the minimalist approach. Our eldest needs no encouragement as she’s a bit of a smarty pants and always does really well. Our youngest does fine but if he feels under pressure at all he panics and does worse than usual. So we put no pressure on him at all and just tell him not to worry about them. It seems to do the trick for him.
    Fee recently posted…Fight Or Flight? Arguing With TeensMy Profile

  5. May 2, 2017 at 6:59 pm

    Having taught in year 6 last year, I witnessed the effects of SATS on those 11 year olds firsthand. I’d love them to be scrapped completely as the children really feel the pressure, but that doesn’t look likely so in the meantime these tips are great to help parents manage the situation. For the younger ones, I feel it is always best to not make a big thing about them at all. Some parents may choose to not even acknowledge them to their kids, which is what I did. We didn’t even mention them and they seemed to go almost unnoticed. But some children will need to be a bit prepared so as to avoid undue anxiety. Great post #TweensTeensBeyond

    • May 8, 2017 at 11:18 am

      Yes I agree. For some kids, doing nothing actually makes them more stressed! Thanks so much for commenting 🙂

  6. May 2, 2017 at 7:12 pm

    As a teacher I can safely say that SATs say more about the school than the children. They are a terrible way to assess such young children. In fact, don’t get me started… advice? Don’t stress about them. At. All. They tell teachers nothing about your child that they don’t already know and ruin the very nature of the primary curriculum. However, they are here to stay so tell your child it does not matter what they get but that they should try their best. #tweensteensbeyond.

    • May 8, 2017 at 11:19 am

      This is true – they are used in Wales to rank schools (amongst other things) and this can ramp up the pressure. Thanks so much for commenting 🙂

  7. May 2, 2017 at 9:10 pm

    ‘Old House in the Shires’ you took the words right out of my mouth! The SATs are purely to place the school in a league table; something I repeatedly told both my children as they went through them. The primary curriculum is abysmal now because of them, and most teachers see no use in them whatsoever. When children go up to secondary school the staff there groan because the results the children arrive with are false – they’ve simply been trained to answer SATs questions. Within a few weeks the secondary schools give the children their own tests anyway. Bring back the fun, spontaneity and rounded curriculum in primary school is what I say!! #TweensTeensBeyond
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    • May 8, 2017 at 11:20 am

      I know! It’s the old debate about are we educating children or are we teaching them to pass tests!? Thanks so much for commenting 🙂

  8. May 2, 2017 at 9:23 pm

    My son is autistic and very accademic. He likes structure, order and not too much noise. SATS week was his favourite week in the whole time he was at primary school. We took a very minimalist approach with our other kids and explained that SATS were more about testing the school than testing them, as a way of taking off the pressure. The school was great and tried to make the week as much fun outside the SATS tests as possible. I just hate the fact that kids now leave primary school with one of three labels “exceeding expected levels”, “achieving expected levels” or “below expected levels”. There will be many kids who have worked their socks off only to receive that last label – how demotivating must that be for an 11 year old child! #TweensTeensBeyond
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    • May 8, 2017 at 11:22 am

      Ahh I couldn’t agree more! I hate the labeling – especially at such as young age and I fear that it puts some children off education before it’s even started because they think they are no good at it! Thanks so much for commenting 🙂

  9. May 3, 2017 at 10:30 am

    Oh I had forgotten about the terrors of SATS. To be honest I think I downplayed it as just another test that actually said more about the school than them. Schools seem to test on such a regular basis nowadays for so many things that my teens just took in their stride. But generally my approach is always do your best that is all we ask. A very balanced review Sharon. #TweensTeensBeyond
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  10. May 3, 2017 at 11:48 am

    We thought the SATS were a waste of time, but decided the best thing to do was not to make a big thing of them, just let the Tubblet do them like everyone else. We always tell her that we don’t mind so much abut the results, but we do care about her doing her best and putting the work in.
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  11. May 3, 2017 at 11:51 am

    Great post! I totally agree there is no right or wrong approach, it’s what works best for you as everyone is different x #TweensTeensBeyond

    • May 8, 2017 at 11:24 am

      Thanks Sharon. My three kids have all been different and reacted in different ways. Thanks so much for commenting. 🙂

  12. May 3, 2017 at 11:59 am

    When my eldest daughter done her SATs way back when, I was one of the mums out buying all the revision/worksheets under the sun for her to practice, after all she was clearly Einstein in the making!!! now we are on child no 3 about to take hers, I only buy if she asks! I put no pressure on her at all regarding these tests, what will be will be. She is nervous about them but to be honest and they seem to have a habit of comparing scores as the teacher always reads them out loud to the class, which has always been a bugbear of mine. Anyway, my two older ones have told her not to worry, she will be retested at Secondary! (Reassuring!) the way I look at it, if it was judged on effort alone my daughter would be tops. I tell all my kids you only ever get out what you put in, its down to you.
    Sharon recently posted…Nightmare on Wheels aka The School RunMy Profile

    • May 8, 2017 at 11:26 am

      I wouldn’t like the reading out of results either! That’s not exactly a great way to boost self-esteem is it! Thanks so much for commenting 🙂

  13. May 3, 2017 at 1:46 pm

    I think these tests are useful, but need to become a smaller piece of the overall evaluation. Way too much emphasis is put on these tests instead of looking at the child’s overall academic performance and trends #teenstweensbeyond
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    • May 8, 2017 at 11:27 am

      I agree. A good teacher will know what a kid is capable of without tests but I fear tests are here to stay for a while. Thanks so much for commenting 🙂

  14. May 3, 2017 at 3:08 pm

    I hope the week is going well for your daughter Sharon. As you know, we have the SATs next week and are very much in the playing it down camp. Not because we don’t care – we very much do care -but are well aware of the need to exercise some caution around this time. A great post, so very relevant and sound advice from someone with first hand experience. #ttb
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    • May 8, 2017 at 11:28 am

      Thanks Nicky. Ours are nearly over now and I don’t feel any permanent damage has been done! Good luck for your! xx

  15. May 3, 2017 at 9:18 pm

    My daughter is in an ‘in between’ year so she is still tested but it’s only for school benchmarking. Last year, when the SATs changed, our school held big hand-wringing meetings about how hard the SATs had become and got people very worked up about it. My daughter remembered that and was asking me about it this week. I wish I had Oldhouseintheshires response to give her. As it was, I just said that she shouldn’t worry too much. She’s a smarty pants anyway and gets geeky delight out of tests so all was fine. There is no way I’d tutor her for SATs! But the 11+ is just around the corner and I think that’ll be another kettle of fish!

    • May 8, 2017 at 11:29 am

      That’s really interesting. We don’t have the 11+ in Wales so that’s one thing I don’t have to worry about – thank goodness!! Thanks so much for commenting. 🙂

  16. May 4, 2017 at 1:54 pm

    I went for a hands off approach and fortunately my youngest wasn’t worried by them but she’s 19 and I think there was less pressure back when she was young. My eldest just avoided them, as when introduced they were seen as more of a check on teachers’ performance than pupils’, and her school boycotted them #tweensteensbeyond
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    • May 8, 2017 at 11:30 am

      I agree Mary. I think they are more of a ‘thing’ now. I don’t remember my eldest doing them! Thnks so much for commenting. 🙂

  17. Nige
    May 4, 2017 at 8:29 pm

    Brilliant advice Sharon I have been though this three times already and got two more to come gluten for punishment haha! With my older children the approach was always different. But usually got the right result.
    Interestingly they are testing 6 year olds in Wales I was BBC radio Wales last Friday discussing it. I am utterly opposed to testing 6 year olds I think it’s far to young.
    Great tips and advice Sharon and a great read thanks for hosting #tweensteensandbeyond

    • May 8, 2017 at 11:31 am

      I suspect you are right Nigel. It would be such a disaster to label a 6 year old in terms of academic ability – they all develop at such different rates. Thanks so much for commenting. 🙂

  18. May 5, 2017 at 4:30 pm

    #TweensTeensBeyond as a parent and a teacher I’d advise no 6. say nothing, just let them do the test in school and don’t make an ordeal out of it
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