Having analysed two years of maths SATs papers, Candida Crawford shares her top tips for how to organise your revision time efficiently

No one wants Year 6 to be all about English and maths, but primary schools are still under pressure to produce good SATs results.

With this in mind, we’ve analysed all the data available from the past two years of the new national curriculum assessments, and are sharing our findings – so year 6 teachers can target their revision sessions and still have time for all the other things that make primary education wonderful.

We looked at all six papers from 2016 and 2017 and the initial sample test papers through the following lenses:

– The content domain distribution across questions (strand and curriculum year)

– The number of marks allocated per question

– The difficulty of these questions (i.e. using the national question-level analysis identifying how likely were pupils to get these questions correct)

– The logical order that a topic should be taught and its likelihood of being relevant to the greatest number of pupils (for example, place value underpins everything but will it have the biggest impact at this stage?)

 Here’s what we’ve learned.

1) These are definitely KS2 SATs not year 6 SATs

Over 59% of the questions from the 2017 SATs and 57% in the 2016 SATs covered year 3 to year 5 content. The mark allocation followed a similar pattern, so bear that in mind when you’re starting to feel the pressure. A firm grasp of the topics from the year 3 to 5 maths curriculum is as much your KS2 colleagues’ responsibility as it is yours.

2) Not all curriculum strands are created equal

As you’d expect, there is a significant emphasis on the four operations across all papers. In fact “addition, subtraction, multiplication and division” have accounted for 78 marks out of the 220 total marks in the last two SATs.

The next highest strands on the list are “fractions, decimals and percentages” which have been worth 48 marks and number and place value (27 marks).

To put this in context mastery of “geometry – position and direction” would only have earned a pupil a total of four points overall over the past two years.

3) Make fractions a priority this year

If you have any doubts on your children’s ability to deal with fractions, now’s the time to make it a focus of your lessons. Examiners seem to love setting all types of fractions questions, yet pupils are still struggling.

For example, question 21 from paper three in 2017, requiring filling in a sequence of mixed fractions, was only answered correctly by 39% of pupils.

The key to this is building confidence with all aspects of fractions, not to mention a thorough knowledge of times tables.

 4) Your pupils find ratio and proportion and proportion really difficult

The test framework outlines four areas under ratio and proportion: relative sizes and similarity, use of percentages for comparison, scale factors, and unequal sharing and grouping.

In papers two and three in 2017 (reasoning), three of the worst-answered questions incorporated three of these four areas within ratio and proportion. Indeed only 35% of children answered question 24 on paper two correctly. Poor performance on this question may also be due to the question’s position towards the end of the paper, where children often run out steam.

5) SATs questions are not getting any harder

As the new curriculum beds in, and as each year 6 has had more experience in the fluency, problem solving and reasoning required for KS2 SATs success, their ability to tackle the test questions seems to be improving (or the examiners have simply pitched the questions at a more accessible level).

For instance in 2016 one in 10 questions left almost half the pupils (45%) unable to answer it correctly. In 2017 this number had reduced to one in 20 questions.

6) Arithmetic is the key to SATs success

In KS2 SATs, the arithmetic paper accounts for 36% of a child’s overall KS2 maths SATs raw score, that’s already 40 out of 110 marks. To put this in context, in 2017, only 57 out of 110 marks was required to meet the expected standard of 51.8% and gain a scaled score of 100.

Children who score well in the arithmetic paper are also usually more likely to score well in their reasoning papers and achieve the expected standard.

7) There is a best fit order for teaching your SATs lessons

Once we’d crunched all that data, this is the final order I recommend as a starting point to schools following a revision programme. The numbers refer to their total marks on 2016 and 2017 SATs papers. 

Start with multiplication (20 marks), then adding and subtracting whole numbers (19), fractions of shapes, quantities and amounts (15), then move onto adding and subtracting decimals (14).

Combine our 7 SATs insights with the incredible knowledge you already have about your pupils’ gaps, their attitudes, and the support they need over the next few weeks, you don’t have a silver bullet. But you do have a great chance to help those pupils shine!

Candida Crawford is curriculum lead at Third Space Learning, which provides one-to-one maths tuition and personalised teaching to primary schools across the UK