We live in a testing culture. Before they reach secondary school, state school pupils in England will have undertaken the following assessments:

  • AGE 5/6 – Year 1 phonics screening check
  • AGE 6/7 – Year 2 SATS in Maths, Reading and Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling (plus the phonics check again if they didn’t pass first time)
  • AGE 8/9 – Year 4 online times table check (NEW)
  • AGE 10/11 – Year 6 SATS in Reading, Maths and Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling

These are just the statutory non-negotiable assessments. Take in to account the thousands of children sitting the 7+ and the 11+, not to mention the internal testing done in schools, your child should be a pro at testing by the age of 12.

But as a teacher and a parent, I wonder whether how these tests are affecting our kids… and how we can support them so they can undertake them in a calm and positive way. Here are Bella Learning’s top tips:

1. Frame the tests in a positive light

How you frame the tests in general conversation will have a huge impact on how the child sees them. Whilst you may think they are a waste of time and not important, telling your child this isn’t particularly helpful, given that they don’t have a choice in the matter and as they get older, the results of the tests they sit can shape their future. On the other side, try to avoid pressure or over-revising. Children learn and perform best in a supportive but relaxed environment.

2. Get mindful

Whether your child feels anxious or not during tests, mindfulness is a fantastic skill to practise. Quietening the mind and relaxing the body helps children to feel comfortable and perform their best and it has been shown to improve concentration. Download some meditation tracks to do before bed time or as a family – or join our special workshop with psychologist Louise from ‘Calm Strong Minds’ called ‘Learning Mindfully‘ on the 24th February in Chislehurst.

3. Help them to prepare

There are many things you can do to prepare your child practically. Help them make a manageable timetable for revision, ensure they have a comfortable place to study in the home, make sure they sleep well and have a good diet. Lots of positive praise for their hard work can also work wonders for their motivation. For example, you could leave little notes of affirmation around the house for them to find.

4. Discuss other things that matters

Whether they are ‘academic’ or not, help your child to understand that these tests are only assessing a particular part of the curriculum. While it’s important they do their best, keep perspective about how important they actually are. Remind them that they might excel in areas of other learning – sport, music, dance, relationships, humour etc. For younger children, an ‘all about me’ book can be a helpful way to celebrate non-academic strengths.

5. Be proud

Don’t forget to tell your kids how proud you are of them and that you will celebrate their achievements in all areas of learning and support them however they perform in tests.

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