As a school leader, you won’t need to be reminded that May is SATs month.
These national tests, taken twice during a pupil’s primary school life, are fuelled with controversy. Many educators are concerned that young children are suffering from mental health issues and stress. Others argue, meanwhile, that SATs are an integral part of the education process, and will prepare students for formal assessments like GCSEs and A-levels.
You may not, however, have considered how SATs can impact the health and wellbeing of teaching staff. According to a YouGov poll of heads and deputy heads, 89% believe KS2 SATs cause stress in teachers’ working lives. And anxious teachers can negatively impact your school’s SATs results.
So, here’s how to keep your teachers SATs-happy this year:
Allow maximum flexibility
While the KS2 SATs are more formal, the KS1 SATs are assessed purely by your teachers. There is no external marking, except occasionally for moderation. This may be stressful for your staff, but it can be empowering, too.
Ultimately, your teachers know your pupils’ needs best. By giving them more flexibility on how to teach, assess and report in the run-up to the SATs, they will apply the most appropriate learning processes and educational techniques. Whether this is online assessment, paper-based reporting or a combination of both, let your teachers decide.
“A stressed and panicked teacher creates stressed and panicked children and that’s not going to get the results you or your SLT want to see.” Doodlemaths
By giving your staff increased flexibility, they can do what they do best in a way they believe will benefit their students. Whilst improving their job satisfaction at the same time.
Make time for mindfulness
Mindfulness is perhaps an overused buzzword at the moment, but the concept is a powerful one.
SATs can be a stressful time for teachers, but so can teaching in general. Discussing anxieties and concerns has proven to help with such workplace stress. Anxious teaching staff could, therefore, benefit from a comfortable space in your school to speak openly about mental health.
The Thriving Teachers programme, for example, consists of 10 half-hour workshops. It discusses ways to recognise feelings of stress, warning signs of depression and cultivating optimism. Management techniques include good nutrition, sleep and exercise.
Unfortunately, general admin is important for overall school management, data protection and reporting. Yet, for your teaching staff these processes are often manual, laborious and perceived as superfluous.
In the run-up to the SATs, why not consider which processes are most important and relax the rules on less-essential administrative tasks? That way, your teachers have one less thing to think about during this stressful time.
Better yet, consider a longer-term investment in time-saving educational technologies, like a Promethean ActivPanel. An interactive front-of-class panel that supports online assessment and general data entry gives your teachers more time to teach, and less time wasted handling paperwork.
Encourage post-SATs positivity
Moods are infectious, so it is important to recognise and celebrate the positives of a stressful time like SATs. Not only for the pupils but for your staff, too.
Encourage your teachers to think of something fun to do with the pupils after their tests. Whether it’s a field trip or an afternoon of educational games, your staff will benefit from the temporary wind down as much as the students.
Finally, discuss what went well with this year’s SATs with your teachers. Such exercises help your staff recognise the rewarding nature of their jobs whilst improving your schools overall results.