We all know that KS2 SATs can be a daunting time for children as they are their first proper formal tests. The pressure of them can have an impact on children’s mental health and be a source of anxiety, so it’s extremely important to promote and support positive mental health and wellbeing.
Signs to look for
Young children often find it difficult to verbalise their feelings and don’t often recognise when they are experiencing anxiety. They may not understand what’s happening and to them it may just feel different, uncomfortable or scary. Stress in children can manifest as changes in their typical behaviour. They may become:
- show anger or irritability
- change eating or sleeping patterns
- become fidgety, finding it hard to concentrate, and/or
- express worry or negative thoughts.
Reducing children's anxiety
Pupils may develop negative attitudes to school and their own abilities due to the pressure of SATs. This can include negative self-talk, such as “I’m stupid” or “nothing is fun anymore”. Remember to tell them how well they’re doing! Your pupils may not show it, but they may need to hear that you’re proud of their efforts to help keep them motivated.
Children often put pressure on themselves to achieve self-imposed targets and they may compete against others to be the best - don’t add to the pressure. Let them know early on that whatever happens, you are proud of them and that teachers just want them to do their best.
To a child that is fully immersed in SATs, it can seem like the most important thing in the world. Remind them that whilst they should try their best, nothing bad will happen if they don’t get the results they want in their SATs - it won't affect what school they go to.
Teacher wellbeing during SATs
It's not just children who may be anxious during SATs - they can also have an impact on teacher wellbeing. Teachers hold a lot of responsibility and become emotionally invested in the children they teach.
Children know when teachers are feeling anxious. Try to stay calm and positive during SATs – modelling this will help your pupils remain calm. Don’t overwork yourself - make sure you get enough sleep, eat well and plan time to relax. Remember that while you can do a lot for your pupils, you can't do it all – regularly remind yourself how hard you and your children have worked.
For more information and practical tools to support pupils during their SATs, visit Young Minds - Staying mentally healthy during exams.
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