Year 6 SATs Results Explained

Pupils in state-funded primary schools in England are formally assessed via the Standard Assessment Tests (SATs) at the end of KS1 (Year 2) and KS2 (Year 6). The landscape has however changed significantly following the changes introduced from Summer 2016. Parents with children in Key Stage 2 (KS2) – School Years 3 to 6 will benefit from the important facts about the Year 6 SATs results explained in the rest of this article.

SATs and League Tables

The league tables for primary schools are based on a mix of each school’s progress scores and the average attainment of its pupils in Reading, Writing and Mathematics. Although the league tables do not include the Year 6 SATs results of any specific child, it is useful for you as a parent to understand how your own child’s results are determined. The next few paragraphs should equip you with the information you need. 

Externally vs Internally Assessed Subjects

SATs are set and marked externally for English grammar, punctuation and spelling; English reading; and Mathematics.

English writing and Science on the other hand are only assessed internally by your child’s teacher.

For English reading and Mathematics, your child will have both the externally tested SATs results and the internal teacher assessments at the end of Year 6.

Subject SATs                  

(External Tests)

Teacher Assessment


English grammar, punctuation and spelling Yes N/A
English reading Yes Yes
English writing N/A Yes
Mathematics Yes Yes
Science N/A Yes

Curriculum and Level of Challenge

SATs are now based on the new curriculum that came into effect from 2014. These new style tests are more rigorous partly because the DfE believes the increased challenge will help improve standards nationally. The parent who continues to work consistently and steadily with their child to develop effective study skills should however not have to worry about the additional challenge.

Grading of the SATs

The Year 6 SATs results are no longer based on national curriculum Levels 1-6.

Previously pupils were expected to attain a minimum of Level 4 in the Reading, Writing and Maths at the end of Year 6. Some who were above average attained Level 5 and exceptional children could sit an additional test leading to an attainment as high as Level 6.

In the new system, the Level 6 test which used to be an additional test for the most able pupils no longer exists. The SATs results obtained will let you know if your child has met (AS) or not met (NS) the expected national standard based on their scaled score. Scaled sores are between 80 (minimum) and 120 (maximum). Your child needs to have a scaled score of at least 100 in order to be deemed as working at the expected standard.

  • A scaled score of 80-99 means the child has not achieved the expected standard (NS)
  • A scaled score of 100-120 means the child has achieved the expected standard (AS)

Your child’s secondary school will also receive his/her Year 6 SATs results. In some cases the secondary school will use these results to determine the ability group that your child belongs to.

Teacher Assessments Have Changed

Teachers will continue to provide their own assessment reports but the assessment levels that were used in the past have been discontinued.

Your child’s teacher will provide his/her own assessments for English writing, English reading, Mathematics and Science. For English reading and Mathematics, the assessment is in addition to the Year 6 SATs results. They are based on the teacher’s judgement and knowledge of your child’s work over time. These are not test based; rather the assessments are part of day-to-day teaching and learning thus will include homework as well as written, verbal and practical classwork.

Assessment of English writing: this is included in the DfE’s performance tables but there is no external test. The main way in which your child will be assessed for English writing is via teacher assessments. Your child’s results will show that he/she is in one of the following categories:

  • Working below the expected level of attainment
  • Working towards the expected standard
  • Working at the expected standard
  • Working at greater depth within the expected standard

Assessment of other subjects: there are only two categories for the other subjects. A child is either working at the expected standard or not working at the expected standard.

Moderation of Teacher Assessments

Teacher assessments are based on the frameworks provided by the DfE. These guidelines ensure that the same standards of judgement are applied by teachers nationally.

It is statutory that teacher assessments are externally moderated however only a sample of them are moderated each year.

Moderation is the responsibility of the relevant local authority.

  • At least one-quarter of the primary schools eligible for moderation have their teacher assessments in English writing validated externally.
  • Each eligible school is moderated at least once in four years.

Science Results in Year 6

The result your child obtains for Science at the end of KS2 will be based on teacher assessment only. Although this subject is expected to be assessed by teachers, a school’s Science results are not included in the DfE’s league tables for primary schools.

Apart from the teacher assessments, every two years a few pupils will be randomly selected nationally to take the externally graded Science sampling tests. Only a few pupils from a few schools are selected to take the tests. In June 2018 for example, 5 students from each of 1900 randomly selected schools (a total of 9500 pupils) took the science tests. As this is biennial, no science tests are planned for 2019, the ones following the 2018 set would be in 2020.

The results from these external science tests are not given to your child or your child’s school. They are only published as national data without attribution to any specific school or pupils. Even if your child was one of those selected to take the science tests, his/her science results at the end of Year 6 will still be based on the teacher’s assessment.

SATs Format and Timing

Year 6 children will typically sit the KS2 tests in the second week of May over a 4-day period with the Year 6 SATs results released at the end of July.

SATs Test Details
English grammar, punctuation and spelling Paper 1: Questions
English grammar, punctuation and spelling Paper 2: Spelling
English reading Reading Comprehension
Mathematics Paper 1: Arithmetic
Mathematics Paper 2: Reasoning
Mathematics Paper 3: Reasoning

There are a number of ways you can support your child through this very important school year. Start off the academic year by working with your child to jointly create a vision board then set the goals that will take your child towards the vision. One of the goals you agree could be that your child will improve their study skills.

You can also help your child get familiar with the types of questions that they will find in the tests by practising ahead, using sample papers from the DfE website.

Some Implications to Consider

The New Style Year 6 SATs Results

A school can choose to give parents:

  • the scaled score only (80-120);
  • the outcome code only (AS or NS); or
  • both the scaled score (80-120) and the code (AS or NS)

Where you have only received the code AS or NS, you may have no idea how far above or below average your child’s performance is unless you ask for the scaled score. It is therefore advisable to request both the scaled score and the code from the school as this will arm you with more information and augment the support you are able to give to your child.

English Writing Assessments

A teacher’s assessment for a subject like English writing is based on the on-going homework and classwork produced by the pupil over time. Given that there is no externally graded test, your child cannot rely on a crash study programme to get a good result. It is therefore imperative that your child remains consistent and focused over the course of the academic year in order to do well, particularly if the target / goal is to be assessed as working at greater depth within the expected standard.

Recommended Materials

Some of the best materials you can use to help your son or daughter prepare for their SATS are listed here:

  • CGP produces an impressive range of resources including revision cards, practice papers, revision books and 10-minute tests.
  • Schofield and Sims also publish very useful practice papers, revision guides and 10-minute test resources.
  • The publisher, Collins produces question books, question cards and targeted practice workbooks.
  • Letts also provides books on comprehension and grammar amongst other publications.

What Can You Do to Help Your Child Improve?

In addition to getting the recommended materials, here are other ways you can support your child at this stage:

Whatever you decide, it is key to be organised and remain consistent. In my e-book for parents, I have shared from my experience how to do this and become the Parent Who Gets Things Done. Get your FREE copy today, you’ll be glad you did.


  1. Caroline

    Thank you for this useful explanation

  2. Jo

    Thank you so much, this is so helpful.

  3. Toyin Ololade

    Thank you for this information, very useful.

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