Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Thankful for my Children’s School….but not the NAPLAN

Today I have been thinking about schools and education….

…. I have been mulling it over in my head because this week,  my oldest daughter Flash (9) is sitting her first standardized tests; the National Assessment Program in Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN).

As it is my first experience parenting a child  through a standardised test, I have not really been sure what to expect. I have tried to extract information from my daughter but most of the time she has not seemed willing to talk much about it…I know that there was an exposition to write about food and she knew how to spell ‘vegetable’…

I haven’t pushed the point because after spending a large part of the school day sitting multiple tests…the last thing a 9 year old would want is to be grilled about it by her mum!...I’ll have  another go at getting some of her thoughts on the weekend….but I can tell that that this has certainly been a stressful and un-enjoyable experience for her. I have to say that after today I am thankful that the NAPLAN is over.

According to the NAPLAN website, these tests are important because...

“…NAPLAN tests are run every year to provide policy makers, schools, and parents with important information about how well students are performing in key areas of literacy and numeracy….”

I didn’t experience this sort of testing when I was in year 3. These tests have been run for only the last few years. The schools I attended were in country town NSW. A town where unemployment and  poverty, were very high. I think it is fair to say that it was an area of lower socio-economic standard than I live in today.

I am being completely honest when I say that the school was terribly under resourced. Of course at the time, it was all that I had known. But now, when I see the school that my children attend, the vast range of equipment, resources and opportunities they have…than the difference is wide and gaping!

I was able to finish school, go on to university and achieve a PhD in Medical Research. I think I  was able to achieve a score high enough to study science at university largely due to the support of my mum and my internal drive.

 I do truly believe that myself and my cohort were just as capable as a children attending a Canberra private school….but the difference in university entrance scores is staggering! A student attending my old school would find it extremely difficult if not impossible to achieve a high enough entrance score to pursue medicine, law or any of those type of university courses straight from school.

If there is anything useful to come out of the NAPLAN tests than I hope that differences in literacy and numeracy will be detected at year 3…where there’s still time to improve,…rather than waiting for the university entrance scores. I hope that the schools that perform poorly at the NAPLAN tests get the funding, resources and support that they require to increase the levels of literacy and numeracy in their students so that they will have the opportunities to attend university, just like their counterparts form more advantaged schools.

Unfortunately, I think the NAPLAN is abused. I have heard stories of some schools drilling their students on the test for weeks, even months prior to the test. There are books and websites available to help parents coach their child for the tests. I have heard that some selective high schools are using the results to choose their students. The results are used to create ‘league tables’ in the Newspapers.  I don’t think the NAPLAN should be used for these purposes at all.

Getting good results in one test should not be the measure of a good education. The test does not measure things like the school community, a love of learning, art, science, music or sport. I hope that the all students are able to experience these wonderful aspects of schools as well as the NAPLAN.

In my experience with my daughter this year, I can say that the school has prepared her for the NAPLAN. They have had several practices and the children have been shown what is expected of them in the test.  I am thankful for this because it would be awful to be comforted with the NAPLAN with out any preparation. However, My daughter has also had a rich education in that she is learning Indonesian, taking part in music and art lessons, she has joined the school choir and of course participated highly in school sport.

Today I am thankful for the school that my children attend think they have managed the NAPLAN well. I am thankful for the rich and diverse education they are receiving and I can see that it is vastly superior to the education I received in year three.

Personally, I have not liked sending my daughter off to school this week knowing she has the NAPLAN waiting for her. I think the NAPLAN as been abused and is not being used for the purpose in which it was intended.  I believe there is so much more to education.

However, since I do not really have a choice…the NAPLAN is here weather I like it or not, I hope that some good can come form the NAPLAN. I hope that resources can be given to schools that will be identified as really needing support so that all children have a chance at fulfilling their potential.

I'm sharing this post over at  Thankful Thursday on the Kate Says Stuff Blog. You can head over there to read some inspiring posts!


  1. Oh I could write an essay about why I dislike the NAPLAN. About how schools deliberately exclude and train students. About why I think this kind of testing is wholly inappropriate especially for the Grade 3's taking part.

    Instead I will say I am grateful that our new school left the decision to us as to whether our son with additional needs took part or not. And that he has seemed to cope well so far.

    1. Thanks Kate. I really agree with you and I don't like the NAPLAN at all. I just hope some good can come from it in the way of extra support to disadvantaged schools.

      I'm glad your boy is coping well so far. It must be quite stressful for all the kids.

  2. I have heard some interesting debates about the NAPLAN this week. On a whole, I really disagree with standardised testing. Children learn differently, at different rates, and it is really becoming a huge part of our decision on where to send Nick. I want to send him to montessori if we can afford it. Unfortunately they're still subject to these tests as well, but the school is so small, I'm not sure how it counts/works/etc. There has to be other ways to see how kids and teachers are doing throughout the year rather than putting them through this kind of testing stress. Not everyone is a good test taker, and just because they don't get the grades, doesn't mean they don't know their stuff (in my experience and opinion). Glad it is over for your daughter. And I agree with Kate, grade 3 is way too young to be subject to this crap.

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comment! You make a very good point about those kids who are not good at doing tests..I agree that there must be a better way to see how the students and teachers are faring than these tests.

  3. Hooray for the end of NAPLAN!
    As a teacher it is excruciating watching some children struggle each day this week.
    It goes against my every instinct to NOT assist a student who is having difficulty, misunderstanding or even just making a careless error.

    As you say, unfortunately, it's part of our education system right now though.
    :-) x

    1. Thanks so much for your lovely comment :) It must be so difficult not to assist a student and to watch some of the littleies struggle. I feel a sense of relief that it is over...and my daughter was so happy for it to be over too!

  4. NAPLAN sounds like what we in the UK call SATS. It was a complete disaster from the beginning, forcing teachers to concentrate not on what they were teaching but on how the results might affect the school's ranking in the country. thank goodness they've gone back to simply teaching.