QTU President’s comment – 18 August 2014

Improvement in student outcomes masks growing NAPLAN disenchantment


The hard work and dedication of teachers and principals in state schools, combined with the prep year education reforms of the previous Queensland Labor government, are reflected in improvements in the 2014 National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) results announced today.

A system-wide focus on literacy and numeracy in Queensland state schools (originating from the 2011 Curriculum Roadmap1 and 2010 Teaching and Learning Audits) is having a positive impact on the outcomes of Queensland students while dramatically increasing workload and stress for teachers and principals.

As one measure of this outcome, the NAPLAN scores of Queensland students have improved significantly since the test regime was introduced in 2008. This year's results reflect the continued achievement of improved results of years 3 and 5, and to a lesser extent 7, and the deficit for the year 9 cohort which have one less year of schooling.

However, a national trend away from the emphasis on NAPLAN highlights the disenchantment felt by educators and parents with the narrow political focus on the much maligned tests. Decreasing student participation rates and increasing public criticism of the cost of the tests, the negative impacts of student wellbeing and limited value of the results produced, do much to explain this trend.

The recent debate about the relevance of NAPLAN tests has also highlighted the similarity in results between school systems despite the high price tag that comes with a private school education.2 There is evidence to suggest that the work being done in state schools is producing better results across the board as state schools do the vast majority of education for disadvantaged groups in our community.

Recent state government policies of directing additional federal government money in education, won through the Gonski campaign, into the early years (Prep to year 3) was widely welcomed in Queensland schools. Had it not been for broken promises by the Abbott government, NAPLAN could have been used to direct more of the promised Gonski funding to areas of real need in our schools.

Kevin Bates

1. DETE: School curriculum planning guide for Prep to Year 10 
2. Herald Sun: Private schools no better for NAPLAN, Aug1, 2014