Spelling out the ABC’s of NAPLAN

By Mary Ryan

Its NAPLAN time again and the first thing you need to remember is that your child isn’t the first and won’t be the last to sit the test. Whether you agree with NAPLAN or not really doesn’t matter.

The fact is that at the moment, it is here to stay. So the question then becomes, how do you use the experience as a teaching tool for your child?

Firstly you need to accept that adversity isn’t bad, it’s actually incredibly important for children to face difficulties in their lives, to feel uncomfortable, nervous and challenged.

Parents are absolutely vital in teaching skills to children to manage these emotions and NAPLAN can be a great opportunity to practice these skills and build resilience.

So what is NAPLAN?

The National Assessment Program Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) was introduced in 2008 to measure educational outcomes in literacy and numeracy across the whole of Australia. Prior to that, individual states did their own standardised testing.

Basically it allows schools, systems of schools, like Sydney Catholic Schools and governments to have comparative data across the country, they look for trends, discrepancies, educational challenges and inequities.

This matters because of a child’s right to equity and access to excellence in education.

How do schools use NAPLAN?

Schools use the data generated by NAPLAN in a number of ways. Firstly, schools triangulate the data, which basically means that data from many sources, including NAPLAN, informs individual, class and school planning for teaching and learning.

NAPLAN results are used as data to inform school strategic directions and staff professional learning. NAPLAN is the responsibility of all teachers in schools and growth between tests is an important piece of information collected by the testing. It enables schools to reflect on teaching across all years.

Schools need to give students the opportunity to practice the test format. For most schools NAPLAN is completed online and children need to become familiar with the format. You can use The Public Demonstration Site with your child or to see what the format is like for yourself.

What should parents do?

Parents need to stay calm, keep perspective and use language that is reassuring. Maybe the most important factor to remember is your own response to the upcoming NAPLAN testing.

If you are nervous about the test, drilling your child with NAPLAN quizzes or just making a big fuss about it being unnecessary, you need to stop. Some ‘anti naplanners’ advocate removing your child from the test.

I disagree, what can you teach your child about life challenges through experiences like NAPLAN? Remind your child that children all over Australia do the test, tell them they are helping to make sure that all children in Australia are getting the education they deserve.

Tell them the information is really helpful in finding their own learning strengths and challenges. Remind them that they will be fine and that it is just a point in time.

Practically speaking, do your best to ensure they have a good night’s sleep, eat some breakfast and have some healthy snacks and water organised for the day. Most importantly, ensure they are on time to school. This may seem logical, but nothing will cause greater stress for your child than being late for school on the days of the testing. Going into the test in a calm and timely manner will help them to perform at their best.

Some other things to know.

You can withdraw your child from the test for philosophical reasons, and some children can be exempt because of English language proficiency or disability. However, there are adjustments that can be made for disability to encourage maximum participation in the tests.

If you have any concerns about your child or questions about NAPLAN, the best advice is to talk to the school. Your child’s classroom teacher or someone from the leadership team will be able to answer your questions and work with you to get the best outcome for your child.

Finally, remember that this is just a point in time in your child’s life, one of the many challenges they will face as they head on their journey to adulthood.
But they’ll be okay …. because they have you.