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One of the realities of educators these days is that we face a never ending political involvement in what is happening in the classroom.

It’s not just that government bodies, comprised of former educators, oversee the direction of syllabus documents anymore. It’s that ‘advisors’ lay out sweeping changes to the what and how of education.The recent musings of Gonski 2.0 report are the latest in a long line of examples of political influence. To some extent, this is fair and reasonable. After all, schools are beneficiaries of government funding and ensuring high standards matters.

The NAPLAN tests emerged in this context. They represent an attempt by the federal government to quantify and monitor education – specifically, minimum standards in literacy and numeracy. On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of next week all Year 5, 7 and 9 students will be sitting the National Assessment Program, Literacy and Numeracy.

The tests include the following:

  • Tuesday 15 May: Language Conventions and Writing (Period 1 and Period 2)
  • Wednesday 16 May: Reading (Period 1-2)
  • Thursday 17 May: Numeracy (Period 1-2)

Though there is much controversy in the community about NAPLAN, the tests offer schools, parents and students a standardised way of tracking literacy and numeracy progress across key years of their schooling. Given that sound literacy and numeracy is essential in the development of higher order thinking, the College takes the view that the tests provide useful information of student ability in reading, writing, language conventions and numeracy, at a fixed point in time. The NAPLAN tests therefore, are diagnostic indicators of where students are placed in relation to others across the state, but they are not measures of student potential, nor are they able to assess how well particular students have learned and understood content across the vast suite of subjects offered at the College.

Across Australia, schools have different approaches and philosophies when it comes to NAPLAN. I am certainly aware of schools who begin NAPLAN preparation in Term 1 and who reduce learning to NAPLAN spelling lists, language convention tests and the like. Equally, I am aware of schools who actively encourage students not to sit NAPLAN because they view it as an unseemly government intrusion into the affairs of educators. At Ambrose Treacy College we take what I hope is seen as a common-sense approach. We use the NAPLAN tests to review areas of need for the boys. Indeed, it is through reviewing the relative strength of our boys across these tests, that we spotlighted the need to target writing. Much good has come of this approach.

At Ambrose Treacy College, students are prepared for NAPLAN as part of an ‘embedded’ curriculum program across subjects. Additionally, a day is set aside for students with a focus on literacy and numeracy immersions. The aim, as always, is to ensure that each student faces the test with a sense of confidence, aspiring to his personal best.

Parents of students sitting NAPLAN, can support their sons in the following ways:

• Reassure your son that the tests are useful and can inform how teachers in the future, support areas of their learning.
• Encourage a sense of perspective and ‘can do’.
• Remind your son that there is no ‘horrid outcome’ – he simply needs to do his best.
• Remind students of the importance of bringing correct equipment to each test. Calculators are needed for one of the numeracy tests in Years 7 and 9. Other equipment needed includes: pencils, pens, eraser, sharpener.
• Ensure that your son has a good night’s sleep.
• Ensure that your son has a good breakfast.
• Ensure that your son gets to school in plenty of time, to avoid rushing.
• Ensure that your son works through some of the activities on grammar, punctuation, reading, writing and numeracy as part of their homework program.

I wish all Year 5, 7 and 9 students well as they prepare to take the tests.

Kath Little
Dean of Learning