NAPLAN results round out poor grades

Katina Curtis
(Australian Associated Press)


The federal education minister wants parents to dream bigger for their children.

After three dismal reports on the academic performance of Australian students, Simon Birmingham believes the important role of parental influence on a child’s ambitions must be recognised.

“Parents are the first educators … and the expectations and ambitions they set, the level of engagement in areas like early reading is absolutely critical to the success of children,” he told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.

“Just reading to your kids for 15 to 20 minutes a day when they’re young can equate to 500 hours of reading experience they’ve had by the time they start school, which gives them a greater vocabulary.”

The release on Tuesday of the final 2016 NAPLAN results rounds out a trio of recent report cards on Australian students and the grade is not great.

The results from literacy and numeracy testing of students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 earlier in the year confirm that achievement has largely stagnated.

Results have improved since NAPLAN testing began in 2008 and there are bright spots in some areas, says the Australian Curriculum and Reporting Authority.

But chief executive Robert Randall says with no significant improvements across the board in recent years, Australia should expect more for its children.

“We need to raise our expectations and strive for improved results across the board,” he said.

Pressed on what governments could do to get parents better involved, Senator Birmingham pointed to the Learning Potential app, downloaded “by many thousands of families” and offering ideas for activities families can do together.

The NAPLAN report, which is largely similar to August’s preliminary results, comes on the heels of two international studies showing Australia lagging behind in maths and science education.

Senator Birmingham says the cumulative results show Australia has a strong school system but needs to make sure funding is being spent on things proven to lift results.

Education ministers meet on Friday to discuss a new deal on school funding, expected to be finalised next year and start from 2018.

Senator Birmingham wants his state and territory counterparts to agree to tests for Year 1 students, minimum school leaver standards and better teacher training in exchange for commonwealth money.

“It’s not acceptable to keep doing more of the same, which for the last 20 years has been to simply increase funding but not focus on how it’s spent,” he said.

Labor education spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek says the trio of reports released over the past few weeks show disadvantaged children are still struggling at school, making it vital that governments boost funding to poorer schools.


* Reading for Years 3 and 5 better than 2008 but no improvement from 2015

* Spelling, grammar and punctuation for Year 3 better than 2008 but no improvement from 2015

* Numeracy for Year 5 better than 2008 but no improvement from 2015

* Writing for Year 9 worse than comparable tests in 2011

* Only Years 3 and 5 have significantly higher proportion of students meeting national minimum standards than in 2008

* WA and Queensland made higher gains than other jurisdictions

* ACT, NSW and Victoria still have highest average achievement in Years 3, 5 and 7.


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