Australia’s primary school students – take a bow. It has been a tough 18 months of interrupted schooling, but 2021 NAPLAN test results show that primary students have actually gained the equivalent of a term’s worth of learning in maths and English since national testing started 13 years ago.
New NAPLAN (National Assessment Program in Literacy and Numeracy) data from this year’s test in May reveals improvements in reading, spelling and grammar for students in Years 3 and 5, and in numeracy, reading and spelling for Year 5 students – despite school closures during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Results in all other fields and year levels were little changed from the previous NAPLAN test in 2019.
Noting concerns about the ongoing impact of school closures on young people, particularly on their mental health, Federal Education Minister Alan Tudge hailed* teachers and the “resilience” of the 1.2 million students who sat the national tests.
“We need to continue to focus on getting Australians vaccinated, so we can get schools open and kids back into the classroom, back into sport and back with their friends and extended family,” he said.
Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) chief executive David de Carvalho said the pandemic had “no significant impact’’ on students’ maths and English skills up to Year 9.
“It’s the good news many of us need to hear right now,” de Carvalho said.
“It’s reassuring to see that overall, our students’ literacy and numeracy standards have not significantly suffered … despite the disruption from Covid-19 and the remote learning experience.
“Some might find this (result) surprising, but it’s important to note this is big picture data and there are likely to be some students who have been affected.”
De Carvalho said the results were “testament* to the resilience of students, teachers, parents and carers, and school and system leaders during these challenging times.’’
This year’s NAPLAN test – for students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 – was the first since 2019, after Covid-19 lockdowns forced the cancellation of the national exams in 2020.
Parents will be sent details of their child’s results from mid-September, with each state and territory to set a date.
Details of how the pandemic has affected girls and boys, Indigenous children, kids from migrant backgrounds and those from poorer families will be made public in December.
According to de Carvalho, children in Years 3 and 5 gained a term’s worth of learning in reading, while kids in Years 5, 7 and 9 had gained the equivalent of a term’s worth of learning in maths since NAPLAN tests began in 2008.
It was not all good news. Writing standards have fallen over the past decade for Year 9 students in Victoria, Queensland and the ACT, for Year 7 students in Queensland and Year 5 students in the ACT.
The NAPLAN data also shows that one in every 16 students is starting high school without meeting the basic standard for reading – the same result as in 2008.
One in 10 kids is failing to write to the minimum literacy standard during the first year of high school, but students fall further behind over time, with one in six Year 9 students unable to write to a basic level.
Year 7 kids have also gone backwards in maths, with 6.5 per cent falling short of the minimum standard for numeracy this year – up from 4.6 per cent in 2008.
Victoria was the best-performing state, boasting* the best readers, with 97.1 per cent of Year 7 students reaching the minimum standard, and the best maths performance as well, with 96.4 per cent of year 7 students doing better than the minimum standard.
Federal parliamentary education chairman Andrew Laming cautioned* that the mean* scores nationally could disguise* the results of children struggling with homeschooling and other factors.
- hailed: praised, cheered, saluted, applauded
- testament: a sign or evidence of something
- boasting: claiming, possessing
- cautioned: warned, advised, counselled
- mean: average, median
- disguise: mask, hide, distort
- What does NAPLAN stand for?
- How many children sat the 2021 NAPLAN tests?
- When did NAPLAN testing begin?
- Which was the best-performing state in Australia?
- What equivalency did David de Carvalho use to measure positive gains in NAPLAN results?
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1. Create a Diagram
Create a diagram that can help parents and carers understand why the 2021 NAPLAN results are good news.
Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Mathematics
What would help kids your age improve their reading skills? Write a list of suggestions for teachers. Don’t forget to make sure that your suggestions will be fun and make kids want to improve their reading skills. Next to each suggestion, write sentences explaining why you think this is a great idea.
Time: allow 25 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Critical and Creative Thinking
1. Summarise the article
A summary is a brief statement of the main points of something. It does not usually include extra detail or elaborate on the main points.
Use the 5W & H model to help you find the key points of this article. Read the article carefully to locate who and what this article is about, and where, when, why and how this is happening. Once you have located this information in the article, use it to write a paragraph that summarises the article.