Navigating NAPLAN: what’s the point anyway?

Kate is a mum of 4, blogger and running enthusiast living in country Victoria. With 2 kids doing NAPLAN this year, she’s being kept busy preparing her children for the experience. 


Lots of people have really strong feelings about NAPLAN, myself included. Regardless of those feelings, if you have children in the education system at present it is something that your family will most likely have some experience with.


So maybe it is worth taking a moment to think about the benefits of NAPLAN, and the purpose it is designed to serve.

The results of the NAPLAN tests serve up a snapshot of a cohort of students at a moment in time. That snapshot may provide valuable information back to the school about areas in which it needs to increase focus and teaching time. Or it may be useful in terms of assessing changes in outcomes of the same students over the two years between the testing.


On a broader scale, outcomes in specific subject areas may be useful in driving curriculum development. For instance, if literacy outcomes are significantly different across states that would provide an indication that curriculum and structure may need to be investigated to help students achieve at their highest capacity.


NAPLAN is NOT designed to assess the abilities of any individual student in a definitive way, nor is it an indicator of the competence of teachers. As discussed previously (link to prior post), what it does is help inform decision making at a high level.


Yes you will receive your child’s individual results, and those of your school should also be readily available to you. However, how you use that information is a personal matter, but it is worth considering carefully whether there is any benefit in sharing those results with your child.


We all know that standardised testing generally tells us more about a child’s ability to sit a test than what they actually understand. In instances where anxiety (link previous post) or other circumstances may have impacted a child’s results in a very obvious way, sharing those results with the child may not be in their best interests confidence wise.


Even where children have performed spectacularly well, this may cause some issues around expectation (both yours and theirs) as well as sibling rivalry where more than one child has sat the NAPLAN, as will happen with my Year 3 daughter and Year 4 son this year.


It is worth treading carefully and making sure your child understands that their results do not indicate their full capacity or ability to succeed, and that you do not use those results as a measure of that child’s success. It sounds fairly self evident, but kids can make big assumptions based on the language we use around these things.


Whatever your personal feelings about NAPLAN testing, the last thing any of us want to do is disadvantage or worry our children. Keeping the testing in perspective (i.e. it is a portion of a day, for a few days, and that’s it) can help your child cope with the changes in routine and any pressure they may feel from their peers.


To follow more of Kate’s adventures, experiences and thoughts, go to her blog, Kate Says Stuff.