Question: National Literacy and Numeracy Tests


Dr HARVEY (Newland) (14:46): My question is to the Minister for Education. Can the minister update the house on plans for the 2018 NAPLAN tests?

The Hon. J.A.W. GARDNER (Morialta—Minister for Education) (14:46): I thank the member for Newland for his question. I am pleased to advise that, yes, I can, and I am pleased to offer some information in that regard.

NAPLAN is, of course, the National Assessment Program in Literacy and Numeracy, and it has been an important part of our education system for 10 years now. It came out of a product of the Howard Liberal-National government in Canberra—their work towards national standardised testing. Of course, the former Labor government here in South Australia signed South Australia up to that testing regime, and it is one of those occasions where I will commend the former government for doing that.

The NAPLAN tests are important, first and foremost, as a tool within which students undertaking these tests who are less successful in them than had been hoped can be identified perhaps for slipping through the cracks. Indeed, I noted an article by Louise Pascale earlier this week, a parent who previously, as a journalist, had written in opposition to NAPLAN, identifying the benefits of NAPLAN from her family's perspective where the success of her child in the NAPLAN tests informed useful discussions with the classroom teacher about some of the strengths in her child that were identified as a result of the NAPLAN tests.

It is a useful tool to help students to help us identify where extra support is needed. I note that the former Labor federal government, led by Julia Gillard, and the former Labor government here in South Australia introduced the My School website, which allowed for the rankings and league tables issues, which have been pointed out as a concern by a number of people. I nevertheless believe, and this government believes, that NAPLAN remains a tremendously important tool in our education system to assist us to identify school advancement, student advancement, and ensures that we pick up those students who need more support.

I listened with interest to the shadow minister's Address in Reply earlier in the week in which she suggested that there were questions to be asked about our relationship with NAPLAN. I am sure that she will contribute to the discussion in this space in the years ahead and, if the Labor Party does propose to withdraw its support for NAPLAN, then that is a matter for them. I reiterate that the Liberal Party, this Liberal government, will continue to work with ACARA, the national curriculum and assessment authority, on the tests.

Indeed, one of the election commitments that we undertook was to work with ACARA in their desire to develop and have understood and reported proficiency standards, not just the national minimum standard. Of course, proficiency standards can be seen as a better scale of a student's achievement in providing further information to families about how their student is going.

In 2014, the former government, along with other ministers around Australia, made a decision that we were going to enhance the work of NAPLAN by signing up to NAPLAN online, which would commence in 2017 on a voluntary basis, with a full transition sought by 2019. There are many advantages of the NAPLAN online proposal. There are, of course, challenges undertaken whenever you are looking at any new IT system. Next week, this government will continue the work that was set in place by the former government. It was good work that was set in place.

NAPLAN online will be undertaken in 141 schools of the 700 schools in South Australia next week, almost exactly 20 per cent, in 100 government schools and 41 non-government schools—basically 20 and 21 independent and Catholic. The NAPLAN test is being undertaken online in those schools and we have made sure that there are resources, if there is an IT problem, so that those children will get the benefit of the NAPLAN test either way. We are confident that NAPLAN online will work this week and can be rolled out across South Australia next year.