NAPLAN "a very poor way of judging a school"

St Joseph's Primary School principal, Mark Mowbray cautions against literacy and numeracy being the only measure of success by which an individual or school is judged.
St Joseph's Primary School principal, Mark Mowbray cautions against literacy and numeracy being the only measure of success by which an individual or school is judged.

STUDENTS as young as eight years of age will hide in school toilets, cry and some will vomit with the feelings that come with the requirement to do the National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN).

Manning Valley students in years three, five, seven and nine are this week completing NAPLAN tests with individual results reported to parents and the collective results of each school made public and used by State and federal governments and education authorities to determine the allocation of education resources.

NAPLAN is made up of tests in the four areas of reading, writing, language conventions (spelling, grammar and punctuation) and numeracy.

It is a controversial test that was introduced in 2008 and one that challenges the foundation on which many local schools have built their culture of learning and community.

St Joseph's Primary School principal, Mark Mowbray recently shared his opinion of NAPLAN from the perspective of a man who has taught students for more than 34 years and led school communities as a principal for 24 years. He also recently received the John Laing Memorial Award by Principals Australia Institute.

"NAPLAN has narrowed the curriculum. You have children, particularly in year three who are highly stressed about NAPLAN - you have kids crying, some so stressed that they can't do it," Mr Mowbray said.

"Your school is ranked only on academic performance, and that's only an average performance on one day of the year. It is a very poor way of judging a school.

"Governments have changed assessment to become a very high stakes test and it is cause for concern that we assess the success of a school on their NAPLAN results as opposed to how they impact on the community.

"My passion is for a holistic education and I see the role of schools is to have an impact on kids' lives, their families and community. We have around 10,000 schools in Australia and if you had 10,000 schools focusing on those core objectives then you would have a positive impact on the fabric of Australian culture, as well as individual lives.

"It is a fear and it is a reality that teachers will teach to prepare for NAPLAN. It is telling that the number nine top selling book in Australia last year was NAPLAN Practice.

"No school that I work in teaches to NAPLAN, we teach to the best of our ability and we teach a broad and balanced curriculum.

"Kids needs music and art and PE as much as they need literacy and numeracy and research has shown that those other skills will improve their literacy and numeracy.

"We have to be very careful that schools are not forced to focus only on the academic, yes, we need to be focused on the academic but we also need to be focused on everything else if we want a 25-year-old to be someone who feels great about themselves, who contributes to society and is capable of holding down a good relationship.

"What we do in primary schools is incredibly important and we want every kid to reach their academic potential but there is also a whole lot of other stuff in there that is equally as important."


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