After a 12 month hiatus, NAPLAN – the annual “point-in-time” assessment for Australian students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 – will resume in May 2021.

Here’s a re-cap of the test and a list of handy resources for parents wanting to know more about the transition from paper to online testing.

What is NAPLAN and what does it test?

The full name for the test is the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy and it has been in place since 2008.

It assesses literacy and numeracy skills of Australian students and is conducted at the same time every year (May) to give families and schools an understanding of how individual students are performing at the time of the test.

It’s also designed to serve as a barometer to examine trends in a student’s achievement over time: are they continuing to build their skills in a certain area over the seven years of the test, or are they needing more help understanding key concepts?

NAPLAN is just one part of how a school assesses and reports on a student’s learning and is not designed to replace a teacher’s usual methods for monitoring and reporting on students’ progress.

As well as providing information about individual students, NAPLAN gives governments and monitoring authorities a “point-in-time” overview of how well Australian children are tracking in the important areas of literacy and numeracy.

  • The 2021 NAPLAN Online test window is 11-21 May (check with your individual school about the exact dates they will be conducting the NAPLAN Online test within this window).
  • The 2021 NAPLAN paper tests will occur 11-13 May.

Moving to NAPLAN online: what’s involved?

NAPLAN was originally delivered in a paper and pencil format, but is gradually transitioning to a fully online test.

NAPLAN Online is designed to “give a better and more precise assessment that is more engaging for students”.

This year around 70 percent of schools will undertaken NAPLAN online, and in 2022 it is expected all testing will have transitioned from paper to online.

One of the key selling points of NAPLAN Online is its method of “adaptive” testing, in that as students progress through the test they are given questions better suited to their abilities.

Adaptive testing is said to deliver more precise results, compared to the paper test which is the same test for every student.

There is also expected to be a faster turnaround of results when the test is conducted online.

Watch this short video for a short summary of NAPLAN Online.

NAPLAN Online: Factsheet for Parents and Carers

NAPLAN on Paper: Factsheet for Parents and Carers

The NAPLAN Online information brochure for Parents and Carers is also available in multiple languages.

The NAPLAN roll out in 2021

A “co-ordinated practice test” of NAPLAN Online 2021 occured on Thursday 25 March.

All schools registered to take part in NAPLAN online were invited to take part in the co-ordinated practice test, which was designed to assess the capacity of the technology when many schools are logged in simultaneously.

The practice tests also give students and teachers a chance to experiment with the “look and feel” of the platform before the real test takes place in May.

There was no actual testing of students during the practice test, or any compilation of responses.

Schools are also able to do individual practice tests during an extended practice test window from 22 March – 23 April.

Consideration of students with additional needs

Adjustments for NAPLAN are available for students with disability.

You can read more about these adjustments and find other information about assistive technology on this page of the official National Assessment Program website.

Parents and schools talk about NAPLAN for students with disability in a short video on this page.

How do you help your child get ready for NAPLAN?

The official factsheet for parents stresses that NAPLAN is not a test that can be studied for and students aren’t expected to study for it.

“You can support your child by reassuring them that NAPLAN is just one part of their school program, and by reminding them on the day to simply do their best,” it says.

“Ensuring students are familiar with using devices, typing on them and navigating through programs is a part of student learning and a requirement of the Australian Curriculum from the first year of school.

“Teachers will ensure students are familiar with the types of questions in the tests and will provide appropriate support and guidance.”

Improving NAPLAN

The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) are currently conducting a review of NAPLAN and will report any recommendations for change to education ministers by mid 2021.

Its analysis will take into account the findings of an independent review commissioned by the NSW, Victoria, Queensland and ACT governments released in 2020.

In a recent speech, ACARA’s CEO David de Carvalho said the key issues it was considering included:

• Are there alternative ways to achieve NAPLAN’s purpose as a point-in-time, objective measure of student progress as well as school and system performance?
• What is the best way for writing to be assessed?
• When – in terms of which year levels and which term – is the best time to run the tests?
• Should an additional domain be assessed? If so, which one?

“These are all important issues to consider, but we need to keep in mind that any proposals for change will entail trade-offs … and it is unlikely if ministers do agree to changes that all stakeholders will agree with all aspects of any new set of arrangements.

“There is one thing I think we all agree on when it comes to NAPLAN (and that is) it does not and cannot measure the overall quality of education provided in a schools. Ministers have bene very clear on this point.

“Ministers have also been very clear … that the overall purpose of our education system is to ensure our young people are confident and creative, life-long learners and active and informed members of the community.”

Extra information

Read the ACARA chief’s speech in full.

Access to past NAPLAN papers and answers can be found on this page of the ACARA website.

The Australian Parents Council will be hosting a free Q&A webinar for parents focusing on NAPLAN and the Australian Curriculum on Wednesday 28 April, 2021. Register via this link.