How much do you know about NAPLAN?

The national point-in-time test has occurred in Australian schools since 2008 and is about to swing back into gear after a 12-month break due to COVID-19.

A special NAPLAN webinar for parents was held on 28 April during which the statutory authority that administers the test addressed some common parent queries.

We’ve summarised some of what was discussed below.

But first a re-cap on NAPLAN…

The full name for the test is the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy and it is sat by Australian students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9.

It assesses literacy and numeracy skills 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.

NAPLAN is currently transitioning from a paper test to an online test, with most schools expected to take the online path in 2021.

  • 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.

Common queries from parents

The 28 April webinar was hosted by the Australian Parents Council and featured guests from the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), the independent statutory authority that oversees the delivery of NAPLAN.

Q: Should you ‘prepare’ your child for NAPLAN?

ACARA’s General Manager of Assessment and Reporting, Peter Titmanis told parents it was “a very strong recommendation from ACARA that (NAPLAN) should be treated as another day at school”.

“There shouldn’t be any excessive preparation,” Peter stressed, “but if (students) haven’t seen a NAPLAN test before they should have the opportunity to do so so they know what to expect.

“That is quite different to cramming for a range of information that they might expect to be on the test.

“So we are keen to make sure they are comfortable with the type of questions they are likely to see but we don’t expect any additional work to be done over and above what teachers would do during the course of the year when they teach literacy or numeracy.”

Past NAPLAN test papers – and answers – are available on the NAPLAN website. The NAPLAN Online public demonstration site can be found here.

Q: Do the children who ‘missed out’ on NAPLAN last year have to do the test this year?

No, the test will be for current Year 3, 5, 7 and 9 students.

Q: What are the benefits of NAPLAN Online?

“One of the benefits of moving online that we have experienced is that students really prefer the online environment…one of the strongest bits of feedback was students were more confident and relaxed about online (compared to) the paper test,” Peter told the webinar.

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.

“The beauty of that is we get a much better understanding of the sorts of things they can or can’t do,” he said, “(which) provides teachers with much more quality information about their skills.”

Q: Does a child’s typing ability affect the way they perform in the writing components?

ACARA said “generally speaking” they have found students write a similar amount whether they are doing it by hand or typing. They also confirmed spellcheck is disabled in the online NAPLAN environment.

(Please note: All children in Year 3 complete the writing test on paper.)

Q: Are children who don’t have a computer at home at a disadvantage if they are doing NAPLAN Online?

ACARA told parents a child’s ability to use a device – whether it’s a laptop or Ipad – is now an important part of the curriculum (what students are taught at school).

Q: Can children with special needs use adaptive technology in the NAPLAN test?

ACARA said they had an ongoing program to review how they supported students with special needs. Assistive technologies such as screen readers are sometimes used. Classroom teachers can also provide ACARA with information about a student’s abilities and can be provided with alternative questions.

Watch the webinar in full

If you can set aside an hour, the Australian Parents Council webinar is worth watching in full. The webinar also covered the current Australian Curriculum review. You can find the webinar via the Australian Parents Council Facebook page.

More information for parents

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.