Questions without notice – literacy, numeracy and NAPLAN

Mr ROB MITCHELL (McEwen) (15:06): My question is to the Minister for Education. What changes is Albanese government making to NAPLAN to lift standards and provide better information to parents and teachers?

Mr CLARE (Blaxland—Minister for Education) (15:06): I thank the member for McEwen for his question.

Every year in May, students right across the country in year 3, year 5, year 7 and year 9 sit the NAPLAN tests. They sit tests in reading, writing, spelling, grammar, punctuation and maths.

Last Friday, education ministers met and agreed to the biggest changes in NAPLAN since it was established 14 years ago. The changes mean that the tests will now be in March rather than in May, and the tests will be all online. We’re also lifting the minimum standards that students are going to be expected to meet.

Moving the test forward from May to March is important because teachers and parents tell us it means they get information on how students and their children are progressing earlier in the school year. It still takes too long, though, once the test is done for teachers and parents to get that information—it can take months. So one of the things we need to work on over the next few years is getting that information to parents and teachers as quickly as possible.

I said we’re lifting the standards students are going to be expected to meet, and we are. At the moment, about seven per cent of students don’t meet the minimum standard for NAPLAN. The changes we are making mean we expect that this year about 10 per cent of students won’t meet that level. We’re also making it simpler. Instead of 10 categories, there will now be four. The fourth category, where students don’t meet the minimum standard, will be now be called ‘needs additional support’. We have done that for a reason, and that is that parents have asked us to call it that—in particular, Indigenous parents and Indigenous teachers—to make it clear that they are below the minimum standard and that more support is needed, to zero in on this and make sure we can make a difference. Can I thank them for their input, and can I thank the education ministers across the country—Labour, Liberal and National. It’s a good example of what we can do when we work together.

The next thing we’ve got to do is to make sure we are providing that additional support. There are always going to be children who fall behind; what matters is what we do to make sure they don’t stay behind or fall further behind, to help them catch up.

As I said to the House last week, if you are a child from a poor background, from the regions, or if you’re an Indigenous child, you’re three times more likely to be in that group. So what we do here matters. The funding is important, but so is what it’s spent on and what it’s invested in.

As we begin the work this year on developing the next National School Reform Agreement, what’s important is that we tie funding to the sorts of things that are going to help these children who are falling behind so that the children who need the support the most to catch up get that support.