The Value of NAPLAN

Posted September 22, 2021 in Opinion By Community Relations

NAPLAN testing is a perennially controversial issue. Head of Wesley College, Mr Ross Barron, lays out his thoughts on the subject.


Is there a topic in education that gets people talking more than NAPLAN results?

As a Head, I regularly have parents ask me about how important the testing is. Does their child’s score matter? Is it an effective way to measure children? Does it measure the quality of the school?

Because it’s an issue that causes debate, I thought I’d make this video – to try and make my opinion clear and, hopefully, alleviate any stress caused by the test and its results.

The first thing is… I do believe in testing our children. Not as a way to compare schools against each other – the way the data is presented doesn’t assist with that – but as a way to capture a moment in time.

Some people sell the NAPLAN test as the be-all and end-all, but that’s simply not true. Opposing that, you’ll have others saying it’s a bad test that is detrimental to student’s mental health. I don’t believe that either.

As with most things, the truth is somewhere in the middle. NAPLAN does not assess the curriculum taught. It doesn’t measure a  child’s engagement.

Rather, it assesses numeracy, reading, writing, spelling, grammar and punctuation. Important foundational skills – of course – but ones that ignore how a school approaches the vital task of fostering friendships, pastoral care, developing good character. In short, preparing our children for the future.



Like all student data, it must be read, analysed, interpreted, and conclusions made in the context of its purpose.

We are acknowledged as an open, inclusive and diverse College. We have a wide range of abilities and teach to them accordingly. We’re proud that every student is given the tools needed to reach their personal best.

NAPLAN is a ‘snapshot in time’ test. Our teachers do not teach to the test and students are not drilled in practising the tests within time limits.

It’s not a test of how smart a child is or how well a school performs. NAPLAN doesn’t touch upon sport, emotional intelligence, music, drawing or any of the other arts.

So, is it useful? Of course, it gives the government an assurance that the current generation of students is reaching a minimum standard nationwide. It also gives us a heads up to how different year groups are tracking, which allows us to dig deeper and put resources into place if necessary.

But a NAPLAN result is no reflection of who your child is – the things they have achieved as a person or a student. It doesn’t look at their passions, their spirit or their many talents outside of the three Rs. And those are the things that really matter.

If you have any concerns or questions about your child’s NAPLAN results speak to your child’s teacher. As always, the partnership between your child, the teacher and you – the parents – achieves the best outcomes.

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