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NAPLAN changes could make tests earlier in the year, deliver results in two weeks

NAPLAN tests could be held near the beginning of the year and student results delivered within a two-week time frame, after the federal government agreed to explore a proposal that would avoid schools “teaching to the test” and establish students’ starting points as they commence the school year.

The decision was made at a meeting of the country’s education ministers on Friday and follows several recommendations from last year’s breakaway review of NAPLAN by NSW, Victoria, Queensland and the ACT, which argued the national standardised tests needed major changes.

The federal government, which mandates NAPLAN as a condition of its school funding, had rebuffed the review’s suggestions under former education minister Dan Tehan, but new Education Minister Alan Tudge has indicated he supports making some changes.

“NAPLAN has been an important tool to inform teacher practice and give guidance to parents on how their child is progressing. These incremental reforms will enhance these objectives,” Mr Tudge said.

He said the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority would work with states and territories to explore whether it could shift the test from May to “as early as possible in the school year” and turn around test results in two weeks instead of months.

But other key recommendations from last year’s review – such as moving the year 9 tests to year 10, overhauling the writing component, adding a new test for critical and creative thinking in STEM subjects, and rebranding NAPLAN as the “Australian National Standardised Assessments” – were not adopted at Friday’s meeting.

The assessments will remain for years 3, 5, 7 and 9 students, and the tests will retain their NAPLAN branding.

Instead, education ministers agreed to introduce opt-in assessments on science literacy, digital literacy, and civics and citizenship for year 6 and 10 that would be made available each year. At the moment, a select group of year 6 and 10 students sits those tests every three years.

ACARA will develop that proposal, and also investigate how it could incorporate critical and creative thinking within the existing English and mathematics NAPLAN framework.

The writing test, which critics have argued is too formulaic and encourages rote learning, will continue in its current form. But it will be separated from the test on spelling, grammar and punctuation, which would allow room for it to be reformed in future.

NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said she was happy the changes to NAPLAN were progressing in line with last year’s review, which NSW had initiated.

“There are fundamental flaws with NAPLAN in its current form. My goal has always been to see a modern and effective national standardised assessment tool that will help students and teachers, and raise education standards nationwide,” she said.

”NAPLAN was cancelled last year due to COVID, disrupting the data set and presenting an opportunity to make important changes … I’m pleased education ministers have agreed to work towards these changes.“