From the Principal


“NAPLAN is the best measure of literacy and numeracy at scale.” Peter Goss, Grattan Institute.

Is there any more divisive aspect of education (besides those who would end any government funding to independent schools) than NAPLAN?

Each year the newspapers and other media are full of tales of students under stress, schools banning students who might perform poorly and other tales of woe.

Each year at St Columba, I look for signs of this pressure, this anxiety and any damage that sitting these tests might do to our students.

Each year our students seem to take the test days as either normal or something a bit different that does not seem to particularly bother them. In fact, talking to one of our students this year on a test day, I asked how he felt about taking the tests and he said he was “fine” but his Mum was “a bit stressed about it”!

Despite the efforts of some parts of the media to turn NAPLAN into a sectoral competition, a crisis and a form of torture, we acknowledge that the data from the tests provides our school with information about how each student, at a particular point in his or her education, is progressing.

“The School Measurement, Assessment and Reporting Toolkit (SMART) provides feedback and data analysis for the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN), Higher School Certificate (HSC) and Validation of Assessment for Learning and Individual Development (VALID) to NSW participating schools and their communities.”

There is no doubt that if you base your thoughts on NAPLAN and other tests (e.g. PISA) on media reports, you could come to the conclusion that Australian education is in serious decline.

“The NSW Government will redouble its efforts to lift literacy and numeracy standards across NSW public schools to ensure students are given every opportunity to be their best…..Australian students recorded their worst ever NAPLAN writing scores last year, with only 14 percent of NSW Year 9 pupils achieving results in the top two bands. This fell to 4.2 percent and under 4 percent for Year 7 and 5 students respectively.” SMH June 25.

We have a more positive approach.

At St Columba, we prefer not to guess how your child is progressing.

We use educational data to confirm and affirm our teaching, with the goal of ensuring that every child is given the opportunity to progress every year, in line with their capacity.

With a range of other data, NAPLAN results allow us to identify any gaps in our teaching for individuals and groups and address them.

This approach means that we recognise that we can always improve and that we can always find better ways to target our teaching so that it has maximum impact and benefit.

That is why St Columba has a Coordinator of Literacy and Numeracy, to ensure that these foundational skills (still important even in this “digital’ age) remain a focal point of what we do every day.

Mrs Stephanie Cairns, Coordinator of Literacy and Numeracy

Mr Terry Muldoon
Principal, St Columba Anglican School
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