Political misuse of NAPLAN to divert focus from Gonski

NAPLAN is not and never has been a valid measure of overall school and student performance. It was designed as a snapshot diagnostic test to inform teaching and learning programs.

Politicians have repeatedly sought to misuse NAPLAN for their own political purposes. In today’s media, Education Minister Simon Birmingham is misusing the latest test results to divert attention from an issue that caused a significant voter swing away from the Coalition in the recent election – the Turnbull Government’s refusal to fully fund the Gonski needs based model.

It is too soon to be judging the results of increased Gonski funding. NSW schools have only received 18% of Gonski funding. To say it is not lifting results is like calling the result of a 100 kilometre race after only 18 kilometres.

It takes time to lift overall school performance and close achievement gaps. Even after next year, NSW schools will only have 35% of the total Gonski funding increases. Two thirds of the money comes in the last two years of the six year NSW agreement.

That’s why Minister Birmingham wants to divert attention away from funding, to imply that money doesn’t matter. His government is refusing to fully fund the final two years of the agreement the Commonwealth signed with the NSW government. He says he wants to “move the conversation on” to how the money is being spent.

The Minister knows Gonski money is being spent on priorities determined by the highly qualified teachers and principals in our schools. These professional educators are showing how it is already making a positive difference, and emphasising the need for Gonski to be fully implemented. Parents are welcoming the additional support for their children.

Minister Birmingham’s NSW Coalition counterpart, Adrian Piccoli, has previously refuted the ‘money doesn’t matter’ claim by questioning why parents would pay private school fees if money didn’t matter.

Gonski is designed to lift all schools over six years to a national resource standard and provide extra support to individual students with additional learning needs.  

After decades of underfunding through discredited school funding policies, it will take time for Gonski funding to lift overall student and school performance.

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