All changes to assessment and reporting must be led by the teaching profession, Conference declares

The recent NAPLAN outages revealed the “fiasco” the “flawed
and corrupt” national testing tool had become, NSW Teachers Federation Annual
Conference was told yesterday.

Federal authorities called the collapse of online
NAPLAN testing a “glitch” at the time; at first saying just 11 schools were
affected, then 30 schools and that the outage only lasted a day.

“The reality is, the current count for NSW is that
734 schools were affected by that prolonged NAPLAN fiasco,” Executive member
Denis Fitzgerald told delegates.

“Dan Tehan, the federal Education Minister, claimed
there were only 30,000 students affected. First of all putting the word only
before 30,000 is quite an achievement and it’s also untrue. If [the results
are] out this year it will be an achievement and in what form, when 734 of
those schools in but one state had impaired participation?”

A decision by Conference reaffirmed Federation’s
determination to replace NAPLAN, abolish A-E reporting and eliminate the My
School website.

Mr Fitzgerald said such a prospect was “close by”
after a revolt led by the NSW Education Minister at June’s Education Council meeting.
In an opinion piece in The Sydney Morning Herald the day
before the meeeting, NSW Minister Sarah Mitchell questioned whether NAPLAN was
fit for purpose and called for a review presenting it “a blank canvas”.

After NSW’s proposal for a national review of NAPLAN
was rejected at the meeting, NSW, Queensland and Victoria decided to break away
and conduct their own inquiry into whether it should be revised or replaced.

“Our key demand has been to replace NAPLAN
completely, to obliterate My School, and the same with A to E reporting, and
get a better philosophical approach,” Mr Fitzgerald said.

“In this, we’ve chosen the role of teachers as
intellectuals, that we will outreason these people. We’ve commissioned research
and we’ve won the argument. We’ve won it in our schools, in our communities, in
alliance with other key groups, and that has been, for this campaign, the
superior and effective position.”

However, Mr Fitzgerald pointed to hurdles ahead; from
the Federal Government and Dan Tehan to right-wing think tanks and the
inevitable and predictable Tory media.

“But when we have the great majority of the states
pushing the view that it is a blank canvas we have the thing that we’ve not had
before,” he told Conference. “We have sought in all our campaigning a complete
review of this [NAPLAN] and that might be in our grasp, because for the first
time we have the potential instrument of victory.”

Conference emphasised that all changes to assessment
and reporting must be led by the teaching profession, including any review of
NAPLAN, the outcomes of the NSW Curriculum Review and any state programs to
enhance literacy and numeracy.

Mr Fitzgerald pointed to Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s
announcement of targets for the Department of Education, backed up by their
inclusion in the June State Budget.

“It’s the same old stuff, it’s educational
accountancy, it’s not education at all,” he said. “There was no consultation
with the profession, this was a diktat, a pronouncement.

“And how were these targets going to be measured? By
NAPLAN results! This, at the same time her Minister is writing in the Herald
how useless, how subject to misuse, how vapid and corrupt it is.”

Federation encouraged all members to participate in
the imminent NSW Curriculum Review, which will reshape the curriculum for years
to come with an opportunity to reaffirm the central role of syllabus-driven
teaching and assessment.

Mr Fitzgerald told Conference “vigilance and our
intellectual activism” will be required but the review did present

“We have to be really careful, really measured,” he
said. “We are winning these debates and we don’t want to do anything that is
irrational, inconsistent with our past practice. It is the opportunity for the
profession to be taking back policy making and agenda setting.”

Conference reiterated four upfront conditions for the
review that:

  • there is government investment and system
  • the changes ought not, and must not, be
    wrought on the backs of teachers

  • it has to be met with professional

“It’s our curriculum, it’s one of our most basic
working conditions,” he said. “Our campaigns are consistent, they’re long term
and they’re bearing fruit; around NAPLAN, My School, stupid targets and the
future of the curriculum.”