Australia: lifting students’ achievements via increased funding in education, not testing

Australian educators have warned against placing excessive emphasis on test results, arguing focus must be on ensuring all schools are receiving the funding and resources they need to deliver for students and raise student outcomes.

Focus on student needs to lift success at school

“Schools need proper funding and resources to lift results and achievement levels,” said the Australian Education Union (AEU) Federal President Correna Haythorpe on 2 August.

She deplored that the Turnbull Government’s school funding plan “will not deliver the much-needed funding that our schools require”, and make it harder for schools to lift student results as “it fails to deliver the vital resources to bridge the gap of disadvantage many students face”. It will also leave some of the most vulnerable students without the support they need to succeed at school, she noted.

Adding that teachers know that proper funding makes a significant difference and lifts student outcomes, as under the original Gonski Agreement the majority of funding was to be delivered to schools in 2018 and 2019, so schools were still to see the full benefit of needs-based funding, she acknowledged that “it is vitally important for schools to be able to invest in student learning with additional teaching and educational support staff, literacy and numeracy programs and early learning intervention.”

Haythorpe then regretted that the governmental plan will not deliver anywhere near the level of funding required by 2023, leaving the vast majority of public schools well below the Schooling Resource Standard.

Lifting NAPLAN results not decisive

She went on to emphasise that “lifting student outcomes does not mean simply lifting the National Assessment Program-Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) results”. The NAPLAN is an annual national assessment for all students in Years 3, 5, 7, and 9. All students in these year levels are expected to participate in tests in reading, writing, language conventions (spelling, grammar and punctuation) and numeracy.

Stressing that NAPLAN is “just one test, a snapshot, and on its own provides a narrow and incomplete picture of a student’s education and does not take into account the high quality, broad curriculum and learning experience that schools provide,” Haythorpe explained that students must have the opportunity to be engaged in their learning with extra-curricular activities and a broad, high quality curriculum that will help them develop the skills to enter the modern workplace.

The reality is that the Turnbull Government’s education scheme will make this much harder and will mean schools will not have the funding they need to provide the support and resources our students deserve, the AEU leader concluded.

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