Education International
Education International

Australia: widening gaps in achievement between advantaged and disadvantaged schools

published 13 August 2015 updated 17 August 2015

The Australian Education Union has deplored the results of the latest National Assessment Program–Literacy and Numeracy showing huge gaps between advantaged and disadvantaged students and called for targeting funding allocated to schools.

The National Assessment Program–Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN), the annual assessment for students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9, whose results have been released beginning of August showed that Australian students have made minimal improvements since NAPLAN testing began in 2008.

For the Australian Education Union (AEU), an Education International’s member organisation, the biggest concern raised by NAPLAN results are the widening gaps in achievement between advantaged and disadvantaged schools – of three to four years by the time students reach Year 9.

These results show the need for equitable funding of schools to lift achievement across the board, and the need for the full six years of needs-based Gonski funding, AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe explained.

The results will not be a surprise to teachers who know that testing alone does not lead to improvement unless it is combined with resources, she said, adding that “we need the full six years of Gonski funding to ensure that all schools can offer students the support they need to lift results”.

She went on to stress that Gonski funding was not about throwing money at schools but about targeting funding to where it could deliver real improvement in student performance.

“The way to improve results is to invest in schools on the basis of need, as the Gonski Review recommended. Extra resources to schools means smaller classes, more individual support and more targeted literacy and numeracy programs, the things we know lift student performance,” Haythorpe said.

If NAPLAN has long-term value it is that it shows us where we need to direct resources, and what it is showing us is that we need to fund schools based on need to ensure all students have access to a quality education, she noted.