NAPLAN 2021 results show bush kids are falling behind

Brandon Long
By Brandon Long
Updated December 16 2021 - 6:26am, first published 6:00am
LOSING OUT: Bush kids are falling behind in some literacy areas, new NAPLAN data shows.

Children in very remote parts of Queensland are falling behind in literacy.

NAPLAN 2021 data released this week revealed year 7 and year 9 students in very remote areas were not meeting the national minimum standard for writing and grammar and punctuation.

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Some results have also gone backward in a decade, with the percentage of remote and very remote students across all year levels meeting the minimum standard in writing and grammar and punctuation dropping.

NAPLAN is an annual test taken in May by all students in years 3, 5, 7 and 9.

It covers writing, grammar and punctation, reading, spelling, and numeracy, and the subsequent results can be broken down by gender and location (major cities, inner regional, outer regional, remote and very remote).

This year's data showed just 37 per cent of year 7 Queensland kids in very remote locations met or exceeded the national minimum standard for grammar and punctuation in 2021.

Year 9 very remote kids did slightly better than their younger peers, but still only 47pc met the minimum standard in that category.

By comparison, 90pc of year 7 kids and 89pc of year 9 kids in major cities met the standard.

In year 7 writing, just 45pc of students met the standard in very remote locations, compared with 89pc of city kids.

Year 9 bush kids were also well behind their peers, with only 39pc meeting the writing minimum compared with 80pc of students located in metropolitan areas.

However, all year levels from the remaining four locations met minimum standards across the five subjects.

Comparing 2021 to 2011, the biggest performance declines for very remote kids were seen in year 7 writing and grammar and punctuation, both dropping by 23pc in a decade.

In fact, the only areas to improve over the decade for both remote and very remote students was year 5 spelling and years 3 and 5 reading.

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Education Minister Grace Grace said the government was committed to providing a world-class education for every student, regardless of where they lived.

"While there can be particular challenges for a large and decentralised state such as Queensland, these trends are not new and are certainly not Queensland-centric - they are happening across the country and indeed the world," Ms Grace said.

"NAPLAN is not the be-all and end-all; it is a point-in-time check and is only one of many ways that schools can track student progress.

"We know that there are shortcomings with how NAPLAN currently operates, and we will continue to advocate for improvements."

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In 2018, Ms Grace launched a four-year $100 million rural and remote strategy to support teachers and students.

Shadow Education Minister Dr Christian Rowan said the results were deeply concerning and the government must urgently outline how it intended to improve student outcomes.

"Queensland parents expect more, and Queensland's students, including those in regional and remote communities, deserve better," Dr Rowan said.

"The state government is losing control of Queensland's education system. Under Labor, educational outcomes are declining, and teacher workforce shortages are increasing."

Isolated Children's Parents' Association Queensland vice president Wendy Henning said the results were significant.

"These figures are evidence that despite the best efforts of our department of education, our rural and remote schools require a substantial injection of physical and human resources ...," Mrs Henning said.

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Mrs Henning said attracting and retaining quality teaching staff in these schools was an ongoing issue for the state government and there was a dire need for systemic change.

"We urge the government to heed these figures and conduct an urgent and thorough review into how to decrease this alarming trend."

According to a new survey by the Australian Education Union, public school principals and teachers continued to see NAPLAN as ineffective and outdated.

The AEU's 2021 State of our Schools survey of public-school teachers, principals and education support staff found 73pc of principals say NAPLAN increases teacher workloads; 86pc of principals say that NAPLAN contributes to students' stress and anxiety; 59 per cent of principals say that NAPLAN makes no difference to student outcomes; and 62 per cent of teachers say that NAPLAN is an ineffective diagnostic tool for teachers.

It is unclear how many educators were polled.

The NAPLAN report also found COVID and related disruptions to schooling had no 'statistically significant' impact on students' achievement at the national or state level.

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Brandon Long

Brandon Long

Queensland Country Life journalist

Brandon Long is a Queensland Country Life journalist based in Toowoomba.

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