An open letter about NAPLAN: Teaching and nurturing each child holistically

06 April 2022

An open letter about NAPLAN: Teaching and nurturing each child holistically

Dear parent,

Inevitably, at this time of the year, you will hear about NAPLAN on the news, you will be notified about it in emails from the school and your child may even come home and talk to you about the upcoming tests. Whilst it is important to know when and why we do NAPLAN, there is something more important that I would like you to know.

I would like you to know that we do not look at your child and see a NAPLAN result. We do not shape what we teach to your child in the proceeding weeks in order to make them proficient at the NAPLAN style test. We do not look solely at the data generated by NAPLAN and compare your child’s ability to their peers.

So, what do we do? How do we prepare for and make use of NAPLAN?

We acknowledge that NAPLAN is a helpful tool to measure and track your child’s progress and it can also help to identify learning challenges. We make use of the data to inform our practice and areas that may need extra attention, but it is just one set of data amongst many others that we use. NAPLAN can be used to track how a student is progressing against national standards in literacy and numeracy over an extended time. We can feel assured that the National Assessment Program is reviewed and refined each year, always seeking to improve its purpose and outcomes. 

More importantly, we want you to know that at Shire Christian School, we are committed to teaching and nurturing your child holistically. Rather than using NAPLAN and other high stakes assessments as the only assessment tool for your child, we strive to develop a more nuanced approach when viewing a child’s development. We want to support your child to reach their potential - and to know this, is to know your child and their learning needs and aspirations. Our joy comes just as much from progressing a student from a D grade to a C grade as it does when we have high achieving students. Achievement can look different for each child. 

The quantitative data provided by NAPLAN is helpful and can provide insights, but we seek to gather meaningful qualitative data too. We want to work towards your child feeling safe at school, confident to take risks with their learning and to be committed to striving for their best. We want to see your child intrigued by nature, to be prompted to create and to be inspired to seek answers. Just as NAPLAN can measure aspects of their literacy and numeracy ability, we also value the aspects of school which are more difficult to measure, such as their social and emotional health, and feelings of belonging. These qualitative measures are what shape the character of our school community. By valuing the spiritual and relational development of our students, we ensure that external, standardised tests are kept in perspective. We do not see your child as an item of data to be plotted against national standards. We see them as children of God, created for His purpose and a valued part of God’s magnificent plan.

Like so many aspects of life, COVID caused an interruption to the usual testing cycle. This interruption caused policy makers to rethink NAPLAN. This year, NAPLAN is moving online. In future years, NAPLAN will also move to earlier in the year. This is to enable students and teachers to get results in a more timely manner and be able to use the data to inform teaching practice for that year. Your child was given the opportunity to complete a practice online exam earlier this term. The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority also provide parent resources to support you and your child. There is a public demonstration site that you can access if your child wishes to become more familiar with the platform. 

Ultimately, be assured that we view NAPLAN for what it is- a snapshot of your child’s ability at a particular moment in their schooling. It can be used to track your child’s improvement or to identify areas of challenge. As teachers, we are committed in our practice to being data-informed, not data-driven. We value the complexities, the nuances and the potential that learning and seeking knowledge can provide us with. We see your child as an invaluable member of our learning community- a community that journeys together to become engaged, purposeful, skilful, reflective and active members of Shire Christian School.

Mrs Natalie Bluhdorn
Acting Academic Head


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