Opinion: Five tips to survive NAPLAN

by Marianne Connolly11 May 2016

NAPLAN day is always an interesting one around school.  When you speak to most students, you’d think it was like any other school day.

The uniform is the same. The classroom is the same. The time they arrive and depart is the same. All their friends are there. 

However, when you speak with parents who are dropping their children off, it can be a very different story.

Many times I wonder if the parents are more stressed about NAPLAN than the students themselves! It’s with this in mind that I thought it timely to offer some simple tips to parents on surviving NAPLAN season.


Tip 1: Understand what NAPLAN is and what it isn’t

NAPLAN is not the be all and end all of education. It isn’t the only aspect of a school’s assessment and reporting process. It is a snapshot in time under unique testing conditions.

NAPLAN may measure literacy and numeracy, but it doesn’t measure creativity, or a child’s capacity for empathy. It doesn’t identify if your child is an innovator or an entrepreneur. Don’t put all your eggs in NAPLAN’s basket.

 
Tip 2: Teach helpful thinking

If you are telling your child how important this test is and if they see you worrying, there’s a good chance they’ll start to mirror your behaviour. Before you know it, they’ll be as stressed as you are!  Instead, encourage them to believe they can do it. Help them to say ‘I’ll give it a go”. Emphasise positivity and encourage them as much as you can.
 

Tip 3: Discuss feelings

Encourage the children to discuss how they feel. Listen with empathy so they feel understood and know their feelings are normal. Use this as an opportunity to connect with your child and grow your relationship with them. 
 

Tip 4:  Remember that 'NAPLAN' and 'education' are not synonyms.

NAPLAN shouldn’t be used as the curriculum.  Students should not be given excessive test practice as teaching the test narrows the students’ experiences and learning. The majority of evidence indicates the best way to develop and support students’ literacy and numeracy skills is to give them a rich curriculum focussing on reading and writing and using mathematics in a variety of ways. This will enable them to build the skills required for NAPLAN, but more importantly as a basis for further learning.  

As parents, one of the best things you can do as a family is share a meal together - each day, with the TV off, having rich conversations about all manner of things.
 

Tip 5: Don’t believe the gossip – look at the evidence

St Paul’s School’s NAPLAN results are consistently among the highest in Queensland, particularly in the Junior School.  While we emphasise that NAPLAN isn’t the be all and end all of schooling, our children consistently perform well – so, don’t underestimate how strongly they may perform after all.

So, when you’re tempted to worry about NAPLAN – take a deep breath, give your child a hug, encourage them to do their best, and look forward to seeing them later in the day. 

Because to most of them, it’s just another day at school.
 
 
Marianne Connolly is the director of Junior School at St Paul’s School, located in Bald Hills, Queensland.

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