Coniston Public: the little school making big NAPLAN gains

CLASS ACT: Coniston Public School year 6 students (who sat NAPLAN tests last year in year 5) with principal Karen Brown. The school has been named on the high-gain schools list in the latest NAPLAN results. Picture: Adam McLean
CLASS ACT: Coniston Public School year 6 students (who sat NAPLAN tests last year in year 5) with principal Karen Brown. The school has been named on the high-gain schools list in the latest NAPLAN results. Picture: Adam McLean

It's the little school that’s making big gains.

The latest NAPLAN results are in – and Coniston Public School has made the grade when it comes to student growth.

The school is one of 400 across the country to be dubbed the biggest NAPLAN improvers in 2016. 

The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), which runs the federal government’s My School website, has identified schools across Australia that may not have the top NAPLAN marks but have made the biggest gains.

Coniston Public, which had an enrolment of just 208 students last year, made the ACARA’s high-gain schools list after lifting its 2016 NAPLAN scores in reading.

According to My School website data, the school’s 2016 year 5 cohort improved from a low band four (when they sat the year 3 test in 2014) to a band six. 

In the other exam areas – spelling, punctuation and grammar, and numeracy – the school’s scores were also above the state average.

“We’re extremely pleased with the result,” principal Karen Brown said.

“Our results stem from teachers having high expectations, they’re supported and well-resourced, and our professional learning enables teachers to do their job, most importantly for every child to experience success.”

Fifty-six per cent of Coniston Public’s students have a language background other than English, Ms Brown said, and the school has a number of refugee students.

“So we’re very diverse, but we’re obviously catering very well for the needs of all of our students,” she said. 

Asked if the school’s small student population helped boost its NAPLAN results, Ms Brown didn’t believe so.

“I don't think it’s the size of the school, necessarily, it’s the teacher expertise and the professional learning that goes into ensuring that all teachers have the knowledge and skills to be able to extend every child regardless of their ability,” she said.

“Our results reflect significant improvements for all students of all abilities, so that’s something that we’re most proud of.”

According to the ACARA's methodology, the schools on the list had large overall improvement, as well improvement compared with schools with similar students and students with similar NAPLAN start points.

But ACARA does not release the full list of high-achieving schools because it does not want schools to be ranked in league tables.

The My School website is updated annually and parents have previously been told not to put too much focus on the data. 

Ms Brown said NAPLAN was a “useful snapshot” to see how the school and its students were progressing. 

- with Alexandra Smith