The Illawarra’s government primary schools more than held their own against the more cashed up private educators, in the latest NAPLAN scores.
In fact public schools finished first in years 3 and 5 for both reading and numeracy.
Being small was no deterrent for Scarborough Public School.
Having only 70 students all up may have actually helped the school in the Illawarra’s north record the region’s best reading scores in years 3 and 5, with scores of 506 and 579. That compares to the national average of 431 and 506 respectively.
Scarborough, which has only four full-time teachers, also featured in the top five for year 5 numeracy (542).
Impressive as these results are, they are “skewed” slightly by the fact the small cohort of students’ results can be boosted significantly by the efforts of a few bright sparks.
Similarly on face value Wollongong Public School excelled in year 5, recording scores significantly above the national average for all subjects – reading, writing, spelling, grammar and numeracy.
It finished second in reading (567) and third in numeracy (555).
But again educators at the school were loathe to take credit, with many of the region’s brightest students attending an “opportunity class”.
Though hard work of staff and students is primarily responsible for Mount Keira Public School securing the region’s top spot in year 3 numeracy ahead of St Joseph's Catholic Primary School (Bulli) and Mount Kembla Public School.
Mount Keira also came equal third with The Illawarra Grammar School (TIGS) in year 5 reading.
Read more: NAPLAN success for Dapto High School
NSW Primary Principals Association president Phil Seymour said it would be wrong to use NAPLAN results to make judgments on how well schools and students are going.
“Schools do a lot more than just literacy and numeracy so the results of the NAPLAN shouldn’t be used to judge how kids are performing or judge how schools are performing,” he said.
It would be good also if NAPLAN reflected more of the syllabus that we actually teach.Phil Seymour
“The good thing with the results is the growth component which allows you to see how a school has improved from years 3 to 5.”
Mr Seymour supports a flagged review of NAPLAN, which has been running for the past 10 years in NSW schools.
“We’d welcome a review to see how we could make it better. How it can become more diagnostic for teachers so they can work on areas that need attention,” he said.
“It would be good also if NAPLAN reflected more of the syllabus that we actually teach. That is not the case at the moment.
“We teach a lot more.
“I don’t know how you would do this but if we could look at some way of how you assess problem solving or creative thinking or creativity or even collaboration.
“Because, they are the sort of skills that we are teaching at schools that we want kids to develop into and have those strengths.”
But Mr Seymour welcomed planned moves to introduce an online assessment which will deliver [NAPLAN] results quicker and make it more adaptive for students.
“Principals don’t have an issue with the assessments as such. I think our issue is the way the data is used,” Mr Seymour said.
“So it’s when they put it up on the My School website and the media or politicians or real estate agents will then develop lead tables and it’s the pressure on developing those that really causes us our angst.”