Australia’s state and territory education ministers have agreed to delay the national online rollout of NAPLAN until 2021 after thousands of public school students were left unable to access or complete online tests earlier this year due to the connectivity problems.
The original timeline anticipated all schools would transition to NAPLAN online by 2020.
The agreement to move this deadline to 2021 was forged at an Education Council meeting of the ministers in Melbourne on Friday.
After the prospect of a national review into the program was knocked back by the federal government, the Queensland, New South Wales and Victorian governments agreed to fund their own review.
“It is not only timely but common sense that we hold an Australia-wide review, and the states and territories are frustrated that we cannot get the Federal Government to agree to one,” said Queensland education minister Grace Grace.
“That’s why the Queensland, Victorian and New South Wales governments have taken the matter into our own hands and we will work together to conduct a review outside of the Education Council’s endorsement,” she said.
The three states’ review did not receive the support of education minister Dan Tehan who said it was “premature to commission a full review of NAPLAN while other reviews are still outstanding”.
The Education Council is about to conduct a review into the connectivity issues of NAPLAN and online as well as a ‘low/no bandwidth solution’.
Tehan said that more than 1 million students sat NAPLAN online this year, conceding that “while 97 per cent of online tests were unaffected it is not good enough that some students and schools were impacted”.
Grace said that she and her counterparts in NSW and Victoria would present the findings of their own review at a future meeting of the Education Council.
“This is far too important an issue to leave to a government who simply wants to just sit on its hands,” she said.
The online national assessment platform has been built by Education Services Australia with funds from the federal government. It is being rolled out by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA).
Around 50 per cent of students took the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) assessment online in May, approximately 2.17 million tests.
But thousands were unable to access or complete the online test due to the connectivity problems.
According to Western Australia education and training minister Sue Ellery, the Education Council heard how “problems with the firewall” were a possible reason.
"The technological problems schools encountered this year accessing the online platform were disruptive, distressing for some and unacceptable given the amount of time we have been transitioning to date, with around 40,000 students from 300 schools affected on the day,” Ellery said.
The Australian Education Union (AEU) in May said that the problems with the online test had “shattered any confidence” that teachers had in NAPLAN.
“It is clearer than ever that NAPLAN is in no way fit for purpose, and that the farcical move to NAPLAN Online has been hasty and ill-conceived… Following the chaos of the widespread NAPLAN online IT outages, no one can have any faith in the data which is produced by this round of testing,” AEU federal president Correna Haythorpe said at the time.
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