Naplan

Mr DULUK (Davenport) (15:16): This afternoon I want to have a talk about NAPLAN results in South Australia.

Earlier this month thousands of SA students sat the NAPLAN test for 2016. I congratulate those who participated in this year's test and I wish them all the best. Sadly, the reality is that many of these students will not achieve the minimum standards or reach national average levels. South Australian students' NAPLAN scores have been disappointing in recent years. In 2015, South Australia only made a statistically significant improvement in one category and, alarmingly, our students were the worst performing of the mainland states, falling well short of the national average in 18 of 28 categories. To me, this is unacceptable.

In 2015, not one South Australian government primary schools was ranked in the top 100 schools in the nation based on NAPLAN results. Only one South Australian government school made the top 100 secondary schools, being Glenunga International High School. As a graduate of the public state school system—and I like to say 'public and proud'—I find our declining performance very sad.

What concerns me more is that the gaps between students are widening with every year level in the NAPLAN tests. A recent Grattan Institute report, called 'Widening gaps: what NAPLAN tells us about student progress', highlighted that learning gaps widen alarmingly as students move through school. By year 9 the spread of achievement spans eight years. The report demonstrates how the gap between high and low achieving students in year 3 widens dramatically when students reach year 9.

A gap between high and low results in year 3 students is only a matter of months of literacy and numeracy progress, but by year 9 that same gap between high and low results can translate to years' worth of literacy and numeracy progress. It is a bit late to try to fill the gap when a student is in year 9. More intervention is needed in the early years to prevent these widening gaps between students.

The Labor government must make serious policy changes if it wants to deliver better outcomes for South Australian students. Let's remember that we used to lead the nation in the early 1990s and 2000s in school academic results and we also used to perform very well on the international stage. Successive Labor governments have overseen a dramatic decline in basic standards in our state education system. It is time the government acknowledges its education policies are flawed, accept responsibility and take definitive steps to reverse our falling standards— anything less and we are ripping off our young people. We cannot continue to fail them in developing essential literacy and numeracy skills. Again, another quote from the Grattan report:

Disadvantaged students are falling further behind each year they are at school, on our watch. These gaps matter. Achievement in year 9 is a strong predictor of success in study and work later on. A good school education helps a young person stand on their own two feet as an adult, and the benefits ripple through future generations.

The OECD notes that students who are low performers at age 15 are more likely to drop out of school and when a large share of the population lacks basic skills, a country's long-term economic growth is compromised.

With 7 per cent unemployment and substandard NAPLAN results, I question what this government is doing for young people in South Australia. As a start, two important changes must be made to help our students. Firstly, embrace local school autonomy. No two schools are the same and no two students are the same. Let school principals make decisions in the best interests of their school, students and parent cohort.

Secondly, transition year 7 into high school. It would bring students into line with the national curriculum, with South Australia the only jurisdiction in Australia that still has year 7 students in primary school. Our 12 and 13 year olds need specialist teachers and an age appropriate environment to improve their literacy and numeracy skills.

South Australia should strive to be the best state for education. We have great schools and excellent teachers. Let us empower them to do their job and provide the education our young people need and build an education system that is the envy of the nation, not one that is lagging behind. Families should look at our state and think, 'We should be moving to South Australia, they have the best schools and will provide our children with the greatest opportunities to succeed.'

Earlier this month thousands of SA students sat the NAPLAN test for 2016. I congratulate those who participated in this year's test and I wish them all the best. Sadly, the reality is that many of these students will not achieve the minimum standards or reach national average levels. South Australian students' NAPLAN scores have been disappointing in recent years. In 2015, South Australia only made a statistically significant improvement in one category and, alarmingly, our students were the worst performing of the mainland states, falling well short of the national average in 18 of 28 categories. To me, this is unacceptable.

 

In 2015, not one South Australian government primary schools was ranked in the top 100 schools in the nation based on NAPLAN results. Only one South Australian government school made the top 100 secondary schools, being Glenunga International High School. As a graduate of the public state school system—and I like to say 'public and proud'—I find our declining performance very sad.

 

What concerns me more is that the gaps between students are widening with every year level in the NAPLAN tests. A recent Grattan Institute report, called 'Widening gaps: what NAPLAN tells us about student progress', highlighted that learning gaps widen alarmingly as students move through school. By year 9 the spread of achievement spans eight years. The report demonstrates how the gap between high and low achieving students in year 3 widens dramatically when students reach year 9.

 

A gap between high and low results in year 3 students is only a matter of months of literacy and numeracy progress, but by year 9 that same gap between high and low results can translate to years' worth of literacy and numeracy progress. It is a bit late to try to fill the gap when a student is in year 9. More intervention is needed in the early years to prevent these widening gaps between students.

 

The Labor government must make serious policy changes if it wants to deliver better outcomes for South Australian students. Let's remember that we used to lead the nation in the early 1990s and 2000s in school academic results and we also used to perform very well on the international stage. Successive Labor governments have overseen a dramatic decline in basic standards in our state education system. It is time the government acknowledges its education policies are flawed, accept responsibility and take definitive steps to reverse our falling standards— anything less and we are ripping off our young people. We cannot continue to fail them in developing essential literacy and numeracy skills. Again, another quote from the Grattan report:

 

Disadvantaged students are falling further behind each year they are at school, on our watch. These gaps matter. Achievement in year 9 is a strong predictor of success in study and work later on. A good school education helps a young person stand on their own two feet as an adult, and the benefits ripple through future generations.

 

The OECD notes that students who are low performers at age 15 are more likely to drop out of school and when a large share of the population lacks basic skills, a country's long-term economic growth is compromised.

 

With 7 per cent unemployment and substandard NAPLAN results, I question what this government is doing for young people in South Australia. As a start, two important changes must be made to help our students. Firstly, embrace local school autonomy. No two schools are the same and no two students are the same. Let school principals make decisions in the best interests of their school, students and parent cohort.

 

Secondly, transition year 7 into high school. It would bring students into line with the national curriculum, with South Australia the only jurisdiction in Australia that still has year 7 students in primary school. Our 12 and 13 year olds need specialist teachers and an age appropriate environment to improve their literacy and numeracy skills.

 

South Australia should strive to be the best state for education. We have great schools and excellent teachers. Let us empower them to do their job and provide the education our young people need and build an education system that is the envy of the nation, not one that is lagging behind. Families should look at our state and think, 'We should be moving to South Australia, they have the best schools and will provide our children with the greatest opportunities to succeed.'