It’s that time of year again. The time where parents all start losing their shit over NAPLAN and where kids not old enough to cross the road on their own are loaded with ridiculous amounts of pressure from their parents.
NAPLAN is the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy. It is an annual assessment (NOT A TEST OR EXAM – AN ASSESSMENT) for students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9. It has been an everyday part of the school calendar since 2008 so the kids who were the first to start Naplan will be completing their final assessment in Year 9 this year.
NAPLAN tests the sorts of skills that are essential for every child to progress through school and life, such as reading, writing, spelling and numeracy. It’s an assessment that gauges the progress of your child as they move through school. I actually think it’s a bloody good idea. If your child sits all 4 assessments, by year 9 you should be able to see what areas are a strength or weakness for your child and work with them and their teacher accordingly. I just wish parents would calm down about it.
Last year I was one of ‘those’ parents. I too, lost my shit and had a very limited understanding of how to approach Naplan with a calm mind. I had Mr Year 3 doing NAPLAN tests every day over the summer holidays (yes, he actually got the Naplan test book for Christmas). I worked with him to improve his understanding of reading writing and mathematics/numeracy (whatever it’s called these days). I learnt that I would probably fail year 3 maths if it were a pass or fail situation.
Lady Karma took care of me and my pressure cooker however.
4 days before NAPLAN, Mr Year 3 came down (as did all the kids) with chicken pox and that was the end of that. Despite my plea for him to sit in an isolated room to complete the assessment, I was assured his lack of completing the test wasn’t really going to matter. A few desperate phone calls to the high schools he was enrolled in and same response “don’t worry about it, we’ll just look at his year 5 assessment and make sure he’s up to speed with the basics from that”. UP TO SPEED WITH THE BASICS. Not “we won’t accept him if he isn’t a genius or in the top band”.
It was this response from all schools that prompted me to take my Captain Naplan hat off.
We have not worried about it since. It wasn’t mentioned again and it wasn’t until the summer holidays this year that I asked a friend “did the kids get their NAPLAN results?” After all that pressure, no one seemed to give a damn about the results. Why? Because it’s an assessment of your child and how they are tracking right there and then. It’s not a test against every other kid in the grade. It’s not the HSC and just like winning a game of sport, it sure as hell isn’t going to determine if they end up successful in life.
This week I have another Mr Year 3 doing NAPLAN. He is as cool as a cucumber. He’s not a genius and we know his strengths and weaknesses but his results aren’t going to change anything in my mind. I learnt my lesson the first time. There is no pressure, we’ve not picked up the NAPLAN test book to prepare. It’s not about me, it’s not about my parenting or my ability to raise smart kids and I’m not worried about it. I don’t want him to be either. He is doing a little more reading at night with him to ensure he will be able to read the questions (but he doesn’t know that, I’ve not mentioned the dreaded word) and I’m not going to talk about the N word this week. Kids have enough on their plates, he will want to do well and he will. He’ll do HIS best and if it turns out that he’s a bit weaker in some areas, we actually want to see what they are, based on his year so far no just focusing on that one assessment.
If he smashes it then well done to him, but it won’t make him a better person, nor will it set him up for success in life. Sure I want him to try show his academic ability in their best light but for me NAPLAN is just a few hours over a couple of days.
Instead of the best NAPLAN score at school, here’s what I want from my kids;
- A child who leaves primary school and can read and write, add up and subtract at a level that is appropriate for their age.
- A child who has a love of books and a thirst for knowledge and information
- A child with an opinion but respects the opinions of others
- A child who isn’t scared to speak to adults, look them in the eye, shake their hand and say thank you
- A child who is polite to friends and teachers
- A child who has empathy
- A child who is aware of current affairs and the world around them
- A child with a conscience
- A child who has faith and spirituality (whatever their beliefs, not just their religion)
- A child who does not suffer from insecurity or anxiety
- A child who can congratulate others on work well done or a win in their field of expertise and be genuinely happy and not jealous
- A child who can play team sport and be a committed and enthusiastic team player
- A child who helps others in their time of need
- A child who is creative and has new ideas
- A child who can lead but allows others to take the lead
- A child who listens
- A child who can turn the TV and screens off by choice and without being asked
- A child who understands the difference between right and wrong choices
That’s all I want. NAPLAN should be a small percentage of the whole child and I hope for his teacher, he gets a result that is reflective of the great work she has done so far.
Don’t lose your shit over it, there’s a lot more important stuff to get right.