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“Stronger HSC Standards”: NESA reforms, Mr Ian Wake

Friday 3, March 2017

There has been much discussion in media and in schools about the new “Stronger HSC Standards” reforms.  Much of the discussion has centred around the linking of the HSC to Year 9 NAPLAN results.  These changes have already been communicated to our community but I thought I might make some comment on it in this edition of Revelations.

As you are aware, in May of every year, students in years 3, 5, 7, & 9 sit the NAPLAN exams for literacy and numeracy.  These exams are nationwide and the results are published to schools and families.  NAPLAN, first and foremost, are diagnostic assessments which are of great use to teachers as they can highlight specific areas of need for individual students.  In this respect, NAPLAN gives very helpful and valuable information to schools.  Over the years, however, due to the publication of school NAPLAN results on the myschool website, what was once viewed as a diagnostic test in many eyes is now being viewed as a measure of the quality of a school.  This has led some schools to treat the test as ‘high stakes’ and to subsequently alter their curriculum, to teach to the test.  This approach is very problematic and has the potential consequence of narrowing the curriculum.
This is not the direction that St Paul’s has taken.  We offer a full and diverse curriculum, in which the necessary literacy and numeracy skills are taught in the context of rich learning, rather than a ‘teach to the test’ approach.  Whilst our students perform strongly in NAPLAN tests, we have maintained the view that these tests are to be utilised for their original purpose, providing teachers with individual student feedback.

The NSW Education Standards Authority - NESA (which used to be BOSTES: Board of Studies Teaching and Education Standards NSW) is seeking to make the HSC stronger by adding a requirement that to be awarded the HSC, students now need to meet a minimum standard of literacy and numeracy.  There are a number of ways students can meet this new requirement, the first of which is linked to NAPLAN.  If year 9 students achieve a band 8 or higher in NAPLAN reading, writing and numeracy they will have met this new requirement.  Many of our students will do this in the upcoming May exams.  There will be quite a number of students who will not meet the requirement, and that is ok, and should not be a cause of concern.  Students who do not achieve a band 8 or more in Year 9 NAPLAN will be able to pass online reading, writing and numeracy tests of an equivalent standard in Year 10, 11 and 12.  Students will be able to attempt this test on multiple occasions.  NESA have also assured us special provision and exemptions will be available for students, as well as the continuation of life skill courses, which should reassure families with students with special needs.

Given all of this, we want our students to give their best attempt to any examination. For our year 9 students, we want them not to feel extra pressure or that they have to get a band 8 or above.  There will be plenty of opportunities over the next four years for them to attain the required level.  Above all, we need to remember that NAPLAN tests give us good, insightful information about our wonderful students.  Feel free to contact the school if you would like more information.  The following link may also be useful: bostes.nsw.edu/strongerHSC . 

Whatever you do, do it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.  Colossian 3: 23

Mr Ian Wake