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A Comprehensive Guide to NAPLAN

Updated: Aug 24, 2021

Belrose Tutoring Academy's Comprehensive Guide to NAPLAN

What is NAPLAN?

NAPLAN (National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy) is a standardised assessment conducted each year for all students in years 3, 5, 7 and 9.

There are 4 parts of the test; reading, writing, language conventions (which includes grammar, punctuation and spelling) and numeracy.

What is the purpose of NAPLAN?

NAPLAN results are used by educational authorities, governments, schools, teachers, parents and tutors, to assess the literacy and numeracy capabilities of young Australians. They reflect how an individual student is performing at the time of the tests and as they are standardised, they can be useful for determining how a student is performing against their peers or how a school is performing against other schools.

It is important to note though, NAPLAN only makes up one aspect of a school's assessment and reporting process, and there is ongoing debate amongst politicians, educators and academics on how best to optimise the results obtained from these assessments, whether the publication of results is beneficial or harmful to the Australian education system and the overall efficacy of the NAPLAN examinations.

How are NAPLAN results used?

NAPLAN was introduced back in 2008 by Julia Gillard with ACARA (Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority) managing the tests from 2010 onwards.

As of March 8, 2017, NAPLAN performance results began to be published on the My School website ( which states that "My School supports national transparency and accountability of Australia's schools, by publishing nationally-consistent school-level date about every school in Australia."

How do schools and teachers use NAPLAN results?

Data collected from the NAPLAN examinations can be used by schools and teachers to compare their students to a wider group across Australia, or even, compare their students to similar students in their local demographic.

Further, the results can identify students who may require additional support, ensuring no student is left behind.

Overall, whilst the results are extremely useful for comparing students against other students, they may be best used by schools to compare their own learning programs and systems year-on-year. More specifically, schools can use these results, in combination with their own internal metrics, to identify strengths and weaknesses and develop academic goals for the years ahead.

How can parents and students use NAPLAN results?

The Year 3 NAPLAN tests are the first time parents are able to see how their child is comparing against their peers both from within the school and against the national average. Going forward in years 5, 7 and 9, you will be able to compare each year's results to see the progress your child is making under the headings assessed in NAPLAN, that is reading, writing, language conventions and numeracy.

One of the easiest ways to see your child's progress would be to compare how your child has progressed over the 2 year periods relative to the school average. For example, if your child was 1 band below the school average in their year 3 NAPLAN results for reading, you could assume your child has improved relative to their peers if they had narrowed the gap or even surpassed the school average. These results shouldn't be the only way you track your child's academic progress, I list numerous issues with the NAPLAN testing below.

Whilst the example listed above is relevant for parents or carers already with children in school, the NAPLAN results can also provide valuable insight for those families who are still deciding which school is most suited to them.

As the My School website rightly points out, "the inclusion of data about how schools perform in NAPLAN provides information on only one aspect of school performance and does not measure overall school quality" and "a child’s teacher will have the best insight into educational progress."

What information is available on the My School website and how do I use this information?

The My School website provides NAPLAN data from 2014 onwards. More specifically, it has information and data under the following headings: school profile, NAPLAN, attendance, finances, VET in schools, senior secondary and school map.

School Profile

The school profile provides other information on each school including school facts, school staff, student backgrounds (including the distribution of socio-educational advantage), school links and student information. One of the most important pieces of information for parents on this site is the number of teaching staff compared to the total student enrolments. This can give you a great insight into class sizes at the school and therefore how much attention your child would receive if they attended that school.


Under NAPLAN, you can identify the overall school performance by clicking on "results." My School has made the data easily digestible including useful graphs and the use of colour coding. Simply scan the tables to compare your chosen school against students with a similar background or all Australian students. This sheds light on the academic performance of schools. By comparing these results to previous years, parents and students are able to see if the results have been consistent. If they have been, you can be confident in the school's ability to repeat these results in the years ahead.

Also under NAPLAN, you can find "student progress," which shows how much results at your chosen school have improved since students did NAPLAN two years ago. It is a great indicator of the progression made by the majority of the cohort in between their NAPLAN assessments. As such, this data can contribute to your understanding of how a school has been academically performing over the past 2 years, ensuring you are up-to-date and informed.

What are the issues with NAPLAN?

Depending on who you ask, from politicians to teachers to parents, you'll likely get a different opinion on the NAPLAN testing. Some issues, and there will of course be others, are listed here:

  1. Some schools and teachers teach for the test, whereas others do not. This creates an unfair playing field for students in what is meant to be a standardised test. Further, teachers may feel forced to place learning outcomes assessed in the NAPLAN examinations over the normal curriculum, particularly if their school uses NAPLAN as a teacher performance measure.

  2. Students report that the test isn't always relevant to what they are learning in class.A key example of this is that our year 9 English students may be working on essays or extended creative writing pieces in class whereas this type of writing only makes up one aspect of the NAPLAN test.

  3. The NAPLAN test only measures performance at the time of testing, that is, results and data obtained from the testing may be out-of-date and not relevant. The NAPLAN results are received five months after the initial tests. Further, a student's performance on one day may not accurately reflect their ability, for example, if students don't take the testing seriously.

  4. NAPLAN only assesses English and numeracy skills and as such presents only a limited view of a student's learning and capabilities at school.

  5. With school's NAPLAN results being published for all to see on the My Schools website, teachers and schools may feel unnecessary extra pressure and thus be distracted from real learning outcomes. .

So how important is NAPLAN really?

This article really points out both the positives and negatives of NAPLAN, the aim being to give you a neutral, informative and well researched perspective. At the end of the day, the importance of NAPLAN really comes down to each individual family.

Some families will find the testing really useful to determine their child's progress over 2 year periods, areas that need to be prioritised going forward and potentially even which school they will attend. Other families will see less value in the testing as they see numerous issues with the way the test is rolled out, the unnecessary pressure it puts on students and teachers or even its limited performance measures.

NAPLAN testing and the results obtained should only make up one performance measure of your child's academic performance, and nothing will ever be more insightful than your child's classroom teacher. Schools use progressive reporting as well as formative assessments to track a student's performance in any given year and compare data internally from year to year. Teachers use this data to make adjustments to maximise student growth in learning.

Does tutoring work for NAPLAN?

As with any specialised and targeted one-on-one tuition, tutoring for NAPLAN definitely improves results. Tutoring is best utilised to familiarise students with the set-out of the NAPLAN test as well as teach students about proper examination technique.

Further, tutoring can be used to target specific target areas identified in your child's NAPLAN results, ensuring your child feels confident in the years ahead.