Principals' frustration grows amid NAPLAN online 'debacle'


Last week, about 50% of Australian schools began sitting NAPLAN online, up from about 15% in 2018. However, reports of technical issues have caused some to question whether the online version of the test is causing more trouble than its worth.

In Western Australia, 40,000 students experienced significant connectivity issues and could not properly complete the test online, prompting the state’s government to approve pen and paper tests until the problems could be resolved.

The Australian Education Union (AEU) in Victoria says such reports of widespread technical difficulties show the Federal Government must act, and soon.

“NAPLAN online is a debacle. Schools have raised a raft of problems in practice tests over recent weeks,” AEU Victorian branch president, Meredith Peace, said.

Victorian Principals Association (VPA) president, Anne-Maree Kliman, said Victorian teachers had to adjust arrangements quickly while Year Three and Year Five primary students felt the pressure of delays and interruptions.

“The main concerns raised included connectivity issues, time lost due to having to continually sign in, white screens and loss of text,” Kliman told The Educator.

“Unfortunately, the concerns raised by principals have once again brought into question the reliability and validity of the NAPLAN regime. When the results come into schools and find their way onto the My School website, the validity of national data sets from this year’s testing will see more questions asked.”

NSWPPA president Phil Seymour said: “NAPLAN, the assessments and the use of the data has been controversial amongst educators for some time, but never more so than now”.

“This online process for Writing has been a huge disappointment for schools and students. ESA and ACARA have a lot to answer for,” Seymour told The Educator.

“The validity, reliability and credibility of any results will be highly questionable. Writing online for primary aged students should be dropped from the Agenda.”

One NSW principal said technical issues with the online test caused confusion and lengthy delays.

“Teachers had difficulty getting some students on with screens that just went white after they had logged on and that came up with a message saying they were locked out because they were logged onto another computer when they weren't,” the principal said.

“These students needed to access another computer and attempt to log in again to resolve the issues. It took around 45 minutes to get the NAPLAN fully underway for our Year 5 students.”

In a statement, ACARA acknowledged that the technical issues had caused distress to students but said the online version of the test should be given a chance.

“Schools have worked hard to prepare for NAPLAN Online, so it is important to ensure that all students have a fair opportunity to demonstrate what they know and can do in NAPLAN,” the statement read.

“The Australian Education Senior Officials Committee, with representatives from each state and territory and the Commonwealth, has agreed that jurisdictional Test Administration Authorities should have the option of offering affected students the opportunity to re-sit tests impacted by significant disruption. Tests can be retaken on Tuesday 28 May.”

The statement went on to say that students who do not wish to retake tests will not be required to do so.

ACARA will consult with states and territories and details of implementation will be available early next week.