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Early learning groups say they know why NAPLAN flatlined

It’s turned out to be a bad investment: “record” government school funding hasn’t yielded concordantly higher numeracy and literacy results, as NAPLAN 2016 revealed last week.

NAPLAN, The National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy, is an annual test for all students in years 3, 5, 7 and 9. This year, reading and numeracy increased by minuscule increments, whilst writing dropped by 0.2 per cent, despite a 23.7 per cent funding increase across these areas.

Education Minister Simon Birmingham blamed the results plateau on misplaced money, “We need to focus on evidence-based measures that will get results for our students,” he urged. “This NAPLAN data clearly shows that while strong levels of investment in schools are important, it’s more important to ensure that funding is being used on [school-based] initiatives proven to boost student results.”

While early learning advocacy groups such as Early Childhood Australia (ECA) support this approach, they say, consistent, quality early learning is key.

ECA chief executive Samantha Page referred to the 2015 Australian Early Development Census to bolster her stance. It found that 1 in 5 Australian children and 2 in 5 Indigenous Australian children are developmentally vulnerable when they start school, where it then becomes “…very hard for them to catch up to their peers”, Page explained.

She also referenced research by the Melbourne Institute, which ascertained that children who attended a high-quality early childhood program in the year before school were up to 40 per cent ahead of their peers in NAPLAN in Year 3.

Like ECA, the Forrest family’s Minderoo Foundation also stressed early learning as the most important catalyst for positive educational change, following the NAPLAN disappointment. “By engaging with individual children and families before school starts, possible delays and roadblocks to educational achievement can be detected and remedied before it’s too late,” Minderoo chief executive Nicola Forrest implored.

Since Minderoo is particularly concerned with Indigenous disadvantage, it further alleged the static NAPLAN results “highlight the continuing divide between students as a result of their location and background”.

Minderoo’s $20 million Connected Beginnings initiative – which integrates child, maternal, health and family support services for families in remote, disadvantaged areas in the pre-school years – is intended to foster better educational outcomes for these children. The pilot site will be in Alice Springs.

ECA, meanwhile, has a broader solution to the NAPLAN snag. Page advised “the federal government to ensure all Australian children attend at least two days a week of quality early learning”.

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3 comments

  1. Maureen Hartung, Blue Gum Community School

    Wouldn’t equity require that disadvantaged groups be offered 5 days per week+ all year round + include an extended day option with the same core educational team, in a high quality educational service – so that they have the same opportunity as advantaged groups who can pay to access this type of service?

    “Universal” pre-school that offers access to 2 days only during school terms is NOT giving universal access, it is simply giving a universal/the same solution. This is NOT equity.

    How about the Federal government fund/encourage services/models that respond to the needs of the 21st century, rather than a pre-school model designed for the 1950s (at best).

  2. The research and the statistics show it is a no brainer.

    What we need to do now as a smart community is get our Federal Education Minister and our Prime Minister to get on with the changes to the funding for families and make the necessary amendments that will allow families to continue having their children engage in an early learning programme in early childhood education and care centres across our nation.

    Importantly we must as a community not allow children to miss out on an early childhood education if their parents do not meet the work and study test – we must not punish the child based on parental decision making.

    Further, it is vital that all children have access to an early learning programme for a minimum of two days per week and this must be funded by the Federal Government so that no child misses out.

    Two days early childhood education pays for itself as research shows that each $1 spent by government gives a return of $17 to government and to taxpayers as children require less remedial education, stay at school longer, achieve tertiary qualifications, get a job, pay taxes, stay out of juvenile detention and the adult prison system, stay off welfare and end the proliferation of generational welfare – spend the money up front to save copious amounts of money in the future for taxpayers.

    We as adults in a prosperous nation must make sure we and our government get it right for our children because if we get it right for our children we will get it right for our nation as our children are the future of our nation.

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