There has been more criticism of NAPLAN after outages disrupted this year’s online tests. State governments are continuing to push to replace it.
AEU members at Mount Alexander College first took a stand against NAPLAN and standardised testing back in October 2018, passing a motion to refuse to administer NAPLAN in 2019.
The school has recently revolutionised its curriculum to put student choice and empowerment at the centre of subject selection. NAPLAN and standardised testing has become more and more alien to the values of the school. Students are not objects to be measured and categorised to check on their teachers’ classroom practice. When the Victorian State government proposed extending standardised literacy and numeracy testing to Year 11 and Year 12, and the NAPLAN online tests malfunctioned, AEU members decided to take a stand. Union activists in each staff room patiently explained the issues and the sub-branch was confident.
At the end of 2018, 11 teachers (out of around 40) found other jobs and the school had to recruit 13 new teachers to replace them. The Principal himself then moved schools. The sub-branch met again to test the waters in a substantially changed workplace. The new Principal attended the AEU meeting. In her presence the sub-branch again endorsed refusing to administer NAPLAN.
AEU Vice President Merino D’Ortenzio then came to the school. While sympathising with anger about standardised testing, he argued against our action because of the dangers of disciplinary action and said that it could harm the AEU’s Fair Funding election campaign. He also said there were signs that other sub-branches do not feel the way Mount Alexander College does. The one school that basically doesn’t administer NAPLAN (Spensely St Primary) did so by encouraging parents to withdraw their children from it, he said.
In the face of this, and knowing that practically the ban would fall on the shoulders of younger, graduate teachers, AEU members decided to back down.
But the struggle against NAPLAN will continue.
AEU members at Mount Alexander College have resolved to reach out to the parent community through the School Council and perhaps organising information forums. We will need to address parent concern about having information about how their children are progressing at school, in addition to convincing them to withdraw their children from NAPLAN.
Solidarity and action at a school level can beat harmful standardised testing. The opposition to NAPLAN is growing. Solidarity and support from parents and students will also be crucial to giving teachers the confidence to implement bans. We need to take control of our education and classrooms through our own action.