Schools are preparing for an “administrative mind-blowing exercise” as the final day of NAPLAN tests looms for the first cohort of year 9 students who require three band eights to qualify for their HSC.
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Fewer than half of all year 9 students are expected to achieve this NAPLAN result and most will need to pass online tests in the following years to receive their HSC, under the NSW government’s new minimum literacy and numeracy standard announced last year.

The principal at Cerdon College in Merrylands, Patricia Baker, said schools have been left out of the consultation process and have received very little information about the follow-up online tests.

“We have no idea when these tests are going to be offered, how they’re going to be offered,” Mrs Baker said. “There are a lot of unknowns. I think it’s an administrative mind-blowing exercise because schools are being asked to do the heavy lifting.

“Just arranging times and supervision is going to mean time out of the normal teaching for students.”

The NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) confirmed that “the majority of students will be sitting at least one of the online tests starting in Year 10” and they will be given two chances per year to take the tests, in a letter published online a week before NAPLAN tests began.

Sonya Agius, a maths teacher at the school, said teaching practices would likely change as the online tests become a concern for senior students.

“I’m hoping this will be a positive change, but this can’t be what education is about. It has to be beyond [NAPLAN],” Ms Agius said.

“We just have to take it a step at a time and look at what the processes are after the results come out, how are we going to deal with it as a school, as a system.”

Mrs Baker said the pressure on teachers and students will increase as the HSC approaches.

“At that point, how are schools going to be able to remediate that deficit?” she asked. “It will place a lot of pressure.

“The concern we would have is that students will lose their confidence and feel they’re defined by a less than perfect mark.”

Mrs Baker said “the jury is still out” on the value of the minimum standard after the tertiary admissions body confirmed students who do not achieve the requirements will still be able to get an ATAR and go to university.

“We’ve tried to acknowledge it’s a high stakes prequalification for the HSC but it’s not the end of the world,” Mrs Baker said.

“They may not get the HSC but it is my belief the universities will still accept them because by that stage their literacy skills as tested by the HSC are going to be at the level that says they’re very capable, articulate men and women.”

Charlize D’Souza, a year 9 student at Cerdon College, said linking NAPLAN to the HSC is “not really fair”.

“By the time you get to the HSC you actually care about these things,” she said. “Right now we just have to learn and prepare for the future, it’s not our time yet I think.”

Rose Hanratty, 14, said: “It’s more of an inconvenience that you have to redo [the tests], but I think it’ll be fine. We are a bit of the guinea pigs, but someone’s got to be the first year. We just drew the short straw.

“It was a bit of a shock, but then I just sort of adjusted to it and went, ‘This is how it’s going to go’.”