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Principal's Blog

2016 TERM 2


NAPLAN exams were in the second week of May, and were generally attempted in what I see as the right spirit. The children exiting their exams reported that they were ‘fun’ or ‘not too hard’ or ‘easy’ or that ‘I didn’t answer every question’ or that ‘a few questions at the end were pretty tricky’ or that ‘I was not sure about all of the spelling’ or that ‘I got them all right’. We have never had anyone get all of the questions right, so the last claim is unlikely. Still, not the first time this claim has been made.

The lack of stress and anxiety before, during and after the exams I think speaks to the success of our approach. In this, I would like to extend a thank you to the parents of our participants for not making these exams a big deal. Your support of our approach is the single biggest contributor to our aim to convey that exams are a normal, no-stress, expected part of life. I cannot count the number of tests and exams I have taken. I am sure that for most parents this is similarly true.

A few incidents speak to how our approach is not the most common. My niece goes to a high-performing school, frequently ranked one of the top schools in Australia. They started NAPLAN preparation (both in class and at home) in October last year. This makes it high stakes and stressful for all, and places her school firmly within the Asian approach to assessment - she finished her NAPLAN stressed and distressed. We had a visitor during NAPLAN week who commented that the children she looks after (they attend an inner eastern suburbs school) have been doing NAPLAN prep for ages, and were all stressed out about it. As I opened the first set of papers one of our Asian mothers commented that our approach was a long way from the rather intense approach her mother took to her exams.

The clearest interaction that tells me that we have a good approach to NAPLAN came from my daughter Charlotte (Year 2) who asked me if she could ‘please do NAPLAN’. She has no idea what it is, but had just picked up on the excited, happy air around the school surrounding NAPLAN, and so simply wanted to be part of this. Given the stress (you know you can buy NAPLAN stress dolls!) Charlotte’s request charmed me no end. I explained to her the NAPLAN was spelling and that she already did spelling tests, and writing and reading and that she already did these. She was insistent, she wanted to do NAPLAN. I informed her that NAPLAN was ‘checked by the government’ and that they would only check your work if you were in year three and five, so she could not actually do it, but that I could show her what it looked like. By the time the next week rolled around, she had forgotten all about her request. Still, I think you all get my point, which is that if something (exams in this case) are part of life, then there is no point in making them a big stress.

Our approach has always been to encourage the children to do their best in all that they do, running, performing, being nice or writing a story, or in this instance, exams. NAPLAN is not a big deal at our school, and in fact actually contributes a bit of excitement and energy, with the NAPLAN buzz a bit like the buzz before cross-country: a happy, excited buzz. I hope that it may remain so.

Timothy Berryman


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