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NAPLAN: Guides will help parents understand My School data

The release of last year's NAPLAN data is an opportunity for parents to engage in their child's education but the role of My School data should not be overplayed in making schooling decisions, according to parents' groups.

The Association of Parents and Friends of ACT Schools, which represents parents of non-government schools, advocates for more information and transparency to encourage parental involvement in education. ''All this research talks about parental engagement being the actual lever for student achievement, so the reality is, the more information that is available for parents that they can digest … that will have enormous outcomes for student attainment,'' APFACTS president Charuni Weerasooriya said.

The organisation has produced guides to help parents interpret both NAPLAN and the My School data, but warns against attaching too much importance to My School results.

''They give good information, but it is only a small part of the picture,'' its guide says. ''You certainly can't say, on the basis of these figures, that school X is better for my child than school Y.''

Ms Weerasooriya said the aim was to make it easier for parents to use the data to address where their child may need more support or extra challenges and discuss that with teachers.

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''When you go onto My School and just look at it, there's so much data, you don't know how to dissect it … you need to be able to analyse it correctly, and sometimes you just need to have it broken down into more tangible language, and that's our aim; to demystify some of the stuff in education and make it easier to connect with children's learning''

But they warn against judging a school purely on its My School results.

''It is a source of information and a really useful source of information, especially if you're moving around the country,'' APFACTS executive officer Julie Sengelman said.

''Location's the first factor, then what are the schools in that area and how are they performing. So I think it's great to be able to do that, because I come from a military family … [but] it doesn't really give the whole picture,'' Ms Sengelman said.

The ACT Council of Parents and Citizens Associations, which represents government schools, gives the same message.

''Schools are not defined by the results of one test on one day,'' president Vivienne Pearce said.

''In assessing a school, there is no substitute for visiting the school, speaking to the principal and teachers, observing students and talking to other parents.

''I would urge parents to discuss with their school any concerns they might have, but not to put too much emphasis on an individual number like a NAPLAN score.''