ACT News


NAPLAN: Independent schools a point or two above the pack in My School rankings

The Canberra Times' league tables of ACT schools' literacy and numeracy scores continue to show that independent schools dominate their Catholic and government counterparts.

Independent schools fared well in years 7 and 9 in particular, while government and Catholic schools seemed to perform better in the primary years.

Funding remains uneven across the education system: severely disadvantaged government schools continue to receive the biggest share of ACT government funds, followed by independent schools, which draw a substantial portion of their revenue from fees.

Meanwhile, Catholic primary schools operate on less than a third of the funds that the most disadvantaged government schools receive, and less than half the budgets of independent schools.

Last week, the My School website published last year's results for the national assessment program for literacy and numeracy, or NAPLAN.


The scores of the ACT's 111 schools, when ranked against each other, show big improvements in year 3 for schools such as Telopea Park, which had improved on every measure since 2012. It moved from 47th to eighth in numeracy and from 21st to third in reading.

Mawson Primary jumped 71 places to come second in year 3 spelling and 17 places to come first in numeracy.

A small group of Catholic schools also dominated year 3 results: Rosary came fifth in reading, third in writing, fourth in spelling, second in grammar and 11th in maths.

Canberra Girls Grammar School, Canberra Grammar and to a lesser extent Radford College - the ACT schools with the highest fees - all dominated the year 5 results. Garran Primary also posted among the top results across the five subjects.

In year 7, Canberra Girls Grammar and Canberra Grammar vied for top places; Lyneham High School made big gains this year on last, coming fifth in reading, sixth in spelling, fourth in grammar and fourth in numeracy. Trinity Christian School improved its placing in three of the five test areas: it came fifth in writing, up from 13th in 2012.

However, the volatility of school performance from year to year was shown in last year's big improver, Burgmann Anglican School, dropping several places in each of the five areas, while still coming in the top 10.

The gender divide in performance across the country was shown in Canberra Grammar - an all-boy's school - taking out the top place in numeracy in years 5, 7 and 9, while Canberra Girl's Grammar was first in writing in all years.

At the bottom of the table, a small group of government schools catering to disadvantage continued to perform below national benchmarks. These schools also showed a correspondingly low index of community socio-educational advantage (ICSEA) scores.

Government schools with low ICSEA scores all received considerably more funds per student than did schools with higher levels of advantage. For example, Jervis Bay School, which has a high indigenous enrolment, receives $32,678 per student, compared with Garran Primary School, the ACT government school with the highest ICSEA score, which receives just $10,957.

Catholic primary schools receive the least funds per child, ranging from $10,341 at St John Vianney's in Waramanga to $7918 for St Anthony's Parish School in Wanniassa.

Australian Education Union ACT branch secretary Glenn Fowler urged parents to ignore the league tables published in The Canberra Times on the basis they were ''crude, unreliable and unnecessary''.

''The NAPLAN tests took place 10 months ago and provide a once-a-year snapshot of literacy and numeracy skills, as demonstrated on an external test,'' Mr Fowler said.

''The results throw up wild fluctuations each year depending on the student cohort and tell us nothing of significance about the quality of teaching at a school. NAPLAN was designed for a diagnostic purpose and never to rank schools.''

He said the best way to find out about a school was to visit one and talk to the principal, the teachers and other parents.

''ACT students perform at the highest levels internationally, and all of our schools are doing great things. Really, you can't go wrong.''

The Canberra Times will publish a second set of tables on Tuesday that show the effect of social advantage on student performance and the ''value-add'' that each school provides its students.

Many of the schools whose raw scores place them on the top of the league tables are ranked much lower when their educational advantage is taken into account.

Conversely, a number of those at the bottom of the raw-score rankings outperform schools with similar levels of disadvantage.


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