Ballarat High goes online for NAPLAN while most schools opt for paper process

RELIEVED: Hayley and Ashley smile and take a breath after completing their NAPLAN test at Sebastopol Primary School. Picture: Kate Healy
RELIEVED: Hayley and Ashley smile and take a breath after completing their NAPLAN test at Sebastopol Primary School. Picture: Kate Healy

Up to 1.9 million students across Australia began sitting the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) tests today, and while online was offered as an option for the first time, most Ballarat schools stayed with paper.

Ballarat High School was one of the few Victorian schools using the online process this year. School Learning Specialist - Mathematics, Melissa Pompe said 550 Ballarat High school students had completed the language conventions and writing test and so far the online process was “going well”.

She said the school had participated in online readiness trials to ensure servers were able to handle the load and they had contingency plans in place, including a full pack of paper-based tests and extra devices as a backup.

Ms Pompe said the biggest change from paper to online was that students had to complete the testing on a shift basis. “The system is limited to 120 students on the platform at a time, so we have to rotate the testing and the duty supervisors. 

“The other difference is that the online testing will run over nine days we can give the students more time. We can space the tests out a bit and give the students a rest day in-between.” Ms Pompe said the 272 Year 7 and 250 Year 9 students were generally positive and there had been only six student withdrawals. “They can use their own devices so it is more familiar and they are more engaged and less anxious.”

Meanwhile, other local schools progressed with the paper-based testing process and were quick to assure that it was “business as usual”. A Woodman’s Secondary College and Mount Rowan Secondary College spokesperson said both campuses, each with 300 students, were completing the NAPLAN and that it “was just part of the school routine”. 

“They are already familiar with it from primary, so it’s not a mystery,” he said.

At Sebastopol Primary School principal Michelle Wilson said 15 Year Five students and 12 Year Three students had completed the language conventions and writing test on Tuesday, May 15. She said there was some “normal anxiety but most students were positive”. She said they had planned a special outing for students once testing was finished.

Dana St Primary School principal Natalie Toohey said they had about 65 students doing the NAPLAN.

“We believe in excellent preparation all year round; we ensure the students are familiar with the test genre and know how to shade the bubbles etc.”  “We don’t do practice exams or drills. Drills are counter productive.”

The paper-based NAPLAN reading test is scheduled for May 16 and numeracy on Thursday, May 17. An Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) spokesperson said online NAPLAN testing would transition from paper to online over the next few years.