HUNTER students will start three days of NAPLAN tests on Tuesday, following the cancellation of last year's assessments due to COVID-19.
Principal of St Kevin's Primary, Cardiff, Mary-Anne Jennings said her school was taking a "low key" approach to the tests, which she said were point-in-time snapshots of student performance and usually reaffirmed what teachers already knew.
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"We try and keep it very low key because in a primary school they are nine and 11 year olds," Ms Jennings said.
"You want them just to treat it as another normal type of assessment.
"It's a bit more formal, because they've got to sit in a formal place and have space between each one. The situation is more formalised, but that's as far as we [go], we try to keep it low key so they don't get anxious or stressed. We don't feed into that NAPLAN buzz, 'This is NAPLAN, you've got to do your best'.
"Yes, they're aware of it, but we say 'Okay, this will tell you how much you've grown, especially year five how much you've improved since year three, and year three, this is our benchmark, we start to plan your future from here'.
"We make them aware that it's coming, but it's not pressure.
"At this age, learning should be just what they do, it should be fun.
"As soon as you use that word 'test', children will become worried, concerned, fretful, so as a teacher you'll get better results, more true results, with your formative assessments throughout your units of work."
Students in years three, five, seven and nine will sit papers in language conventions, writing, reading and numeracy.
Ms Jennings said teachers had spent about 20 minutes a week for the past three weeks familiarising students with the test structures and what to do if they needed help.
She said the focus was on the process, not content.
"You're not teaching to the test," she said.
"They can't study for it and you don't give them things to study.
"Your lessons might be reminding them, you might do revision on things, remind them when you're doing your lessons, 'Remember what your sentences start with and end with' and all that, but not NAPLAN preparation."
Ms Jennings said the school used NAPLAN to measure student growth and if this wasn't evident, to look for reasons why.
She said schools focused on literacy or numeracy in their annual school improvement plans and the test highlighted areas of priority.
"It's like a roadmap for going 'These are our strengths, but let's see what else needs going'," she said.
"You can deviate, but it does give a good sense of generally where you need to go.
"It provides information on student progress and it complements work that teachers are already doing in the classroom.
"It's not the be-all and end-all. It almost reaffirms the knowledge and understanding the teachers already have of their students.
"When your staff are on the ball and know their students, NAPLAN doesn't give you any surprises."
Students at Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle schools will sit the tests online, apart from year three students taking the writing test on paper.
All schools are expected to transition to online tests by 2022.
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