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Teachers will fight NAPLAN at home, in schools and the courts

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The Queensland Teachers’ Union is ramping up its campaign against NAPLAN testing after being warned a boycott would be illegal.

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After NAPLAN tests were cancelled last year, due to the disruption and resourcing challenges of the pandemic, Education Queensland will this week restart the tests as part of a nationally agreed program.

The union, which has long opposed the use of testing to judge schools, is now pushing for a boycott in another form. Ahead of a state council meeting to vote on the next wave of its campaign, the union has emailed members to encourage them to use their power as parents to withdraw children from NAPLAN.

“For the 2021 test, members are encouraged to consider withdrawing their children using the standardised form available from the school,” the union told members.

“Widespread disengagement from NAPLAN sends a clear message that parents and teachers don’t value the test in its current form and oppose its negative consequences for students and school communities.”

The email came as Education Minister Grace Grace issued a media statement to urge children and, pointedly, their parents to “relax and do your best”.

“Everyone needs to remember that this is just one of the ways we can monitor students’ progress and work out how to channel resources and provide more targeted support,” Grace said.

“Some form of standardised national testing is required, and for now that is NAPLAN.”

QTU president Cresta Richardson said teachers, schools, and Education Queensland kept a significant amount of data on students that could guide strategy and resourcing decisions more than NAPLAN.

Queensland Teachers’ Union president Cresta Richardson.

Richardson said the union recently surveyed members who reaffirmed their opposition to NAPLAN and the need for change.

“People don’t realise that NAPLAN is not compulsory or mandatory,” Richardson said.

“Our own members have the right as parents to withdraw their kids from NAPLAN if they choose.”

Grace acknowledged the “shortcomings” with the current system, as raised by both teachers and parents, and vowed to continue pushing for improvements at national meetings of education ministers.

However, those meetings allow any government to veto reforms. Federal Education Minister Alan Tudge recently vowed to “protect NAPLAN, and not give in to those who call for less accountability and less information for teachers and parents”.

Richardson said the union planned to directly lobby state and federal MPs.

After being told a 2021 boycott of NAPLAN would be illegal, the union has canvassed alternative approaches with members as it continues to challenge Education Queensland decisions in the courts.

The union wants NAPLAN abolished or, if it is kept, changes to ensure it is not treated as a census test, results are not aggregated, it is not used as a headline indicator of school performance and the writing test is abandoned altogether.

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