National schools report card is out

RESTULTS of Australia's first national literacy and numeracy tests have been hailed by the Queensland government but the opposition claims they are a "damning indictment" of the state's education ministers.

Federal Education Minister Julia Gillard today released the results of the National Literacy and Numeracy Assessment Program (NAPLAN), following testing in May of Australian students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9.

Previous numeracy and literacy testing was conducted only on a state basis.

"The Queensland results show more than eight out of 10 students attained the national minimum standard in all areas and, in many areas, nine out of 10 students were achieving the national standard," Education and Training Minister Rod Welford said.

"In numeracy and reading, more than 90 per cent of Queensland students achieved the national standard in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 and Years 7 and 9 respectively."

However, LNP Shadow Education and Skills Minister John-Paul Langbroek claimed the report showed Anna Bligh and Mr Welford had failed as education ministers over the past decade.

"So much for the Smart State and all the promises ...this new report card shows our schools are the worst of all the states for Year 3 and Year 5, and close to the bottom in Year 7 and Year 9," he said.

"More than a quarter of all Year 3 and Year 5 students are achieving are only the bare minimum standard or lower for literacy and numeracy.

"These results are a direct reflection of the failure of the programs Anna Bligh introduced when she was education minister.

"There's no arguing about this report ... 210,000 students in Queensland in Years 3 , 5, 7 and 9 sat the test and parents will soon be reading for themselves just how far behind Queensland has fallen.

Mr Welford acknowledged that one area for concern was the writing result in the NAPLAN tests, "which shows in Year 3 more than 90 per cent of students were at or above the national minimum standard, but in Year 9 the results were disappointing with just 83.6 per cent of students achieving the national minimum standard".

He said Queensland's results also demonstrated the importance of early years education.

"In the early years, reading results are not as high, influenced by the fact that our students are up to nine months younger and have had almost a year's less formal schooling at the time of testing compared to other states.

"I expect this anomaly in the early years will dissipate over time, as we start to see the benefits of an extra year of schooling - the newly introduced prep year."

Only about 29 per cent of Queensland students currently attend kindergarten or an early childhood education program, while in the rest of the country, participation exceeds 85 per cent and is as high as 96 per cent in some states.

"The results show that despite demographic and age differences, Queensland students begin to catch up with many of their interstate peers in a number of areas by the time they reach Year 9," Mr Welford said.

Mr Welford said the state government was working with the federal government on a national curriculum which would provide greater consistency between what students learn at different stages of their education.

The NAPLAN results show Australia's indigenous students are lagging in English skills and maths, AAP has reported.

Of all states and territories, the Northern Territory recorded the highest number of students falling below the national minimum standard across each year level in all areas of reading, writing, spelling, grammar and numeracy.

"The circumstances of indigenous children I think would trouble everyone in this nation," Julia Gillard told reporters.

"We are already committed to closing the gap in literacy and numeracy for indigenous children.

"I don't think any of us misunderstand how major a task that is. It's a profound challenge, but one I think squarely confronts us."

She said the data was a valuable resource that showed the importance of pre-school education, the importance of the prep year and quality curriculum.

On average, 90 per cent of Australian students who participated in the tests achieved the required minimum standard or above, while 80 per cent achieved above the minimum standard, the results showed.

Ms Gillard said the Ministerial Council on Education was considering how comparisons of "like schools" could be provided in future reports.

Parents will receive a report on Monday showing how their child has performed compared against the average result of students tested and against the national minimum standard.

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