Save Our Schools has accused the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) and other education authorities of actively misleading parents about their right to withdraw their children from the NAPLAN tests. Trevor Cobbold, national convenor of SOS, said that that ACARA’s information brochure for parents on NAPLAN gives the impression that the tests are mandatory.
“ACARA’s Parent Information brochure states that “all students” in Years 3, 5, 7 & 9 “are expected to participate” in the tests. It fails to state that parents can withdraw their child from NAPLAN.
“As the brochure is widely used by education departments and schools to inform about NAPLAN, it means that many parents, teachers and even principals remain unaware that parents have the right to withdraw their children from NAPLAN. Many have told SOS that they thought NAPLAN is mandatory.
“There is a stark contrast in the brochure between the absence of information on the right of withdrawal and its advice about exemptions for some students. It clearly advises that formal exemptions may be granted to students with a significant intellectual disability, have recently arrived in Australia and are from a non-English speaking background some students and it advises parents how to apply for an exemption.
“ACARA should explain this gap in information for parents. Why does it exclude information about the right of withdrawal while including information about exemptions?
“This brochure is distributed to schools around Australia, cited in school newsletters and referred to on state and territory education department websites. As a result, many schools fail to inform parents they can withdraw their child and say that the tests are mandatory. For example, the exclusive Queenwood school in Sydney says on its website that NAPLAN is mandatory.
“Even though the NAPLAN website itself does state that parents can withdraw their children, the failure to include this information in its parent brochure is misleading many parents about their rights.”
Mr. Cobbold said that education departments around Australia were also failing to properly inform parents about their right of withdrawal.
“Only two education department websites (NSW & WA) clearly state that parents can withdraw their children from NAPLAN. A page on the Queensland Department of Education website incorrectly states that “participation in the NAPLAN tests is mandatory for all children”.
“All other education department websites fail to inform parents that they can withdraw their children from NAPLAN. They generally refer parents to the ACARA Parent Information brochure.
Mr. Cobbold called on ACARA and governments to instruct education departments and school principals to clearly inform parents about withdrawal from NAPLAN.
“Many parents think that NAPLAN is worthless, that too much emphasis is placed on it in schools, and that it causes great stress for their children. Yet, they are not aware they can withdraw their child from NAPLAN.
“ACARA should immediately revise its Parent Information brochure on NAPLAN to include clear advice to parents that they can withdraw their child from NAPLAN and how they can apply.
“Education departments should be instructed to provide advice on their parent and community pages that parents can withdraw their children from NAPLAN.
“Education departments should instruct school principals to include information in school newsletters advising parents that they can withdraw their child from NAPLAN. Schools should have withdrawal forms readily available for parents, including on school websites.
“Any continuation of the failure to properly inform parents about their rights can only be seen as deliberately misleading parents.”