Two reports released today should serve as a warning signal to educators and policymakers that more needs to be done to boost student outcomes in reading, writing and numeracy and especially in the areas of citizenship and civics.

Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham said the 2017 NAPLAN National Report confirms that student performance has continued to stagnate.

“The full 2017 NAPLAN National Report highlights while there have been pockets of improvement, we’re not seeing the sort of consistency we should expect in these results,” Minister Birmingham said.

“It confirms the ‘mixed bag’ of results we saw in the preliminary report.

“We know how vital literacy skills are to setting students up for life beyond school, so the decline in writing scores and the flat lining of reading results should act as a wake-up call that some changes are required.

“It’s results like these that are exactly why the Turnbull Government has asked David Gonski and a panel of education experts to conduct the Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools.

“Across the country we have passionate educators that I know work hard to give Australian students the best start. The gains for some of Australia’s most vulnerable students like those from Indigenous backgrounds and those with non-English speaking backgrounds are a testament to the work of those teachers.

“But we have to ensure all students from all backgrounds have those fundamental literacy and numeracy skills. It’s concerning to see the proportion of students achieving the National Minimum Standard has slipped from 93 per cent in 2016 to 92.6 per cent this year.

“The Review being led by David Gonski will help identify the best evidence-based practices to ensure our teachers and schools have the right tools and resources to focus their passion and hard work to boost the outcomes of all students.”

Minister Birmingham said improving student performance also requires the joint efforts of families and school communities.

“It’s impossible to overstate the importance of parents reading with their children from a young age and fostering their enthusiasm for reading. Children need those basic literacy skills in the early years because they’re the building blocks for future school success. Families and schools must work together to find ways to keep that engagement in reading beyond the first years of school well into high school,” Minister Birmingham said.

“The Turnbull Government’s proposed Year One phonics checks are just one example of tools that can help educators to identify and give extra support to those who need it to stop them falling behind the pack.

“With the Turnbull Government locking in needs-based schools funding and injecting an extra $25.3 billion, the focus needs to shift to how this record funding is translated into better results in the classroom. 

“We’ve worked hard to ensure our schools have the resources they need to support students and we’ve implemented significant reforms aimed at improving teacher quality and teaching standards but it is clear that more still needs to be done.”

Also released today were the results from the 2016 National Assessment Program (NAP) – Civics and Citizenship which measures students’ understanding and knowledge of Australia’s system of government, historical and current governance practices, the importance of diversity and multiculturalism and knowledge of Australian identity and culture.

Minister Birmingham said the results show that whilst student performance in civics and citizenship remained stable for Year 6 students, the results for Year 10 students continued to decline.

“Just 55 per cent of students in Year 6 met the proficient standard, while the figure has dropped down to 38 per cent for Year 10 students – a decline of six per cent from the previous round of testing in 2013,” Minister Birmingham said.

“These results are woeful and should be of serious concern.

“They are a stark reminder of the need to ensure our schools are giving students the opportunity and support to learn and expand their knowledge base across the entire spectrum of the curriculum.

“Whilst a strong focus on reading, writing and STEM subjects in our schools is obviously essential, students also need to learn the fundamentals to be able to fully participate and contribute to Australian society.

“This includes understanding the role our institutions play, how our legal and government systems work and the important events in Australia’s history that have helped shape our society as we know it today.

“While our country is not without challenges, we need to better appreciate and celebrate our place as one of the world’s most successful democracies with virtually unmatched standards of living.

“It’s precisely for this reason that I’m contacting my state and territory colleagues to ensure these results are on the agenda at our next Education Council meeting so we can develop a joint strategy to lift student performance in this area.”

The NAP Civics and Citizenship assessment has been conducted every three years since 2004, with the latest assessment undertaken in October and November last year by more than 10,000 students across Australia. The 2016 report and results can be found on the National Assessment Program website.

More than one million school students in years 3, 5, 7 and 9 sat the annual NAPLAN tests between 9 – 11 May 2017. Preliminary results were released in August and the full 2017 NAPLAN National report can also be found on the National Assessment Program website.