12 month extension for NAPLAN Online following May 'connectivity issues'

Three Australian states also agree to conduct a separate review without federal government presence.

The Australian Education Council on Friday agreed to extend the trial of the online component of the National Assessment Program Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) testing by one year to 2021.

The original timeline for all schools across Australia to complete NAPLAN online was by 2020, following a trial period of the online platform.

In a communiqué [PDF], the council said Australian state ministers agreed that a key aim of NAPLAN Online is for a simpler and more efficient experience for students and schools, and noted the "connectivity issues" experienced earlier this year resulted in significant connectivity disruptions across jurisdictions and a substantial number of students being adversely affected.

"The technological problems schools encountered this year accessing the online platform were disruptive, distressing for some and unacceptable given the amount of time we have been transitioning to date, with around 40,000 students affected on the day," Western Australia Education and Training Minister Sue Ellery said.

"I support the one point in time 'snapshot' test which NAPLAN is so that parents can gauge how their child is going and teachers can pick up where they need to modify their teaching depending on the test results, but I want it to be a reliable system."

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WA education director general, Lisa Rodgers, in May blamed the connectivity issues on the NAPLAN national firewall.

"Over 700 schools in WA have been taking NAPLAN Online. We know that nationally there has been an issue with the firewall and lockdown browser, that's been a national problem," she said, speaking on ABC Radio's Drive program in Perth at the time.

"We've had quite a lot of success with the online platform, [however] this year we are getting a number of calls in regards to that browser."

According to the Education Council, ministers on Friday received an update on the independent review commissioned by education officials into the disruption, which it said would "support efforts to identify and address the issues for future assessments,".

"Education Council agreed to extend the current plan for schools to transition to NAPLAN Online by one year to 2021, with further consideration by Education Council of the transition arrangements once the independent connectivity review has concluded and the scope of the Low/No Bandwidth solution finalised," it wrote.

The NAPLAN assessments for 2019 commenced on 14 May 2019, with approximately 50% of students undertaking the assessment online. The council said approximately 2.17 million NAPLAN online tests were completed by students nationwide in 2019.

During the meeting, the governments of New South Wales, Queensland, and Victoria separately agreed to a "comprehensive" review of NAPLAN Online.

Queensland Education Minister Grace Grace in a statement said she was extremely disappointed that the federal government was refusing to come to the party.

"It is not only timely but common sense that we hold an Australia-wide review, and the states and territories are frustrated that we cannot get the federal government to agree to one," she said.

"That's why the Queensland, Victorian, and New South Wales governments have taken the matter into our own hands and we will work together to conduct a review outside of the Education Council's endorsement."

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