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NAPLAN debacle: Thousands of WA students could re-sit tests with pen and paper

Thousands of WA children who struggled with computer connection problems while doing their NAPLAN writing test online may be allowed to sit the test again — and use a pen and paper.

More than 40,000 WA children were affected by the nationwide disruptions on Tuesday, more than in any other State.

Children in Years 5, 7 and 9 at hundreds of public and private schools lost concentration and valuable time when computer connections cut out repeatedly during the 40-minute test.

Education Minister Sue Ellery blamed the debacle on the Federal Government, which has responsibility for the operation of online NAPLAN through the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority.

Ms Ellery said she had been advised that ACARA was “actively considering” allowing students who encountered problems in the online tests to re-sit the assessment. “I would encourage this so the results can be as accurate as possible,” she said.

ACARA chief executive David de Carvalho said the logistics of a national online project were highly complex.

“The implications of connectivity issues experienced by some students, and any next steps required, is being considered as a matter of urgency,” he said.

After more delays occurred yesterday, Ms Ellery gave schools permission to switch to pencil and paper tests for the remaining NAPLAN assessments if they struck more problems with the online version.

She said each year there had been technical issues with the online platform that the Federal Government had promised to fix before the next round of testing, but each year there were more problems.

“It is not acceptable to me that 40,000 students across WA and their families and their teachers and their schools were disrupted,” she said. “Some of them were distressed and certainly all of them were inconvenienced by the fact that again the Federal Government has failed to address technical issues with NAPLAN online.”

WA Secondary School Executives Association president Armando Giglia said high school principals were mostly concerned for Year 9 students because their NAPLAN results were linked to graduation.

In WA, Year 9s who score high NAPLAN results can skip further compulsory literacy and numeracy tests that students must pass by Year 12 to achieve a WA Certificate of Education.

“It brings into question the validity of results for this year,” Mr Giglia said.

Principals’ Federation of WA president Bevan Ripp said the data from this year’s tests would be “totally discredited”. “They might as well throw it in the bin,” he said.

State School Teachers Union president Pat Byrne said children were “traumatised” and called for a review of NAPLAN.

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