No league tables! No NAPLAN 2010!

May 8, 2010

The Socialist Alliance released the following statement in response to the developments in the anti-league tables campaign.


The federal executive of the Australian Education Union (AEU) resolved on April 12 to impose a ban on implementing National Assessment Program — Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) tests, after damaging league tables were published in newspapers, based on 2009 NAPLAN data.

Socialist Alliance supports the principled stand against league tables taken by teachers.

State and federal governments should be condemned for not acting to stop the publication of league tables in the January 29 edition of the Sydney Morning Herald, and other publications. The newspapers used 2009 NAPLAN data, published on the federal government MySchools website.

League tables rank school performance measured by the students’ results in mass standardised tests such as NAPLAN, in the same way tables are used keep track of the position of football teams after each round of competition.

School league tables are educationally unsound and unethical.

The publication of such school rankings has much more serious consequences than the publication of footy results. Wherever league tables have been published, they have led to very negative results for working-class people: the loss of confidence in schools deemed to be “failing”; the sacking of principals; the collapse of school communities and a further divide between rich and poor.

There is no evidence that league tables lead to improved outcomes for students.

League tables are promoted under the seemingly reasonable pretence of providing “choice” and “accountability” for parents. Proponents argue their agenda is all about informing parents of schools’ results, providing them with the information to make informed decisions about which school to send their children to.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and education minister Julia Gillard are pushing this accountability agenda as part of their “education revolution”, so that “under-achieving” and “failing” schools can be named, shamed and closed.

But schools do not operate in social, cultural or economic vacuums. Ranking schools ignores the contexts in which they exist.

It is unrealistic and invalid to compare the results of schools in wealthy suburbs, that have large numbers of English-speaking students (and parents who have can give extra donations for the resources our inequitable funding system does not adequately provide for), to schools in low socio-economic communities with large non-English speaking populations.

Solving the problem of “under-performing” or “failing” schools requires governments to provide the funding our chronically under-funded public schools need.

League tables completely fail to address why many schools are disadvantaged.

League tables are part of the neoliberal agenda that is being applied to education. The neoliberal push seeks to smash teacher unions, turn schools from being parts of a whole system into small businesses, and introduce performance pay for teachers.

This agenda has nothing to do with giving parents more. The choice to send children to “high performing” schools exists only for parents that can afford to do so.

The AEU, and state teacher unions across Australia, took a principled stand by refusing to administer 2010 NAPLAN tests to ensure league tables would not be published using their data.

Socialist Alliance believes the NAPLAN ban should have been maintained until measures were introduced to stop the publication of damaging league tables.

This would have been a stand against the corporatisation of education, against attacks on teacher unions and against an attack on working-class students and their school communities.

Socialist Alliance stands strong with the teacher unionists of Australia in the fight for a just and equitable public education system.

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