Parents’ group says online testing will disadvantage rural students with poor internet access

PATCHY SERVICE: Temora Mayor and businessman Rick Firman agrees internet services in rural NSW can be inconsistent.Rural students could be disadvantaged by a plan to do NAPLAN testing online, the P & C Federation is warning.

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The peak body for school parents’ groups is asking the Department of Education to address a number of concerns before making changes to the already controversial NAPLAN tests.

The federation is concerned that a lack of adequate broadband coverage in the bush will disadvantage students trying to sit the tests online.

The department will also be asked to stick with the pen-and-paper format until concerns with students’ keyboard skills have been addressed, along with worries about computerised marking.

“What we are concerned about is that NAPLAN online will disadvantage students in schools lacking IT infrastructure and technical support,”federation vice president Joel Matthews said.

“We often hear from parents in regional, remote and rural schools that they still do not have wireless access within their school hall environment and this essentially means that students in these schools will be disadvantaged due to lack of resources.

“It is the Department of Education’s responsibility to ensure that all schools have the technical support to help them implement the online tests before discontinuing the paper-based testing system.”

Mr Matthews has called on the department clarify how NAPLAN online will advantage our students over the existing paper based system before implementing it.

“As the peak parent advocacy group, we believe all students must have equal access to the same resources to meet their learning needs and we call on the Department of Education to delay the roll-out until parental concerns have been addressed and all schools have the requisite resources, the technical capacity and devices to undertake these online tests,” he said.

Temora MayorRick Firman, who runs a clothing business, said the feedback he gets from the shire and beyondis that internet services in rural areas are varied.

“I hear from people in town (Temora) that it can be slow, while some out at Ariah Park can get frustrated,” he said.

“We get a mixed bag when it comes to internet services. If they’re talking about doing testing like NAPLAN on line, you have to hope that broadband can do the job.”

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