More than one million children across Australia will sit the NAPLAN tests this year, and while it can be an anxious time for students, fortunately as a parent there are things you can do to support them and ease their stress.
NAPLAN stands for The National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy. It is a national program which was introduced in 2008, which was designed to standardise learning throughout Australia. The program provides the measure through which governments, education authorities and schools can determine whether young Australian are meeting important educational outcomes.
Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 sit the NAPLAN tests in May during a three-day period. While some children approach the tests with ease, for others it can be an overwhelming process. Supporting your child can be a delicate job, but here are some practical tips to ensure they feel supported and acknowledged during, and in the lead up, to sitting the tests:
- Be supportive of your child’s learning throughout the year
NAPLAN’s aim is to test skills that develop and improve over time. Encouraging your child with their homework helps them to reinforce what they have learned at school.
- Be mindful of signs of NAPLAN stress
Changes in a child’s behaviour can indicate stress. Signs might include trouble sleeping, such as nightmares or early waking. It could be isolating themselves from family and friends. Where young children aren’t mature enough to verbalize their stress they may internalise it and then feel physical pain in the abdominal region or chest. Children may also revert to negative self-talk or try to avoid going to school. Stress can make them tired or lead to poor behaviour and tantrums.
Be proactive about watching for signs of stress and try to encourage your child to talk to you about what may be worrying them (there is more on this in step #3 below). You could also try asking them what the best part of their day was, or something they might have liked to change about their day/or wasn’t good about their day as a way of getting them to open up. Ensuring your child is well rested, eating nutritious meals and enjoying physical activity will help their energy levels.
- Discuss their feelings and concerns, however let them lead the conversation
Tests can bring out feelings of fear, so let them know that these feelings are normal. Be mindful that if you as a parent are constantly talking about the tests, it can create anxiety for your child that did not exist prior. Therefore, let your child guide the conversation, even if you have asked how they are feeling. Listen to their concerns, show empathy, and maintain a caring and positive attitude. Talking about their fears is often a way to help lessen these feelings.
- Encourage them to have a go and try their best
NAPLAN is not supposed to be a test of the students’ individual achievements, but rather a check to make sure that Australia is providing the best educational outcomes for children. Simply encouraging your child to give it a go and try their best can help alleviate pressure, if they are feeling any.
- Prepare for the day
Going to bed early the night before and having a healthy breakfast to start the day is a good way to prepare for any exam period. Keeping change to a minimum in the days leading up to the event is helpful (for example, no spur-of-the moment late nights, or holidays that make them miss school). Aim to keep stress levels low and arrive at school a little earlier on the day of the tests, so they don’t become anxious about being late. Wish them good luck when you drop them off.
- Keep perspective
Try not to make a huge deal out of NAPLAN if possible, as it’s just one form of assessment teachers and the school use, along with lots of other data to determine a students’ academic level. It is important your child understands their success is not determined by one test and that everyone’s skills, abilities, and talents are different in life.
It is also important to know that sometimes straight A children do not do well on the test. There are various factors that might come into play with any test that has to be taken on a set day. For some it’s simply because the stimulus doesn’t resonate with them, or perhaps they couldn’t concentrate the day in question or had a disagreement with their best friend. Tests don’t factor in other “life” factors. A more accurate indicator of your child’s ability is on their report card, which looks at results gathered over a longer period of time, or through regular discussions with their classroom teacher.
When to see your GP
If you are concerned about your child’s behaviour make an appointment to see your GP. If they are experiencing internal stress-like symptoms it is important to investigate all medical reasons before assuming it is due to stress. If it is stress causing concerns, a GP can discuss other strategies that may help your child. You and your GP can discuss referral to a child psychologist if necessary too.
*Please note, information above was correct at time of writing (3/5/21). Please check government information prior to NAPLAN or for the latest COVID-19 information regarding how the NAPLAN tests will be conducted.
- Your child may have had a chance to do practice tests at school, however if not, you can access some practice questions on the National Assessment Program website.
- Discover Learning Australia and other learning organisations offer test preparation workshops in the lead up to NAPLAN to help children familiarise themselves with the tests and boost their confidence.