Written on the 19 September 2012
Results from this year's NAPLAN tests show that most NSW students have gone backwards in reading, spelling and numeracy over the past five years.
The Federal Minister for School Education, Peter Garrett, said the $ 1.7 billion cut to education funding in NSW meant students may slip even further.
Preliminary results of the National Assessment Program-Literacy and Numeracy tests show year 3 students declined in reading, spelling and numeracy between 2008 and 2012.
Over the same period, year 5 students slipped in reading and spelling but improved in numeracy, year 7 students fell in reading and numeracy but improved in spelling, and year 9 students were down in all areas.
NSW, Victoria and the ACT outperformed other States and Territories around Australia and of the 1 million students who took the test, 92 per cent met the minimum level standards.
Mr Garrett said the declines were minimal, although he agreed they were of concern. "Where there are declines they're in areas which are small in percentage in most cases and they're areas which require attention," he said.
Equally, the gains in performance are marginal, but Mr Garrett denied that students were flat lining.
"Arresting education decline takes time and takes targeted investment and clear policy, and that's what we have been providing," he said.
He warned that looming budget cuts to the NSW government and non-government education system could drive results down. "If we're serious about responding to the NAPLAN tests today, we realise there is more to do. If we're going to do more to help kids in our schools improve their education performance then that's not going to happen by imposing cuts of the order of magnitude that ( Premier ) Barry O'Farrell has in place here in NSW."
Mr Garrett will meet NSW Education Minister, Adrian Piccoli, in Canberra on Monday to discuss the impact of the cuts.
The NSW Opposition Leader, John Robertson, said there was no doubt students would fall behind.
"I'm very worried that these cuts are going to see our students in NSW going backwards simply because they don't get the support they need, they don't get access to whiteboards, the computers, the textbooks that they need and they don't have the teachers in their classrooms."
Dr David Zyngier, senior lecturer in the faculty of education at Monash University, said he was not surprised to see little change in NAPLAN results.
"Government schools, especially government schools which are struggling with low NAPLAN results, have thrown everything out of the curriculum to focus on literacy and numeracy and passing the test," he said.
"It's become a very lean and mean curriculum. It disengages the child from learning and it's only going to get worse."
Ben Jensen, School Education Program Director at the public policy think tank the Grattan Institute, said improvements in NAPLAN scores would not occur without focus on teacher development. "What we have failed to address in those efforts is the quality of teachers and the effectiveness of teachers."
"We won't expect to see changes until we start investing in teachers and improving the way they teach."