ACARA news, March 2017

ACARA’s response to report released by the Mitchell Institute

27 March 2017

A report released by the Mitchell Institute claims that school leavers lack the skills they need to enter the workforce as confident, competent adults. Around the world, educators and governments are placing an increasing emphasis on 21st century competencies as part of curriculum design. The design of the Australian Curriculum is based on a commitment to supporting students to become confident and creative individuals who can make a contribution as active and informed citizens of the 21st century.

One of the Australian Curriculum’s three dimensions is the general capabilities, a group of seven skills and attributes that are taught alongside and through the learning areas. These capabilities are Critical and Creative Thinking, Personal and Social Capability, Intercultural Understanding, ICT Capability, Ethical Understanding, and, of course, Literacy and Numeracy.

The Australian Curriculum is organised around three interrelated dimensions:

  1. learning areas (subjects or groups of subjects)
  2. general capabilities (skills and attributes)
  3. cross-curriculum priorities (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Histories and Cultures, Asia and Australia’s Engagement with Asia, Sustainability).

These three dimensions together form a dynamic and engaging curriculum, allowing teachers the flexibility to design programs that can meet the needs of all Australian students, regardless of their background or where they live.

NAP – Science Literacy report released

15 March 2017

Today ACARA has released its fifth National Assessment Program (NAP) – Science Literacy report. The report shows Australian Year 6 students’ science literacy levels have remained static.

Data from the NAP – science literacy assessments, held in late 2015, reveal little change in national performance levels in terms of both average student achievement and the proportion of students performing at or above the proficient standard. The proficient standard is set at a challenging level, and only just over half (55.1 per cent) of Year 6 students reached or exceeded it.

“The results show there is no statistically significant difference between the 2006 and 2015 results at the national level, or across most Australian states and territories. There are two exceptions to this: Tasmania, where results are significantly higher than observed in 2009; and Western Australia, which has maintained its significant improvement from 2006 – first seen in their 2012 results,” said ACARA CEO, Robert Randall.

“The NAP – Science Literacy report gives valuable insight into the level of science knowledge, understandings and skills Year 6 students have developed. The results from this assessment, along with those from PISA and TIMSS (for which comprehensive reports were released today, following the high-level results late last year) highlight the need for improvements in primary school science teaching.

“That is why this report includes a chapter prepared specifically for teachers and curriculum specialists. It contains suggestions about how to improve science learning in the classroom, using the Australian Curriculum, such as sample classroom lessons and activities, and ways of tracking and measuring student achievement against the Science learning area,” said Mr Randall.

Other key findings of the report include:

  • Female students performed better than male students nationally. (In 2012, female students had a higher mean than male students, but it was not statistically significant.)
  • As seen in previous assessments, Indigenous students had a statistically significant lower mean achievement than non-Indigenous students.
  • Students from metropolitan areas had higher mean scores than students in provincial areas, who in turn had higher mean scores than students in remote and very remote areas.

When undertaking the sample assessment, students were surveyed to determine the extent of their interest in science, their engagement in science-related activities and their understanding of how science is relevant in their lives.

The results of the student survey show that the great majority of students (over 80 per cent) appear to be interested in learning new things in science, learning about science and doing science-based activities.

“This is a strong foundation on which to build student awareness of the importance of science in their everyday lives, build confidence, inspire excellence and encourage students to consider rewarding future careers in the field of science,” said Mr Randall.

Background to the National Assessment Program sample assessments:

  • NAP sample assessments test students’ skills and understanding in: Science, Civics and Citizenship, and ICT literacy. NAP sample assessments began in 2003 and are held on a rolling three-yearly basis (that is, one subject is tested every three years).
  • Not every student in Australia is tested (hence the ‘sample’); for this assessment, around 5 per cent of the Australian Year 6 student population is tested, of which student groups are randomly selected.
  • This is the fifth report on Year 6 science literacy. It is the first time that content from the Australian Curriculum: Science has been specifically incorporated into the assessments.

Visit the NAP website to read the full report. 

My School updated for 2017

08 March 2017

Today, the My School website has been updated, providing up-to-date, readily accessible information about all of Australia’s schools.

For educators, the website allows for the sharing of information about school achievements, with the aim of supporting and driving improvement across the nation.

For parents, My School provides a wealth of valuable information to help make informed decisions about their child's education.

Acknowledging that NAPLAN tests only a sample of what students learn during the year, and that schools are more than their NAPLAN results, My School provides a range of information on schools, including content provided by a school on their mission and values. 

"My School is a very popular website, with 1.4 million user sessions last year," said ACARA's CEO, Robert Randall. "It continues to be a valuable resource because it provides a reliable source of information about Australian schools over a period of time – from literacy and numeracy achievement through to student attendance data and a school's finances." 

"The 'gain' pages on My School help identify where significant improvement has been achieved and enable the reasons for such improvement to be shared with others. We all need to do more to celebrate and promote where schools have made a significant improvement to student learning, and then work to expect and support improvement across more schools," said Mr Randall.

"The focus of My School is on enabling fair comparisons between schools – to drive improvement. ACARA does not support simplistic league tables or ranking of schools." 

My School contains quality data that allow for comparison of results between schools with students from similar socio-educational backgrounds, using a special index (ICSEA) developed by ACARA.

The index of community socio-educational advantage (ICSEA) is the level of educational advantage of a school's students, calculated using information about parents' occupation and education, school geographical location and the proportion of Indigenous students a school caters for. A school's ICSEA value represents the average educational advantage of the school's students. 

The 2017 My School update contains: 

  • 2016 NAPLAN results for schools
  • 2016 school profile and population data
  • 2015 school financial information, including capital expenditure and sources of funding.

Visit the My School website at