Schools where money doesn’t guarantee academic results
An overhaul of the controversial MySchool comparison website has revealed some of Sydney's richest private schools are making below average progress in reading, writing and numeracy when compared with similar students.
The changes introduced this year mean a school's average NAPLAN results are now benchmarked against students from a similar background - not just the average results of 60 "statistically similar" schools.
The website restructure reveals prestigious schools like Barker College on the north shore made below average progress in both reading and numeracy when compared with other students from similar backgrounds who started off at the same point.
Only 46 per cent of students at the $33,539 a year school achieved above average progress in reading while 45 per cent made above average progress in numeracy last year.
It was a similar story at eastern suburbs' $38,000 a year Cranbrook School where student progress between Year 7 and Year 9 in reading and writing was below average when compared with similar students who scored the same when they first sat the tests in Year 7.
Only 42 per cent of students achieved above average improvement between year 7 and Year 9 in writing while only 50 per cent achieved above average improvement in reading when compared with similar students.
In a statement Cranbrook said they did not believe there was merit in coaching students for NAPLAN.
"Whilst the MySchool website is an indicator of a school's academic performance, parents should be aware that there are a number of contextual explanations for a school's NAPLAN results," the statement said.
But NSW Parents Council president Rose Cantali said prospective parents would look closely at academic performance.
"The majority of parents would be looking at judging a school by the MySchool website," Dr Cantali said.
"Especially parents who are shopping around who send their children to private schools are more likely to be influenced."
She told The Daily Telegraph mums and dads were increasingly also looking at a school's policies around mental health support and wellbeing programs in schools -which parents recognise as interlinked with academic performance.
Other schools which did not perform well included the The King's School where 46 per cent of students made below average progress in reading compared with similar students.
MLC School in Burwood, which charges up to $32,688 a year, had below average progress between Year 3 and Year 5 in reading.
Junior school head Daniel Sandral said used a variety of assessment tools to inform teaching.
"NAPLAN is just one measure used in schools, and even then there are questions around its value," he said.
At Presbyterian Ladies College progress between Year 7-9 in reading was slightly below average, with only 46 per cent of students making above average progress.
Principal Dr Paul Burgis defended his school's academic results, saying the school offered broad education which fostered critical thinking.
"It is a mistake to place too much emphasis on NAPLAN as the key indicator," he said.
At SCECGS Redlands, student progress in reading was below average between Year 3 and Year 5, where only 45 per cent of pupils made above average results when compared with similar students.
A spokesperson for Redlands said: "We know from our own data sets that our students achieved record results in six of the twenty NAPLAN categories, across reading, writing, spelling, punctuation and numeracy.
In the public system, schools like Carlingford West Public School were celebrating yesterday after students 68 per cent achieved significantly above average progress in writing and 70 per cent in numeracy.
Principal Andrew Williamson credited his teachers' ability to set high expectations and challenge their classes as responsible for their great NAPLAN scores.
"The ability to make students interested and also that explicit teaching which gets students interested is what makes a difference," he said.
Year 6 student Bonnie Zhu said she liked creative writing, particularly "hopeful" stories.
"I like how the teachers make writing fun and interesting to learn, I like writing creatively," she said.