Disadvantaged students years behind in reading, numeracy NAPLAN shows

NSW’s schools were shut for seven weeks last year and Victoria’s for more than 20 weeks.

Glenn Fahey, a research fellow in education at the Centre for Independent Studies, said while the tests were conducted before the months-long lockdowns in the second half of 2021, there was no evidence home learning had widened the gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students.

“If there was a significant impact we would likely have seen it in this data already,” Mr Fahey said.

“Even when broken down by parental education status, there’s not consistent evidence that disadvantaged students generally ended up doing better or worse than pre-pandemic,” Mr Fahey said.

David de Carvalho, chief executive of the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, said the results also highlighted a persistent long-term gender gap, with boys lagging behind girls in reading and writing, while outperforming girls in numeracy.

“In the secondary classroom, we can see that the gap between boys and girls is widening for reading but stable for writing, and the gender gap is larger in secondary schools than in primary schools for writing,” he said.


The Victorian and NSW governments welcomed the improvement in test scores across a number of measures as a testament to teacher and student resilience throughout the pandemic.

Victorian education minister James Merlino said the state “improved on its results since 2019 in half of the assessed measures – including the critically important foundational reading skills in both Year 3 and Year 5 – despite the challenges of the pandemic”.

He said the percentage of Year 3 students scoring in the top two bands for reading had risen from 58 per cent in 2019 to 61.9 per cent in 2021, while for Year 5 students it rose to 40.4 per cent to 44.8 per cent.

NSW education minister Sarah Mitchell said NSW ranked in the top three jurisdictions by mean scores in all domains, except in Year 9 reading, and had the highest mean score in writing for Years 3 and 5, in numeracy for Years 3 and 7, and in grammar and punctuation for Year 3.

“NSW mean scores were above the national average in every test domain in all years,” Ms Mitchell said. “NSW students continue to be Australia’s best spellers, achieving the highest or equal highest mean score of all jurisdictions, for all year levels, as it has throughout the history of NAPLAN.”

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