Kids’ heart-wrenching drawings of NAPLAN
CHILDREN are so stressed about NAPLAN some think they "will never get a job, have money or buy a house" if they don't perform well.
Experts say some students feel intense anxiety over the controversial national numeracy and literary tests, which kick off today.
In response, parents are opting to withdraw their children from the tests altogether.
University of Queensland School of Education's Angelique Howell has conducted extensive research into NAPLAN and the effects it can have on children.
She said the unusual conditions of the tests, including classrooms being stripped of displays and teachers reading from scripts, could contribute to children feeling anxious.
Her 2015 study of children in Year 3, 5 and 7 included asking them to draw what it felt like for them to take the tests.
"For some children, poor NAPLAN scores mean a future of unemployment and poverty as they believe that 'you could never ever get a job and get money and maybe couldn't even get a house," Dr Howell said.
"This is because they believe that they need to do well in NAPLAN in order to get into a 'good' high school and subsequently into university."
The Year 3 and 5 children would be due to sit NAPLAN again this year, and Dr Howell said students need to be reminded that there were "no consequences" to the tests, to help ease any anxiety.
One child revealed in the study that "when the NAPLAN week was coming up, I kept having 'after NAPLAN' dreams, like what would happen if I did really bad … in one of them, I was getting kicked out of the school."
Despite common misconceptions, NAPLAN is not mandatory. Parents can opt to withdraw their children, including for philosophical objections to the testing.
Queensland mum Amy Cox said her two sons, in Year 5 and 9, have been withdrawn from NAPLAN as well as any practice tests.
Ms Cox, founder of the Protecting Childhood organisation, is also a teacher aide and pre-service teacher.
"I see it as a social responsibility to all children to tell the government that what is important in education has nothing to do with testing, ranking or comparison and everything to do with developing a strong sense of self and belonging."
Another Queensland parent said she had withdrawn her Year 7 and 9 children from NAPLAN for the first time this year.
She said her eldest child suffered severe distress about NAPLAN in Year 3.
"He went from a little boy who loved school to one who never wanted to go," she said.
"There was a terrible change in him.
"He didn't think he was good enough, he felt he wasn't smart. It was way too much pressure for a 7-year-old."
Dr Howell said it was important schoolchildren were given a consistent message in the lead-up to and during testing.
"Teachers, schools and parents need to provide consistent messages about the purpose of the tests and that there no consequences," she said.
"It is essentially about finding the balance between talking about it too much and not giving children the information they need to understand why they do the test."