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Will My School improve our education system?

Updated NAPLAN gains are recorded on the new My School site for 2015, but will this added information just be more confusing for parents trying to navigate the education system? And does this information actually improve education systems in Australia?

The My School website was updated this week, with information added about the most recent NAPLAN test results from more than 9,500 schools.

Along with the literacy and numeracy results, information also extended to demographics, attendance rates and finances of public, private and Catholic schools, and information about students who identify as indigenous.

“Importantly, this year’s website release now includes seven years of data for parents that can be compared with other schools to ensure they have the most up-to-date information available to make informed decisions about their children’s education,” minister for education and training, Christopher Pyne, said in a media release on Friday.

The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), which operates the My School website, also released findings from a study about how My School is received by the public, based on interviews and research conducted with principals and parents.

While some parents said they used the website to get a head start when it comes to choosing a school for their children, others questioned whether the site was a reliable enough source on which to base a decision.

The NAPLAN test results were one thing that came under question, with both parents and principals worried the results didn’t give an accurate picture of schools, especially if specific “coaching” exercises were emphasised instead of following the curriculum. In some cases, it has even been reported that schools have told certain students to stay at home on test day because they might bring down the school’s score.

Others claim that the system promotes competition between schools and it is seen as more of a marketing and advertising boost for those that do well in certain areas.

According to the research, it seems parents welcome having the information available in a centralised location, because it can assist in navigating the education system when looking for a suitable school for their children.

But the worry is that the system doesn’t actually support the education system, but rather focuses on key areas and specific outcomes, which schools focus on in order to receive a favourable score in the My School system, rather than keeping the focus on the education of children.

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