NAPLAN Online: the AEU responds


The 2019 NAPLAN tests are just around the corner, and this year, like in 2018, this includes the continued roll out of the NAPLAN online trial.  

The AEU is opposed to whole of cohort standardised testing, including NAPLAN, with our submission to the current review of the use of NAPLAN data describing the test and the My School website which relies on the test data as “terminally corrupted”. Please find a copy of the AEU submission here.

In 2018, the AEU successfully campaigned to prevent the use of ‘robo marking’, where student writing was to be marked by computer programs. The AEU’s efforts to inform the public about the failure of NAPLAN have has resulted in securing a commitment from both the Victorian state government and federal ALP to comprehensively review NAPLAN. The federal Coalition government refuses to make this commitment and wants NAPLAN to continue.  

The AEU has called on Victorian education minister James Merlino to withdraw Victoria from the trial. The AEU Joint Primary and Secondary Council has passed a resolution continuing to call for a comprehensive review of NAPLAN and to support the development of the next phase of the federal AEU campaign against NAPLAN post the 2019 federal election.

The union released research in 2018 which found that the NAPLAN online trial data was incomparable with paper test results, meaning that the 2018 NAPLAN results should be discarded.

NAPLAN and NAPLAN Online continue to have a range of detrimental impacts on students, our profession and the public education system, including:

  • stress and anxiety of students
  • the narrowing of curriculum
  • hours of work spent on test preparation and, in some instances, teaching to the test
  • additional hours spent checking the viability of the infrastructure for the delivery by schools of the trial of NAPLAN online
  • impact on student engagement, motivation and inclusiveness
  • inappropriate use of NAPLAN data, with unacceptably high margins of error, to judge school performance and the performance of students and teachers
  • ranking of schools on the My School website, driving pointless competition between schools and actively undermining the public education system
  • the overt reliance on NAPLAN to inform schools’ strategic and annual implementation planning; and
  • the growing influence of multinational edu-businesses actively seeking to streamline curriculum and pedagogy to conform with standardised tests and improve their profit margins.


NAPLAN has become something it was never intended to be and is failing our education system. The central role of a teacher in the assessment for and of student learning must be at the forefront of any change to be implemented. Accountability and transparency are essential, but it must not come at the cost of marginalising teacher judgement and undermining the quality of our education system.

The AEU has called for:

  • a comprehensive review of NAPLAN, focussing on whether the current approach to standardised testing is fit for purpose
  • an end to standardised testing, such as NAPLAN, being used as a scorecard for individual schools or groups of students in those schools, as currently promoted through the My School website
  • the provision to parents of plain-language explanations by the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority, making clear the very wide error margins used to calculate student and individual school scores and the misleading manner in which they are presented to parents on the My School site
  • an exploratory study to determine the requisite sample size at the state/territory, sector and national levels for a new assessment program to replace NAPLAN.



The AEU will continue to lobby both state and federal governments about the future of NAPLAN and campaign to ensure members and the community understand the negative impact of these national tests. Sub-branches have a role to play in directly communicating with their school communities. See below the ways your sub-branch can do this.


Sub-branches can write to the school council president, informing the school council of the profession’s objection to NAPLAN and NAPLAN Online and providing reasons for this objection as outlined above.  

Let school council know that parents are permitted to withdraw students from the tests.


NAPLAN Online is a trial. Part of the process to roll out NAPLAN online is an audit of school infrastructure including the space and facilities required to run an online test. Many schools used this process to determine that NAPLAN online would be an onerous burden, or that facilities or devices were insufficient.  

Following the national test preparation day (to determine if the IT services will be adequate for the actual NAPLAN online) in late Term 1, schools have reported to the AEU that the servers supporting NAPLAN online were unable to meet demand from schools.   

With this in mind, schools are advised to seriously consider whether they have the capacity to run NAPLAN online. A determination that the school does not have the capacity to run the online tests should result in the school contacting the department and the VCAA immediately. See below for an example of how some of the issues that might be raised.

Sample paragraph:

Dear VCAA,

My school will no longer be able to participate in the NAPLAN online trial due to:

Insufficient facilities 

Insufficient devices

Insufficient location to hold the assessment

Impact on children

Issues with results usefulness as assessment

Please contact the AEU on 1800 238 842 for further information and advice.