School students will not have to sit national literacy and numeracy tests in 2020 because of the spread of coronavirus.
Education ministers decided on Friday to bin the annual NAPLAN tests, which were scheduled for May 12-22.
The ministers said cancelling the exams would help teachers and principals “focus on the wellbeing of students and continuity of education, including potential online and remote learning”.
“Further, the impact of responses to the COVID-19 virus may affect the delivery of NAPLAN testing, including the operation of centralised marking centres and the implications for nationally comparable data if an insufficient number of students are available to do the test,” they said in a statement.
But they reiterated the strong medical advice that schools should remain open for now.
“Education departments and systems will continue to closely monitor health advice and work with schools to ensure appropriate support for students and staff as the response to COVID-19 develops,” they said.
NSW Principals Council acting president Craig Petersen welcomed the decision.
“It removes a lot of doubt and anxiety,” he said.
“Given the current situation with coronavirus, it would be almost impossible to predict when schools would be in a position to be able to adequately run the test and administer them, so cancelling it for this year is a really sound decision.”
The Queensland Catholic Education Commission agreed.
“Given the uncertainty around the impacts of COVID-19, schools need to be able to plan for a range of contingencies and to keep their focus on teaching and learning,” executive director Dr Lee-Anne Perry said.
The cancellation also means testing of the expanded online NAPLAN platform, which was supposed to start next week, won’t go ahead.
In 2019, the first widespread trial of NAPLAN online was plagued by technical issues, with many students unable to complete their tests first go.
Some states have questioned the usefulness of NAPLAN, with NSW, Queensland and Victoria reviewing whether the standardised testing gives parents and teachers diagnostic information in the most efficient way.
But federal Education Minister Dan Tehan has previously defended it, saying the tests did provide valuable information.
The announcement comes amid reports of a student at Adelaide’s Unley High School testing positive for COVID-19 after close contact with an infected teacher.