Education Today Logo


Education Today Cover Browse Issue

Inequality has increased since NAPLAN began

News Image

Out of all the information that is generated by NAPLAN one thing is becoming increasingly clear; results match socio-economic status.

New Macquarie University research finds a school’s location is becoming increasingly important for NAPLAN results. The study is the  first localised spatial analysis of educational differences between schools across an entire country. 

Educational differences have increased since the first NAPLAN – between schools in different areas, in cities, and between regional and metropolitan areas of Australia and results within cities have become more geographically polarised.

The researchers analysed every school’s Grade 5 NAPLAN results from 2008 to 2016, using mapping software. The team found that above average and below average school results are increasingly concentrated in different parts of every city (see diagram below). Further,  non-government schools performed better than public schools in disadvantaged areas.

“The results reflect a widening spatial divide within Australia’s cities in terms of socioeconomic characteristics, such as parents’ education levels, incomes, and occupations,” said Prof Nick Parr from Macquarie University’s Department of Management, one of the study’s authors.

 “Our findings show the area a school is based in has more bearing on NAPLAN results than whether the school is public or private,” said lead author Crichton Smith, a PhD candidate at Macquarie University’s Faculty of Business and Economics.  

“The results are confronting. Virtually no schools in any city’s advantaged suburbs are below the national average, and almost no schools in disadvantaged areas are above average. 

“Education quality should not be limited by a school’s location. Unfortunately the location-based divide has increased since NAPLAN began.

“With 10 years of NAPLAN results now available, it is difficult to see a policy solution to bridge a gap that is so wide, and growing. As it stands, those children whose families lack the means to live in, and more so for those living outside of the cities or send them to schools in advantaged areas; disadvantaged areas are increasingly missing out.”  

The study is the world’s first school-level spatial analysis of educational differences across an entire country, and confirms a disadvantage across rural and regional Australia.  

“We found significant differences between towns of different sizes. The proportion of both government and non-government schools with below average NAPLAN results increases as schools become more remote from major cities,” said Parr.

“Across remote Australia, just 20 schools had above average NAPLAN results, compared with over 200 schools below average.”   

The findings provide evidence of Australia’s spatial educational inequality – and demonstrate that geographical information systems can be used to identify clustering patterns.  

“We’ve shown NAPLAN can be used in a positive way by providing evidence of Australia’s increasingly observable spatial educational inequality,” added Smith. 

“It doesn’t matter who owns the school, it’s where the school is located that matters”.

The Macquarie University research has been published in  Geographical Research.

26 Mar 2019 | National
Time out is acceptable News Image

There’s been some controversy about time out as a punishment but new research says that it does more good than harm.
Read More

26 Mar 2019
Horses the right course for at-risk students News Image

Equine Insight in Romsey Victoria has been running equine therapy courses to great effect and their activity has caught the attention of Central Ranges Local Learning and Employment Network for incorporation into secondary schools. Read More

25 Mar 2019 | Melbourne
Northern Melbourne schools smooth the transition to high school News Image

The first years of high school are tough and if a student fails to integrate it spells trouble for their school career and may even lead to complete disengagement. Read More

25 Mar 2019 | Qld
Gifted and talented primary kids at Uni Qld Explorama News Image

More than 200 gifted and talented primary school students will visit The University of Queensland for Explorama which aims to expose high achievers to potential academic aspirations and other likeminded kids. Read More

25 Mar 2019 | National
Bostik competition offers $5,000 grants News Image

You can’t do craft without a bit of Bostik and the makers of the sticky essential are launching their latest competition awarding the creativity of primary school children. Read More