Minimum literacy and numeracy standards:

making change work

The implementation of the minimum literacy and numeracy standard for the award of the HSC from 2020 has significant implications for schools.

The impact will stem from staffing formulas (in Catholic systemic schools) that do not provide for one on one tuition or tutorials as is suggested in the support material to date.

Extending from the staffing is the complexities of timetabling, rooming and the skewing of the curriculum should additional resources not be provided.

The change is also predicated on an additional testing regime not growing from existing curriculum but running parallel to it with differing expectations.

The Union’s preferred position is that the current list of exemptions should be extended. Currently, students who undertake the HSC Life Skills Mathematics course or a full Life Skills program are exempt.

The Union will be contributing further to the debate with a view that existing courses can and should provide an exemption. If syllabus modification is required to embrace the change then this way forward must be explored.

Students can meet the standards via a number of routes:

by achieving a Band 8 or above in Year 9 NAPLAN, or

achieving a pass in the online reading, writing and numeracy tests in Years 10, 11 or 12.

Students who don’t meet the threshold will receive the Record of School Achievement. Interestingly, students have five years post HSC to meet the standard. A brief reflection on this path throws up a multiplicity of complexities.

The tests will run for 45 minutes and include 40 questions; the writing test will, take up to 45 minutes. Four test ‘windows’ (from 2018) will be available – each for three to four weeks. A student could sit the test twice a year in Years 10, 11, 12.

While consultation between stakeholders and NESA will continue in 2017, the Union believes all interests would be better served if the program was delayed for 12 months to ensure resources matched what is being sought.

The IEU will be seeking for its members in Catholic systemic schools a clause providing for specific consultation regarding this government proposal and discussions to ensure support mechanisms exist.

A frequently asked question and answer update from NESA (formerly BOSTES) should be available to your school now.

Mark Northam
Assistant Secretary