The Coalition called for a ban on cell phones in schools following the disastrous results of NAPLAN.
NAPLAN data showed that 13.5% of Grade 9 boys did not meet the minimum national standard (NMS) in reading, which, compared to the score of 92.9% for girls, dropped the NMS of the entire cohort at 89.6%.
The staggering results show a 3.2% decrease from the start of national testing in 2008 and a 2.2% drop from pre-COVID levels in 2019.
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Former education minister and first Liberal MP Dan Tehan said the scores reaffirmed the need for students to be sufficiently equipped in literacy before leaving primary school.
He added that now was the time to introduce a ban on mobile phones in classrooms.
“Mobile phones need to get out of schools and there needs to be a back-to-basics approach,” Mr Tehan told Sky News Australia’s Peter Stefanovic.
“Phonetics must be taught in all primary schools in this country and the emphasis must be on children being able to read and write by the time they leave primary school.
“We encourage states to introduce phonics and we will continue to do so from the opposition because it is absolutely essential to give children the skills they need to be able to read and write.”
The results show a similar gap between boys and girls in writing and arithmetic.
Grade 9 female students significantly outperformed their male counterparts on the writing tests, with only 10.7% of girls failing to reach the NMS, compared to 20.8% of boys.
On the numeracy test, the gap was much smaller, with 4.3% of women and 5.6% of men falling below the national standard.
In terms of national results, grade 9 students improved overall in all three categories compared to last year’s data, but fell back in reading and numeracy compared to pre-COVID exams.
Mr Tehan said the results showed “clearly” that state and territory responses to the global pandemic had affected education standards.
“The decision to close schools during the pandemic was the wrong one,” he said.
“I think all of the education ministers at state and territory level now need to be really focused to make up for this decision which I think has really impacted the boys in particular.”
But federal Education Minister Jason Clare was less concerned about the results, telling ABC News the results were “better than I expected.”
This year’s NAPLAN tests were the first since mass lockdowns in Melbourne and Sydney.
Mr Clare said there were ‘pretty horrific predictions’ as to what the measures would do but ‘didn’t materialize’.
“We saw fairly stable results in most categories,” said the education minister.
“There are a few examples, particularly in grade 9, where we have seen a decrease. It is worrying. I think part of that is COVID.
He also addressed the ‘declining’ standards of boys compared to girls and said there had been a decline over the previous three years but the results had been ‘fairly stable’ in the 14 years since the start of the test.