The MySchool website (www.myschool.edu.au) was introduced in 2010 providing a snapshot of how each Australian school, primary and secondary, was performing in the national Naplan assessment, thus providing parents the ability to compare the academic outcomes of schools in this particular test.
Parents looking for a school for their child would do well to look at MySchool as a part of their consideration in their final choice.
But there is much more to choosing the right school for a child!
The MySchool website remains controversial. Some educators and schools love it while others hate it.
There is ongoing debate over whether publication of this data forces schools to ‘teach to the test’, to the detriment of a more wholistic approach to schooling.
What MySchool is not showing is the culture of the school or how happy and engaged the students are.
What the website does give, is a snapshot of the size, the socio-economic makeup, the financial status of each school plus the results their students achieved in Naplan in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 each year.
An important aspect of the data is that it provides the opportunity to see how each school performs in this test compared to like schools (judged by socio-economic status) and, more importantly, the growth in learning achieved between the group of students at the school in Year 3 compared with their results in Year 5. Also the growth in learning in secondary school between the same cohort of students from Year 7 to Year 9.
Using MySchool data can be very informative. But parents need to remember data needs to be somewhat interpreted within the school context.
For example, if the most recent results are genuinely poor for your selected school then there are questions to ask.
- Size of classes: Are they small so that statistically, a couple of lower achieving students can bring the results down?
- Could the school be in an area with a rapidly growing population: If a school is growing rapidly, a large number of students coming in from different schools may need one or two years to achieve a school’s expected standards.
- School stability: Has the school had major turnover of staff over a short period of time? Did something else happen that caused instability?
These and other questions cannot be answered without visiting the school and posing the questions to the principal. There may be genuine reasons which have resulted in a downturn of results. The problems may well have been resolved and as the school is just around the corner from your house, it is once again a good choice.
Because of the enormous quantity of this data, it is usually around nine months or more before it uploaded to the MySchool site so it is possible that the school has made considerable changes for improvement in the meantime.
What MySchool cannot tell you is about the culture of the school.
It could, however, be reasonably concluded that high performing schools will also have a supportive culture for their students and community. Students thrive when they are happy and well taught.
What is really important to you? What do you want for your child?
It may be that, schools performing at average standard or a little below the national average will be more difficult to judge purely by what is seen on MySchool.
Checking out a school by visiting, is essential. This means talking to the principal and asking questions. Parents of children already attending the school and students themselves are a great source of information.
You need to find out about: –
- how the school functions;
- how positively people relate to each other;
- how happy their children are;
- and how engaged in learning are the children.
Choosing a school is a tricky business and choosing one that is the right fit for your child takes some time. Often the choice is limited by location and cost so that using MySchool data provides handy additional piece of information to take into consideration. But remember it is just one piece of the puzzle.