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Not a fan of Naplan

Richard O’Leary enjoys seeing his children develop a natural love of learning and believes NAPLAN does more harm than good.


Not a fan of Naplan

Richard O’Leary enjoys seeing his children develop a natural love of learning and believes NAPLAN does more harm than good.

Riddle me this Batman.

In a ramshackle one-storey pink house, there is a pink person, a pink cat, a pink fish, a pink computer, a pink chair, a pink table, a pink telephone, a pink shower – everything was pink. What colour were the stairs?

This was one of the riddles my eight-year-old posed to me one Sunday as we chatted over breakfast.

We’d Googled ‘riddles for kids’ and taken turns reading them to each other.

It brought me great joy to see his mind ticking over as he searched for the clue in the question that would allow him to answer.

The night before, his 10-year-old brother told me about how pi extends to infinity.

“It’s the number you get if you divide the circumference of a circle by its diameter, Dad.”

He went on to tell me that due to the number being infinite, pi contains the numbers of every phone number in the world… and if you let each number represent a letter, pi would account for every word of every book ever written, and that will ever be written.

I asked him where he learnt it, although I already knew.

“In a book.”

My sons devour books. They read for pleasure, not because their parents told them to.

My boys are no different to any other kids. All children are born with a natural curiosity about the world around them – it’s adults who slowly but surely kill it.

That’s why I asked my boys whether or not they wanted to do the NAPLAN test. From where I sit, the exam has no other purpose than to help education departments fill out sheets of stats.

Where is the correlation between original thinking and NAPLAN? Where is the link between good teaching and NAPLAN results?

I have the greatest respect for teachers – I’ve seen how hard my sister-in-law and niece work for their students. Some terrific teachers changed the course of my life by inspiring me to follow my passion for writing, English and history. Teachers are not the ones who insist upon the National Assessment Program.

The authorities say it’s not about passing or failing, yet so many schools place such a heavy emphasis on it, and you’ll find countless practice tests on the internet to help your children do better.

Meanwhile, kids stress out over something for which they shouldn’t even spare a second thought.

What did my children decide? They chose to do it – curious I guess. In their school tests are a novelty.

Oh, and the answer to the riddle?

There weren’t any stairs, it was a one-storey house.


Richard O’Leary is a journalist, a political advisor and a father who knows there’s a deeper meaning to life but struggles to find it.

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