ABC News highlights OLR's NAPLAN success

posted 14 Dec 2017, 17:59 by Nicole Albatti   [ updated 14 Dec 2017, 18:00 ]

Children who grow up speaking a language other than English are outperforming native English speakers in spelling in some states, the 2017 national school assessment report card shows.

Key points:

·         Migrant children top the nation in Year 3 spelling

·         Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children improved their NAPLAN results significantly over the past 10 years

·         Federal Education Minister says overall decline in writing and reading scores as a "wake-up call"

The literacy achievement of primary school students who speak languages other than English is the surprising success story to emerge from this year's NAPLAN results.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students are also standout performers in reading and maths improvement over the past decade.

But this year's national picture is mixed, and the Federal Government has described an overall decline in writing and reading scores as a "wake-up call".

Hundreds of children begin their first year of primary school in Australia speaking limited English, and in some cases no English at all.

But by Year 3 they are outperforming native English speakers in spelling in New South Wales and Tasmania.

In most other states children with a language background other than English are performing on par with native English speakers.

Fairfield, in Sydney's south-west is a melting pot of diverse cultures. A local Catholic school, Our Lady of the Rosary, welcomes about 90 students into kindergarten each year.

For almost all of those children, English is a second language.

PHOTO: Teacher Julianne Merhi with some of her pupils at Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Primary School. (ABC News: Natasha Robinson)

Despite the challenges, it is among about 40 schools nationwide that have been identified as making the biggest gains in literacy and numeracy achievement.

The school said it scored above the state and national averages in spelling, and has been consistently above state and national averages over the past five years in Years 3, 5 and 7 NAPLAN spelling.

"We've got children who are very, very willing and ready to learn," school principal Brother Nicholas Harsas said.

"It's wonderful to see them coming into school with little or no English, and then 12 months later how far they've come."

Kindergarten teacher Julianne Merhi puts the results down to explicit phonics instruction in the early years of school.

"Because a lot of the children do come to us with limited language, building letter and sound correlation is very important," Ms Merhi said.