The recent results for NAPLAN, Australia’s national standardised tests of literacy and numeracy, confirm a disturbing trend. Our teenagers are actually going backwards in writing, and making no progress in the other areas of testing. The question is – why?

A close examination of the 2016 NAPLAN statistics provides some clues. In the Writing paper less than 2% of Year 3 students in Australia are below the minimum benchmark standard. It would seem to be very achievable, then, to address the needs of this 2%. Instead, by Year 5, 5% of students have dropped below minimum benchmark standards. The drop off continues in Year 7, and by Year 9, more than 15% of students are below the standard. We do not collect standardised test data beyond Year 9, but if the trend continues – and we have no evidence to suggest otherwise – that would mean around a third of students graduate school below minimum benchmark standards in writing.