In a statement, they said, “The decision not to proceed with NAPLAN has been taken to assist school leaders, teachers and support staff to focus on the wellbeing of students and continuity of education, including potential online and remote learning.
“Further, the impact of responses to the COVID-19 virus may affect the delivery of NAPLAN testing, including the operation of centralised marking centres and the implications for nationally comparable data if an insufficient number of students are available to do the test.”
The president of the Secondary Principals Council, Craig Petersen, said school leaders and teachers would welcome the “commonsense” announcement.
“Everyone is under lots of stress as a result of the corona anxiety,” he said. “It will make a huge difference to morale, and it will let teachers focus on maximising the teaching and learning time they have with kids, rather than worrying about a test.”
The government is also facing growing pressure from teachers’ unions, who say staff are at risk of infection and the information and resources available to schools are insufficient for them to observe social distancing and hygiene rules.
The Independent Education Union, representing staff in private and Catholic schools, has written to the Prime Minister, saying current preventative measures are “manifestly inadequate” and teachers are at “grave risk”.
IEU federal secretary Chris Watt said many schools did not have sufficient resources to implement hand-washing and cleaning advice, while social distancing rules were not possible for children in packed school environments.
Mr Watt urged the government to release its medical advice “that is the purported basis for schools remaining open”.
He also said at-risk employees and those with vulnerable relatives should immediately be allowed to work from home or go on leave.
The Australian Education Union, representing public school staff, has also written to Mr Morrison calling for additional advice and resources and rejecting “unrealistic” and inequitable online learning alternatives to schools staying open.
Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan and government medical officials will meet the unions next week to discuss their concerns.
On Friday, Mr Morrison said the government’s position on keeping schools closed had not changed.
“It is in the national interest that we keep schools open,” he said.
National chief medical officer Brendan Murphy said the risk to children was low and data suggested that children were more likely to be infected by adults rather than vice-versa.
Jordan Baker is Education Editor of The Sydney Morning Herald
Fergus Hunter is an education and communications reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.