National assessment program accused of failing children with speech and language disorders

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Australia’s annual national assessment program is failing children with speech and language disorders, researchers say

Speech Pathology Australia, which represent over 6,500 speech pathologists, says that ground-breaking research based on thousands of Australian children shows that those with speech and language problems achieve significantly lower scores on every NAPLAN test in Years 3, 5 and 7.

NAPLAN is an annual assessment program that includes reading, writing, language conventions (spelling, grammar and punctuation) and numeracy.

The researchers also found that students with speech and language problems are more likely to be excluded from NAPLAN testing and that the gap in education outcomes (NAPLAN scores) between them and students without these problems does not improve over time.

The study, conducted by Professor Sharynne McLeod, Professor Linda Harrison and Dr Cen Wang from Charles Sturt University, also confirmed that most students with speech and language problems have not been seen by a speech pathologist.

Gaenor Dixon, National President of Speech Pathology Australia, said: ‘If we want to improve NAPLAN outcomes, then we need to provide targeted support in our schools for students with these disabilities.That means providing school-based speech pathology services.’

The research findings are detailed in Speech Pathology Australia’s submission to the Senate Education and Employment Committee inquiry into current levels of access and attainment for students with disability in the school system, and the impact on them and their families associated with inadequate levels of support.

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Special World, from Inclusive Technology, is a free website linking 125,000 special education teachers, speech therapists and occupational therapists in 150 countries. Special World readers and contributors work with children who have additional needs or special educational needs including those with severe, profound and multiple learning difficulties and disabilities.

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