A young primary school student attempted suicide due to the stress caused by NAPLAN testing.

Wanniassa School principal Shane Gorman said a teacher found the year 5 student attempting suicide on school grounds after walking out of class during a NAPLAN test several years ago, reports ABC news.

“People don’t realise the stress it puts on kids,” Mr Gorman told an ACT inquiry into standardised testing.

The ACT Government established the inquiry into standardised testing to examine its effectiveness and how it affects the mental health of students as well as the morale of teachers, as part of a push to change how data from those tests is reported.

Mr Gorman said he was “likely to get emotional” retelling the incident, but revealed it to illustrate the effects of testing on students.

He noted the case was extreme, but also particularly alarming as he makes an effort to reduce the stress of NAPLAN testing on students and teachers.

“So in my school where I’m trying to create no stress about NAPLAN, that happened,” he said.

“I hate to think what happens in other schools where it’s high stakes.”

The inquiry heard the child was a “well below-average” performing student with mental health issues, whose mother wanted him to take the test.

“She wanted to understand where he fits with everybody else. I actually tried to talk her out of doing the test, as we’re not supposed to do,” Mr Gorman said.

Mr Gorman said the student walked out halfway through the test — leaving a note — and then went to take his own life.

“He was going to end it,” Mr Gorman said.

Mr Gorman appeared alongside ACT secretary of the education union Glenn Fowler, who told the inquiry public reporting of NAPLAN data causes stress for students.

“If doctors said, in near unanimity, that a practice did more harm than good for their patients, would they be ignored for nine years?” Mr Fowler said.

“NAPLAN data should be removed from the My School website now and in perpetuity.”

If you or someone you know needs help, call:
Lifeline on 13 11 14
Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800
MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978
Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467

We recently reported that a “teacher stuff-up” has been blamed for NAPLAN results being deemed inadmissible for a group of year 9 students.

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  • I wonder how they were attempting it? Very sad that some kids feel so overwhelmed they resort to that. Perhaps the child has underlying issues that caused such a reaction though eg. self-harm with Autism, being unable to express emotions in a healthy way. Maybe the parents were very strict and placed pressure, or the teacher? So many questions. I really hope the child is getting help and support. There have always been tests as long as I can remember, just not the NAPLAN kind.


  • For heaven’s sake – it’s just a test, not the end of the world. We used to have tests all the time, and we weren’t warned that it was going to happen so we could swot up either.


  • This is obviously an extreme reaction to NAPLAN testing. It’s the only suicide attempt I’ve heard about. I’m thinking some counselling is due though, I would think there might be issues at home to bring on this kind of reaction


  • We need to get rid of the Naplan testing, go back to the old methods, kids do not need pressure to perform better than others, just perform at the best of their own ability.


  • I do think that this Naplan testing can be very stressful for some children


  • This story could have ended very differently if the school had not intervened and I am glad the childs life was saved.

    My daughters school makes sure the students stay calm in the lead up to NAPLAN, assuring them that its nothing to worry or stress about and I found it worked very well for my daughter who suffered from anxiety.

    The test itself isn’t really the issue in my opinion, more the way it is communicated and handled to the children


  • I think the way that NAPLAN is handled is actually the problem, not really the testing its self. If it was just done as a normal part of assessment, with no build up, practices etc, not only would it give a more accurate record but would remove the stress for students.
    And personally i don’t know anyone that looks at the results when considering schools – if you are selecting a school based on NAPLAN results for children you are looking at education the wrong way in my opinion. Children will learn were they are comfortable and happy – that is what school selection should be based on.


  • It’s just a test. Such a pity that some people hang so much value on it, kids should never be stressed by a test, but be able to be relaxed about it and feel they’re ok no matter how they perform. This is clearly not the case for many children. I would be happy to see NAPLAN ditched forever.


  • Years ago pupils in primary schools had small tests on what they had learnt that week.
    That way the teachers could assess if the pupils had learnt the work at all or needed extra help.


  • Well get rid of NAPLAN


  • When my now 17 year old, first did a Naplan test in grade 3, there was go much pressure put on them leading up to it, it was ridiculous! The kids were stressed out thinking that they weren’t smart enough


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