December 2019

Revealed: SA’s top performing schools in NAPLAN from 2014-18

Article written by Tim Williams, Education Reporter, and published in The Advertiser on Friday 6 December 2019.

Between 2014 and 2018, just one SA school made the nation’s top 100 for long-term success in NAPLAN. Search our database to see how every school performed.

Just one South Australian school makes the top 100 in the country for long-term success in NAPLAN tests at Year 5 level, new data analysis reveals.

The Advertiser has tallied results of all the literacy and numeracy tests for every school, both for Year 5s and Year 9s, over the period 2014-18.

Independent primary school St Andrew’s at Walkerville tops the state for Year 5 results, and is the only SA school to make the national top 100 – at number 99.

The list of SA’s best performing schools at Year 5 is predictably dominated by high-fee private colleges.

After St Andrew’s comes St Peter’s Girls, Wilderness, St Peter’s College and Seymour. Walford, Scotch and Loreto are also in the top 10.

Linden Park Primary is the top public school and sixth in the state overall, followed by another eastern suburbs school Norwood Primary in 10th.

Public schools claim half the places in the state’s top 100 for Year 5. Most of those are in the eastern suburbs or Adelaide Hills.

UniSA Emeritus Professor Alan Reid said educational outcomes such as NAPLAN results were influenced by students’ socio-economic status” and schools’ resource levels.

When similarly advantaged or disadvantaged schools are compared, “the results of public and private schools are very similar”, he said.

Prof Reid said NAPLAN measured only “one aspect” of schooling – literacy and numeracy – and therefore “should not be used to make sweeping judgments about the quality of schools or education systems”.

St Andrew’s School principal Deb Dalwood said there was more to it then socio-economic factors, starting with “high expectations of all students”.

She said her school did not “teach to the test”. It focused instead on inquiry-based learning, problem-solving and thinking skills via the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program, as well as wellbeing measures to reduce stress, enabling students to approach tests with confidence.

Ms Dalwood said individualised learning support began with children as young as three in the Walkerville school’s early learning centre. Strong relationships with parents who “work really closely with us (and) value education and really encourage their children to do well” was another important factor.

Wudinna Area School is the top public country school at 28th in the state for Year 5, Kimba Area School is 79th and Mypolonga and Pinnaroo primary schools also crack the top 100.

Wudinna principal Ned Loades said his school had succeeded in lifting many students from the middle to the high achievement bands in NAPLAN by “making sure we track where they’re at and trying to achieve growth in every student”.

In the Catholic sector, Loreto (ninth) is followed by St Joseph’s School at Clare (11th), which is the state’s highest scoring regional school across all school sectors. St Ignatius’ College (12th in SA) and St Dominic’s Priory (13th) were other strong Catholic performers.

In Year 9, SA has four schools in the national top 100.

Education Minister John Gardner said the State Government had implemented “a range of new measures that will have a profound influence on improving educational outcomes for our kids, and we look forward to seeing those outcomes on display in future years”.

“The impact of these measures does take time to flow through the system and we acknowledge there is a long way to go, but the early signs are positive,” he said, pointing to gains in Years 3 and 5 NAPLAN tests this year.

“Year 3 mean score results were up in every test domain, and we achieved the highest percentage of Year 3 students in the higher bands for reading since NAPLAN testing began,” he said.

Australian Education Union state president-elect Lara Golding said: “NAPLAN was never intended to be used as a method of comparing individual schools. The publication of league tables is damaging to students and school communities. The best form of assessment is the informed judgment of a teacher who understands the student and their abilities.”


AT St Andrew’s School, individualised learning support begins with children as young as three in the early learning centre.

Principal Deb Dalwood says the independent primary school’s top academic outcomes, making it SA’s best NAPLAN performers at Year 5 from 2014-18, comes back to “high expectations of all students”.

Ms Dalwood said the Walkerville school did not “teach to the test”. It focuses instead on inquiry-based learning, problem-solving and thinking skills via the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program, as well as wellbeing measures to reduce stress.

It enables students to become “capable and confident” and take a “have a go” approach to tests.

Another key was strong relationships with parents who “work really closely with us (and) value education and really encourage their children to do well”.’

Ms Dalwood said focusing on tests alone was “not healthy” as “life skills and other areas of the curriculum” are just as important.

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Year 2 Colouring-in Competition

A group of enterprising and socially conscious Year 2 St Andrew’s School students took it upon themselves to propose and run a Junior Primary colouring-in competition with the aim of raising money for charity. In the end, they decided to distribute the funds they raised to the School, Anglicare and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

We spoke with them about how they came up with the idea and how the project panned out.

How did you come up with the idea?

We wanted to do a competition about drawing and animals because we wanted to raise money for the School and charities like Anglicare and the World Wildlife Fund.

How did you go about running the competition?

First, we wrote a letter to Ms Wood explaining what we wanted to do. Then we thought about posters and we made a poster explaining the competition. We also went into classrooms to tell students about what we were doing.


We had to choose people to judge the drawings so we chose Mrs Puckridge because she’s an art teacher and we chose Ms Wood because she’s very fair.

How many entries did you get?

We had 64 entries from Junior Primary students. We had a lot of entries.

How did you present the prizes?

We handed out prizes at assembly and shook people’s hands. People who came third got Chuppa Chups; people who came second got a book and stationery; and people who won first prize got a mini fan, a Chuppa Chup, and a stationery pack.

How much money did you raise?

We raised $335 (two of the five students in the group pictured below with the jar containing the money they raised).

How did you feel after you successfully finished the competition?

We felt proud of ourselves for doing the competition even though we were nervous at the beginning.

Deputy Principal – Teaching and Learning, Heather Wood, reflects on the students’ colouring-in competition…

I was very impressed by the boys’ ability to articulate what they wanted to do and how they would go about it. For some students, a proposal won’t progress beyond the initial letter and meeting with me when they realise there is actually quite a bit of organisation and work required to see through a project to the end. This is fine because taking the first step of putting forward a proposal is a significant milestone. But for this group of students, they translated their idea into action and followed it through to completion.

The boys had some important learnings along the way; for example, after getting their poster out they realised it was missing some important information and so they had to take steps to rectify this. The presentation of the prizes at the Junior Primary assembly was a wonderful culmination to a successful learning journey and we were very proud of the boys.

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  • St Andrew’s School is a South Australian independent, co-educational specialist primary school providing excellence in education from playgroup through to early years and on to Year 7. Principal Jackie Becher – an International Baccalaureate School – UNESCO Associated School.