The Treehorn Express

Prepared and presented by Phil Cullen,

proud anti-NAPLAN geriactivist thinking of kids.


Treehorn story?

The Treehorn Express Theme song: ‘Care for Kids’

Politicians : Did you visit a school today? Everybody happy? Learning like mad?



Ray Kelley wants us to shift from Bing baritone to Bobby falsetto. You would all remember Bobby Breen’s “MOTHER”, of course, the basis for this “NAPLAN”.

It’s still a telling poem, whether you remember the tune or not.

N is for the Nervousness it’s causing:

A is for the Angst it causes too;

P the Pointless Practice, Practice, Practice;

L the Loss of Learning that we rue;

A stands for the Axe with which to Axe it;

N this Needless Nuisance we deplore;

Put them all together, they spell NAPLAN

A thing to ban forevermore

No wonder Phillip Adams called him a ‘clever bugger’.


David Hornsby who shared the definitive paper in ‘Say No to Naplan’ with Professor Margaret Wu called “Inappropriate Uses of NAPLAN Results” expresses, as a past principal, his extreme disappointment with “colleagues who are too scared to say anything, while knowing that they have a very powerful COLLECTIVE voice. Principals are incredibly pressured by those in the hierarchy above them and are clearly too frightened to speak out. A common message is: ‘It’s department policy so you will support it.’ In addition, information is being withheld from principals. Many of them don’t know, for example, that parents are allowed to withdraw their children from the NAPLAN tests. Most don’t understand statistics and don’t know that the weak NAPLAN data cannot be used to make judgments about individual students or schools.”

I certainly share with David this deep despair and disappointment. I am trying to imagine the collectivity of my buddies from a previous era tolerating this kind of assault on pupils. Yes, we prepared children at the end of primary school for state examinations that gave free passage to successful candidates to continue schooling free-of-charge. It certainly was a silly system, full of cruel malicious  old-fashioned teaching, full of wham-bam practices that tradition and history had instilled in us……  until teachers and parents finally felt so ashamed that this sort of thing existed in our society.

We then stood up for the kids and the state examinations disappeared from primary schools. NAPLAN has different origins and very different intentions.  It’s a deliberately perpetrated cruel and nasty attack on children’s schooling to line the pockets of the mega-rich and give substance to screw-ball political rah-rah, using the pale excuse that ‘everybody’ wants to know how schools are going.  NAPLAN is evil – part of  an entirely new ‘political’ ideology, controlled in practice by educratic domination and fear. As with David, I just cannot understand how any primary school principal can allow it in her or his school.

David goes on the say that he would like to see the “Say No to NAPLAN” document spread as widely as possible. Certainly every primary and secondary principal in Australia should read it, and, ideally, the small booklet will appear on every school website in the country. “We were careful,” says David “to make the papers accurate and truthful, so what reasons can principals have for not publishing them on their website and getting with their colleagues to discuss the issues?”

The papers “Say NO to NAPLAN” and the ‘Academics Support” are both available on

Yes. Where are our principals when the children need them?


John Saint-Smith, in a comment on Treehorn’s website might have the answer.

“It seems to me that teachers who go along with this abominable and destructive scheme are somehow not aware of what it does to education, or if they are they have ceased to care for their students, and have decided that their best chance is to catch some drips from the gravy train express as it flashes by on the way to a town called Mediocrity. Perhaps they’re hoping that they can scam the performance bonuses as their colleagues in the US have done.

Just as the Finnish Education System attracts the best and most dedicated of teachers who have warned their minister that they will withdraw their services if he were foolish enough to become involved in this GERM epidemic, perhaps our system of threats, insult, and regimentation of the teaching profession has finally produced the predictable result. We may have already achieved a critical mass of the unprofessional teachers that Kleinism attracts.

When I think back to the early    days of my career, our union seemed to be in a constant philosophical as well as industrial battle with the then Bjelke-Petersen Government. We struggled to fight for the right to apply the education theory that we had learned at Uni into our classrooms. We maintained the highest professional standards, spending our money attending in-service training organized by professional discipline organizations like the Science Teachers Association in order to maximize the authenticity of our lessons. Now the deafening silence from union officials suggests that they are probably brown-nosing their Labor mates in the hope of getting a ticket to parliament like Mr. Craig Thompson.

Whatever the reason for their silence, it seems that teaching must be a pretty demoralizing ‘pseudo-profession’ these days. I must admit that it was getting more like that before I left.”


Allan Alach, multi-contributor of multi-readings, maintainer of ,comments in his letter in Bridging the Ditch :

“I hope readers have heard of the right wing, corporate controlled pressure group called ALEC, who have tentacles in the highest levels of USA politics. ALEC [which develops policy and legislation for states] have these tentacles in many pies, including education, and a read of their education policy makes it very obvious who is behind all this – the big corporates, such as the Murdoch empire [including that well known and highly regarded, very erudite educationalist Joel Klein] and the Pearson Group, along with other education companies like McGraw-Hill. It is indeed tragic to see Australia and New Zealand falling over themselves to toe the USA line…. not far removed from the 1960s when Australia went ‘all the way with LBJ’.”


Craig Copley writes:

“Being in the TAFE system I have limited understanding of NAPLAN. Are the schools funding models based on how well students perform, or is it just the prestige that principals get from saying that they outranked other schools, that makes them force kids into these exam situations. I have even heard of principals and teachers telling underperforming kids to stay home that day so as not to ruin the average.”


The Academic Support Group for ‘Say No to Naplan’ now has almost 100 signatures and is sure to exceed the century. See the attachment for the latest names. This must be heartening for the authors. The comments made on this support paper is also worthy of inclusion on every school’s website. It is an honest appraisal of NAPLAN….and the good news is that all fair-dinkum Aussie educators are getting together


Dr. Greg Thompson of Murdoch University is researching “The Effects of NAPLAN” in WA and SA schools. For more information and participation see 


Last Friday’s The West Australian contains the story of a highly respected principal of a WA private school, Jo Bednallwho indicated that NAPLAN was a costly waste of money. When you read this, please read the “Explore More” section. 


Let’s do things on our terms and not be pushed around anymore.

It’s ‘Say NO to NAPLAN’ time.

Any time is good really.

Just say “NO! Not to my child”


OtherTreehorns ? :   Check Recent Posts and Archives in the sidebar.

Maintained by outstanding NZ educator, Allan Alach

Phil Cullen

41 Cominan Avenue

Banora Point

Australia 2486

07 5524 6443


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