4221.0 - Schools, Australia, 2014 Quality Declaration 
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 05/02/2015   
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EXPLANATORY NOTES


INTRODUCTION

1 This publication contains statistics on students, schools, and staff involved in the provision or administration of primary and secondary education, in government and non-government schools, for all Australian states and territories.

2 Data used in the compilation of these statistics are sourced from the National Schools Statistics Collection (NSSC) (non-finance), which is a joint undertaking of the various state and territory departments of education, the Australian Government Department of Education and Training, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), and the Education Council (previously the Standing Council for School Education and Early Childhood).

3 These Explanatory Notes and the accompanying Glossary and Appendix provide information on the data sources, counting rules, terminology, classifications and other aspects associated with these statistics. All data are collected and reported to standard classifications as stated in the NSSC Data Collection Manual (DCM) and NSSC Notes, Instructions and Tabulations (NIT) manual, both of which are available from the ABS on request.


SCOPE AND COVERAGE

4 The scope of the statistics in this publication relates to establishments which have, as their major activity, the administration and/or provision of full-time day primary, secondary or special education, or primary or secondary distance education. An establishment's major activity is based on the activity of its students, or where this is not appropriate (e.g. in administrative offices) on the activity of its staff. The statistics in this publication do not include school-level education conducted by other institutions, in particular Technical and Further Education (TAFE) establishments.

5 Statistics for the government series relate to all establishments administered by the departments of education under the director-general of education (or equivalent) in each state/territory, students attending those establishments, and all staff engaged in the administration or provision of school education at those establishments.

6 Statistics for the non-government series relate to all in-scope establishments not administered by the state/territory departments of education.

7 Data for the non-government establishments are reported by schools through the Schools Service Point, which is managed by the Australian Government Department of Education and Training to support schools in meeting their mandatory reporting requirements under the Australian Education Act 2013. These data are then collated by the Department and a subset is provided to the ABS for the NSSC.

8 Education services in Jervis Bay Territory are provided by the Australian Capital Territory Education Directorate. For the purposes of the NSSC, figures for Jervis Bay Territory are included with those for the Australian Capital Territory.

9 Education services in the Territory of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands and the Territory of Christmas Island are provided by the Department of Education Western Australia. For the purposes of the NSSC, figures for these territories are included with those for Western Australia.

10 Education services in Norfolk Island are provided by the New South Wales Department of Education and Communities. For the purposes of the NSSC, figures for Norfolk Island are included with those for New South Wales.

11 Emergency and relief teaching staff who are employed on a casual basis are not included in this collection, as they replace permanent teaching staff who are absent for short periods of time and are already counted.

12 Part-time student data by age are only available from 2006 onwards.


CENSUS DATE

13 The census date for the collection, for all states/territories and affiliations, is the first Friday in August each year. For 2014 the census date was 1 August.


AGE REFERENCE DATE

14 The age reference date for students is 1 July.


DATA COMPARABILITY

15 Occasionally, jurisdictions make changes in the administration of their education system that can impact on the coherence of the statistics produced in this publication over time. The following paragraphs (in reverse chronological order) note the most significant changes of this nature made to the collection since 2011. For changes prior to 2011 please refer to previous releases of Schools, Australia.

16 Prior to 2014 in South Australia, most children started school at age five, and it was common for children to start school at the beginning of the school term following their fifth birthday. From 2014 onwards, children will usually commence school at the start of the year in which they turn five.

17 In recent years, Tasmania has alternated between a single and multiple entity college structure. This has impacted on the number of students as these structural changes have seen some Year 11 and 12 students change classification between school and the vocational education and training sector and hence move in and out of scope of the NSSC.

18 In 2012 the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development was able to pro-rate the full-time equivalent (FTE) staff working at combined schools, or at more than one school, at the school level, rather than at the state level as was previously done. This resulted in a more accurate estimate of staff FTE.

19 In 2012 the Queensland Department of Education and Training noted continuing improvements in the response to identification of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status in government schools, along with a considerable reduction in the number of “not stated” responses. This may affect comparisons of students by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status with previous years.

20 From 2011 onwards, the South Australian Department for Education and Child Development has identified and removed re-entry students from the government NSSC counts. These students were undertaking Year 11 and 12 subjects, but were not completing the Year 12 certification South Australian Certificate of Education (SACE). The profile of these students was typically part-time and mature age. This may affect comparisons of total students and students by age and attendance status with previous years.

21 In 2011 the South Australian Department for Education and Child Development changed the measure of a student’s workload. The workload for Year 11 and 12 students is now measured in hours where previously it was measured by the number of SACE subjects being studied. This may affect comparisons of full-time equivalent values and breakdowns of full-time and part-time students with previous years.

22 In 2011 the Western Australian Department of Education introduced a new system for managing administrative data that has improved data quality for identifying and resolving potential administrative counting errors.

23 In 2011 the Northern Territory Department of Education and Training developed procedures for strengthening the identification and classification of part-time students. The result was a slight increase in the 2011 part-time student count, similar to the levels in 2009 and earlier. This may affect comparisons of part-time students from 2010 with other years. The Department was also better able to identify and remove staff working in the early childhood sector from NSSC counts of staff for government data which may affect comparisons of staff data with previous years.

24 The number of schools in a particular jurisdiction may vary from year to year due to administrative changes which alter the composition of schools. For example, (i) secondary schools may split to create middle schools and senior secondary schools, (ii) schools may fall in or out of scope based on changes in the major activity of the establishment or (iii) two or more schools may be amalgamated to form one school. Such changes may also result in a changed profile of school characteristics (e.g. the merger of the primary and secondary school to form a combined school means that the amalgamated school's enrolment size would be reported as a sum of the enrolments). For more information on specific changes in individual jurisdictions, please refer to the relevant state or territory department website.

25 The structure of primary and secondary schooling in Australia differs between states and territories. A process of alignment is currently underway which will result in a more uniform arrangement. For the impact on comparability of statistics, please see APPENDIX DIFFERENCES IN SCHOOLING STRUCTURES.


METHODOLOGY

26 The methodologies employed in compiling government sector data vary between the different state and territory departments of education. Data may be accessed from central administrative records or collected directly from education establishments. Data are provided to the ABS, generally in aggregated form, for the compilation of statistics.

27 The Australian Government Department of Education and Training collects data directly from establishments in the non-government sector for all states and territories for administrative purposes. The non-government sector statistics in this publication are a summary of results from that collection.

28 In 2010 and 2011, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory provided student unit record level data for these statistics. This followed studies conducted by the ABS demonstrating that no break in series would occur by using unit record level data. The collection methods for the relevant departments were similar to those used for their aggregate submissions in previous years.

29 Following the unit record level data trial, Tasmania has continued to provide unit record level data for production of these statistics. Some other jurisdictions have also commenced providing unit record level data for quality assurance purposes in addition to the aggregate data used to compile the statistics.


INTERPRETATION OF RESULTS

30 When interpreting the figures in this publication, users should be aware that the comparability of statistics between states and territories, and between government and non-government schools in any one state or territory may be affected by state and territory specific arrangements covering (i) the organisation of grades, (ii) policy on student intake and advancement, (iii) flows from secondary to vocational education, and (iv) the recruitment and employment of teachers.

31 There is no national standard covering the allocation of all students and classes to a particular grade of school education. A number of schools (other than special schools) do not maintain a formal grade structure. Where possible, students at these schools have been allocated to equivalent grades by the relevant education authorities, but otherwise appear against the ungraded category in either the primary or secondary level of school education.

32 Relatively small changes in the absolute numbers of a population can create large movements in rates and ratios. These populations might include smaller jurisdictions, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, and subcategories of the non-government affiliation and cross tabulated characteristics.

33 The Estimated Resident Population (ERP) series is used in the calculation of some rates in this publication. It is used to account for movements in population, such as migration. ERP is used as a denominator to calculate students as a proportion of the population.

34 The ERP is a quarterly estimate of the population of Australia, based on data from the quinquennial ABS Census of Population and Housing, and is updated using information on births, deaths, and overseas and internal migration provided by state, territory and Australian government departments. For more information, see: ABS Australian Demographic Statistics (cat. no. 3101.0).


RATES

35 This publication calculates a number of different rates measuring the proportion of students proceeding through the school system. To calculate actual rates for all students in a given population, analysis on the status of every student between years would be required to determine whether they progressed as expected, progressed but transferred to another jurisdiction or school of different affiliation, repeated or left school entirely. At present, conducting such analysis of all individuals through linking student enrolment information between different years and across jurisdictions is not possible.

36 Instead, a methodology is used to calculate rates based on total reported cohort populations in a selected jurisdiction at a selected year either as a percentage of the total population (ERP) or as a percentage of the population for the cohort in an earlier year. Rates calculated by this methodology are known as 'apparent' rates. Accordingly, the term 'apparent' is used to refer to all rates in the publication where they are not the 'actual' rate that would result from direct measurement of the movement of each individual student.

37 For example in NSW in 2011, there were 45,262 students aged 15 and ERP indicated there were 46,358 persons aged 15. In 2012, in NSW there were 41,195 students aged 16 and ERP indicated there were 46,741 persons aged 16. This equates to an Apparent Continuation Rate (ACR) of 100*(41,195/46,741)/(45,262/46,358) or 90.3%.

38 There are a number of reasons why apparent rates may generate results that differ from actual rates. These reasons include, but are not limited to:

  • students progressing at a faster or slower than expected rate of one grade a year
  • students changing between full-time or part-time study
  • migration (interstate/international)
  • inter-sector (affiliation) transfer
  • enrolment policies (which contribute to different age/grade structures between states and territories)
  • students who attend school in a state/territory different to that in which they live
  • a different reference period used in calculating ERP (30 June) verses that used as the reference in the school system (1 August), and
  • the children of diplomats, short term international exchange students and possible other anomalies, where students are counted in one statistic (school attendance) but not in another (ERP).

39 When interpreting rates in this release, the impacts of the effects noted above can lead to apparent rates occasionally taking values of greater than 100%. However, given many of the effects have a fairly consistent impact from year to year, the annual movement in a rate is useful to consider.

40 The formulae and methodology used for the calculation of School Participation Rates, Apparent Continuation Rates and Apparent Progression Rates are available in the Research Paper: Deriving Measures of Engagement in Secondary Education from the National Schools Statistics Collection (cat. no.1351.0.55.016) published in December 2006.


APPARENT RETENTION RATE (ARR)

41 This provides an indicative measure of the proportion of full-time school students who have stayed at school, for a designated year and grade of education. It is expressed as a percentage of the respective cohort group that those students would be expected to have come from, assuming an expected rate of progression of one grade per year. For example, an ARR for Years 10 to 12 in 2010 would measure the proportion of Year 10 students in 2008 that had continued to Year 12 in 2010.

42 The grade of commencement of secondary school varies across states and territories and over time. Rates that use the grade of commencement of secondary school as the base grade may use a different base grade for each state and territory, depending on the schooling structure in each state and territory. These data are comparable as the cohorts are retrospective to the grade and year from which the rate is calculated. These variations are incorporated into the calculation of rates at the Australia level.

43 In 2008, the structure of schooling in the Northern Territory changed with Year 7 becoming the first year of secondary schooling, whereas previously it was Year 8. For those ARRs using the first grade of secondary education as the base year, Year 8 is the base for the cohort commencing secondary school in 2008. For cohorts commencing secondary school post 2008, Year 7 is the base. This may affect comparisons with previous rates.

44 In small populations, relatively small changes in student numbers can create large movements in apparent retention rates. These populations might include smaller jurisdictions, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, and subcategories of the non-government affiliation. Changes in such factors outlined in paragraph 38 may be more noticeable in these populations.


SCHOOL PARTICIPATION RATE (SPR)

45 This is a measure of the number of school students of a particular age expressed as a proportion of the Estimated Resident Population (ERP) of the same age. It indicates the proportion of the population by age who are at school. In some jurisdictions, SPRs can exceed 100%. For more information regarding ERP and its impact when used together with student counts see paragraphs 33-38.

46 It is not unusual for rates in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) to exceed 100% by large amounts. This is mainly due to the enrolment of students in ACT schools who are not usual residents of the ACT, but who live in surrounding New South Wales regions. As a result of the small ACT population, this has a larger effect on the ACT rates than the NSW rates. This is referred to as cross-border enrolment

47 Non-participation in school education is not calculated for inclusion into this publication as it cannot be accurately calculated by the difference between NSSC student counts and ERP, due to the significant conceptual differences between the two populations as previously noted in paragraph 38 such as the children of foreign diplomats (included in NSSC, excluded from ERP).


APPARENT CONTINUATION RATE (ACR)

48 This is a measure of the proportion of an age group of students (full-time and part-time) who have continued from one calendar year to the next. It can be expressed as the school participation rate of a population age cohort in one year as a percentage of the school participation rate of the same population age cohort in the previous year. For example an ACR for students aged 15 turning 16 would measure the proportion of those 15 year old school students that were still at school 12 months later.

49 Apparent continuation rates can be calculated for any population age cohort with a specific characteristic such as all students of a given sex or in a given jurisdiction as long as a count of the total population with that age and characteristic is available.

50 Apparent Continuation Rates include both full-time and part-time students, and are adjusted to factor for changes in the population.


APPARENT PROGRESSION RATE (APR)

51 This is a measure of the proportion of a cohort of full-time students that moves from one grade to the next at an expected rate of one grade per year. For example, an APR for Year 10 to 12 would measure the proportion of students who were in Year 10 two years ago and are now in Year 12.

52 Apparent progression rates include both full-time and part-time students, and are adjusted to factor in changes in the population.


FULL-TIME EQUIVALENT (FTE) STUDENT/TEACHING STAFF RATIOS

53 FTE student/teaching staff ratios are calculated by dividing the FTE student figure by the FTE teaching staff figure. Student/teaching staff ratios are an indicator of the level of staffing resources used and should not be used as a measure of class size. They do not take account of teacher aides and other non-teaching staff who may also assist in the delivery of school education.

54 Some states and territories are not able to calculate FTE values on a time-spent basis for all staff functions but instead use wages paid as a fraction of the full-time pay rate, or a resource allocation based formula. Some also use a pro-rata formula based on student or staff numbers to estimate aggregate FTE for some categories of staff. This includes staff at combined schools who are allocated to primary or secondary categories.


RELATED PUBLICATIONS AND PRODUCTS

55 The Schools, Australia, Preliminary publication (cat. no. 4220.0) was discontinued in 2010.

56 Additional information can be found in publications produced by ABS offices in each state and territory including the Census of Population and Housing, various publications of the Australian Government Department of Education and Training, the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER), the education chapter of the annual Report on Government Services (RoGS), the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) and reports of national partnerships and agreements under the Council of Australian Governments such as the National Indigenous Reform Agreement (NIRA). Information is also available in annual reports of the various state and territory departments of education, and in annual reports of the various non-government affiliated offices or licensing authorities.

57 Education & Training has a theme page on the ABS web site for the dissemination of information: <http://www.abs.gov.au/websitedbs/c311215.nsf/web/Education+and+Training>

58 Statistics available through the ABS are listed on the website at: <http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/webpages/statistics?opendocument>

59 The ABS also issues a daily Release Advice on the web site which outlines upcoming releases:
<http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/webpages/ABS+Release+Advice>