2902.0 - Census Update (Newsletter), Nov 1998  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 30/11/1998   
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Better schooling with Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas

Improving educational outcomes is a priority for the Victorian Independent Schools Block Grant Authority - and this is particularly true of schools catering for students with disadvantaged backgrounds. Schools that meet initial eligibility guidelines are assessed - using the ABS' Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA) - and then placed in priority order according to their communities' social and economic characteristics.

The Authority uses the SEIFA "Index of Disadvantage" as one of its main indicators, as it focuses on low income earners, relatively lower educational attainment, high unemployment, rented dwellings and people lacking fluency in English.

The SEIFA index score provides an impartial and unbiased means of combining and weighting the needs of each schools' feeder community. It is used to rank the grant applications in order of need, and this information assists the Board of Directors in prioritising funding.

In addition, the Authority purchased CDATA96 as a service to participating member schools, as it allowed them to analyse the demographics of existing or proposed catchment areas. Member schools use the information by extracting data by age groupings, occupations, education, ethnicity, income characteristics and religion. This information has also been used by some school councils in decision making, policy development, planning and marketing.

The use of census information - firstly with CDATA91 and now with SEIFA and CDATA96 - has effectively assisted the Victorian Independent Schools Block Grant Authority to administer the grants program, especially in relation to socio-economic prioritisation.

"The ABS has helped develop detailed step-by-step manuals to meet our particular needs and as a result, the processes are easy enough that anybody could pick up the manual and produce the required information."

The Authority has received many enquiries on the use of the packages from organisations who also use socio-economic factors in their submissions assessment process.

"Talking to the ABS about our particular needs has resulted in benefits for both organisations."

          This case study was provided to Census Update by Alan Williams, Company Secretary, Victorian Independent Schools Block Grant Authority. The Authority administers the Commonwealth Capital Grants Program for non-government schools in Victoria. Schools apply to them for capital funding.

An example of a SEIFA96 screen