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1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2007  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/01/2007   
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Contents >> Education and Training >> Primary and secondary education

PRIMARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION

SCHOOL ATTENDANCE

Schooling in most states and territories begins with a preparatory or kindergarten year, followed by six or seven primary year levels. Secondary schooling then involves a further six or five years to complete a full course of school study. Although primary and secondary schools are mostly separate institutions, there are some central, combined or area schools which provide both levels of study. In Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory, the final two years (Years 11 and 12) of government secondary schooling are available at separate secondary colleges.

School attendance is compulsory throughout Australia between the ages of 6 and 15 years (16 years in Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania). Most children start primary school at around 5 years of age. The final two years of secondary schooling generally fall outside the ages of compulsory education. Despite this, 88% of the cohort of students who entered secondary school in 2000 or 2001 (depending on the state or territory of schooling) continued on to Year 11 in 2004, and 75% continued to Year 12 in 2005. While part-time attendance is rare below the senior secondary years, up to one-third of Year 12 students in some jurisdictions are defined as part time. Similarly, while most school staff are full time, a sizeable group work part time.

SCHOOL ORGANISATION AND OPERATION

In Australia, schools are classified as either government or non-government. Government schools are those which are the direct responsibility of the Director-General (or equivalent) of Education within each state or territory and receive the majority of their funding from the relevant state or territory government. Non-government refers to all other institutions delivering school education. They operate under conditions determined by state and territory government regulatory authorities and also receive Australian, and state or territory government funding.

Although each state and territory has its own approach to schooling, ongoing negotiations between the state and territory jurisdictions and the Australian Government are aimed at standardising core education curriculum modules (such as mathematics, science and English) and the age of commencement of students. The expectation is that these changes will ensure that all Australian children have access to 13 years of schooling, on a comparable basis, transferable across the respective states and territories.

Schools in Australia generally have considerable autonomy. Most states and territories have regional administrations which are responsible for matters such as planning school buildings and deploying staff, while a central curriculum unit provides general guidelines on course planning. Individual schools typically determine teaching and learning approaches within the given guidelines, and offer various course options. Assessment of students varies across states and territories, some having a completely school-based assessment system, while others combine school-based assessment with external examinations.

PRIMARY SCHOOLING

The main emphasis in early primary school is on the development of basic language and literacy skills, simple arithmetic, moral values and social education, health training and personal development, and some creative activities.

In upper primary school, the focus is on developing the skills learned in earlier years. English, mathematics, social studies, science, music appreciation, art and craft, physical education and health are studied. There are also optional subjects such as religious instruction, foreign and community languages, and specific music courses.

SECONDARY SCHOOLING

In some jurisdictions the first one or two years of secondary school consist of a general program which is undertaken by all students, although there may be some electives. In middle secondary years, a basic core of subjects is retained, with students able to select additional optional subjects. In other jurisdictions, students select options from the beginning of secondary school.

In senior secondary schooling, Years 11 and 12, a wider range of subject options is available in the larger schools. Individual schools increasingly develop courses suited to the needs and interests of their students, subject to accreditation and moderation procedures. Vocational programs are included in the senior secondary curriculum in all jurisdictions. School students may obtain VET certificates and undertake apprenticeships in the VET sector as part of their senior school study, undertaking some parts of these programs in the workplace.

Students reaching the minimum school leaving age may leave school and seek employment, or enrol in a vocational course with a VET institution, such as a technical and further education (TAFE) college or a private business college. For many VET courses, completion of Year 10 is a minimum entry requirement. For those continuing to the end of secondary school, opportunities for further study are available at higher education institutions, VET institutions and other educational institutions. For students continuing to higher education, eligibility to undertake university courses is almost always based on satisfactory completion of a senior secondary school certificate (Year 12 qualification).

OTHER SCHOOLING ARRANGEMENTS

Children may be exempted from attending a school if they live too far away from an appropriate institution or have a disability. These children receive tuition through various means, including distance education, School of the Air, and use of computer, facsimile, and satellite technologies.

Children of some Indigenous groups in remote areas of the Northern Territory, who live in small decentralised communities, receive schooling mainly in Homeland Learning Centres or Catholic Indigenous schools. They are taught by Indigenous teaching assistants supported by visiting teachers from established schools.

Boarding facilities are available at some non-government schools, mainly in cities and some larger towns. A small number of government schools, in particular those catering for groups such as Indigenous people, have residential hostels located close by.

Children may be home-schooled, if they have met the criteria set down by the relevant state or territory Department of Education. They must be enrolled as a student at a day school and be available when required for assessment against the regular school year curriculum.

Special instruction for physically and/or mentally disabled or impaired students or those with social problems is provided as 'special education' by government and non-government authorities. It may be provided in special classes or units in regular schools, by withdrawal from regular classes for periods of intensive assistance by specialist staff, or in specialist schools. Parents in all states and territories have also formed voluntary organisations to establish additional schools catering for their children's special needs. The Australian Government provides funds to states and territories, non-government authorities and community groups to assist in the provision of services and upgrading of special education facilities.

SCHOOL STUDENTS AND TEACHING STAFF

There were 9,623 schools operating in Australia at the time of the August 2005 schools census, of which 72% were government schools. Both staff and student numbers are generally expressed as 'full-time equivalent' (FTE), which is calculated by adding the full-time equivalent of part-time staff or students to the respective full-time count. There were 156,600 FTE teaching staff employed in government schools (66% of all teachers) and a further 79,200 FTE employed in non-government schools (table 10.3).


10.3 SCHOOLS, STUDENTS AND TEACHING STAFF - August 2005

Non-government schools

Units
Government
schools
Catholic
Independent
Total
All
schools

Schoolsno.
6,929
1,698
996
2,694
9,623
Students (FTE)(a)
Males'000
1,157.3
337.2
215.3
552.5
1,709.8
Females'000
1,098.3
336.1
214.8
550.9
1,649.2
Persons'000
2,255.6
673.3
430.1
1,103.3
3,359.0
Teaching staff (FTE)(b)
Males'000
48.6
13.7
13.2
26.9
75.5
Females'000
107.9
30.3
22.0
52.3
160.3
Persons'000
156.6
44.0
35.3
79.2
235.8

(a) Full-time students plus full-time equivalent of part-time students.
(b) Full-time teaching staff plus full-time equivalent of part-time teaching staff.
Source: ABS data available on request, National Schools Statistics collection, 2005.


The 3.4 million FTE students attending primary and secondary schools in August 2005 comprised 2.3 million (67%) in government schools, and 1.1 million (33%) in non-government schools. Between 1998 and 2005 the FTE number of students attending government schools increased by 5,900 (or less than 1%), while the number attending non-government schools increased by 143,300 (15%) over the period. Since 2001, enrolments in government schools fell in the five-year period by 4,300, while enrolments in non-government schools rose by 82,200 FTE students (table 10.4).


10.4 STUDENTS(a), By category of school - August

2001
2002
2003
2004
2005
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000

Government schools
Males
1,156.9
1,163.4
1,161.9
1,159.7
1,157.3
Females
1,103.0
1,105.4
1,103.1
1,100.6
1,098.3
Persons
2,259.9
2,268.8
2,265.0
2,260.2
2,255.6
Non-government schools
Males
512.2
524.7
534.1
543.0
552.5
Females
508.9
521.4
531.3
540.7
550.9
Persons
1,021.1
1,046.2
1,065.4
1,083.6
1,103.3
All schools
Males
1,669.0
1,688.1
1,696.0
1,702.6
1,709.8
Females
1,611.9
1,626.8
1,634.3
1,641.3
1,649.2
Persons
3,280.9
3,314.9
3,330.3
3,343.9
3,359.0

(a) Full-time equivalent students.
Source: ABS data available on request, National Schools Statistics collection.


Table 10.5 shows the FTE number of school students in 2005, at each year level and their distribution by category of school. Among all primary school students, 71% attended government schools and 29% attended non-government schools. At secondary level, 62% attended government schools and 38% attended non-government schools. A fifth of all school students attended Catholic schools (19% of primary school students and 21% of secondary school students).


10.5 STUDENTS(a), By level/year of education - August 2005

Non-government schools
All schools


Government
schools
Catholic
Independent
Total
Males
Females
Persons
%
%
%
%
%
%
'000

Primary
Pre-year 1(b)
70.4
20.0
9.5
29.6
51.3
48.7
218.1
Year 1
70.8
19.5
9.6
29.2
51.4
48.6
265.1
Year 2
71.2
19.5
9.4
28.8
51.2
48.8
262.7
Year 3
70.5
19.7
9.8
29.5
51.2
48.8
253.7
Year 4
71.0
19.3
9.7
29.0
51.2
48.8
266.7
Year 5
70.6
19.1
10.3
29.4
51.2
48.8
271.9
Year 6
70.4
18.9
10.7
29.6
51.2
48.8
272.2
Year 7 (Qld, SA, WA, NT)
71.3
16.0
12.7
28.7
51.5
48.5
106.6
Ungraded
90.2
1.7
8.1
9.8
68.1
31.9
16.5
Total
70.9
19.1
10.0
29.1
51.4
48.6
1,933.6
Secondary
Year 7 (NSW, Vic., Tas., ACT)
61.5
23.4
15.2
38.5
50.9
49.1
166.5
Year 8
62.2
21.6
16.2
37.8
51.2
48.8
271.9
Year 9
62.5
21.3
16.2
37.5
50.9
49.1
271.5
Year 10
62.1
21.3
16.6
37.9
50.8
49.2
262.6
Year 11
61.3
21.0
17.7
38.7
48.8
51.2
232.8
Year 12
59.5
21.9
18.6
40.5
47.1
52.9
198.8
Ungraded
90.9
2.2
6.9
9.1
61.7
38.3
21.3
Total
62.1
21.3
16.6
37.9
50.2
49.8
1,425.4
All students
67.2
20.0
12.8
32.8
50.9
49.1
3,359.0

(a) Full-time equivalent students.
(b) Pre-year 1 includes a small number of Queensland students engaged in a trial of Pre-year 1 education.
Source: ABS data available on request, 2005 National Schools Statistics collection.


Graph 10.6 shows student/teacher ratios by category of school by level, in 1995 and 2005. These ratios represent the FTE number of school students divided by the FTE number of teaching staff. The most marked reductions in these ratios between 1995 and 2005 were the 10% decreases for primary schools - down overall from 18.1 students per teacher in 1995 to 16.2 in 2005. Among secondary schools, both Catholic and Independent schools showed decreases (from 13.6 to 13.1, and 11.6 to 10.7, respectively).

In 1995, both non-government and government schools had student/teacher ratios of 15.4. By 2005 these had decreased to 13.9 for non-government schools, and to 14.4 in government schools.

10.6 STUDENTS TO TEACHING STAFF(a), By category of school



APPARENT RETENTION RATES

Apparent retention rates are regarded as important measures of the performance of education systems and related government policies. The apparent retention rate is an estimate of the proportion of students of a given cohort who continued to a particular level or year of education. In 2005 the apparent retention rate of full-time secondary school students from Year 7/8 to Year 12 was 75%. As in previous years, the 2005 apparent retention rate to Year 12 for female students was higher (81%) than the corresponding rate for male students (70%).

Table 10.7 shows apparent retention rates from Year 10 to Year 12 only, calculated for actual student numbers.


10.7 APPARENT RETENTION RATES, From Year 10 to Year 12

2001
2002
2003
2004
2005
%
%
%
%
%

Full-time students
Males
70.8
72.4
72.3
72.4
71.5
Females
80.1
81.7
81.6
82.3
81.6
Persons
75.4
77.0
76.9
77.2
76.5
Total students(a)
Males
73.9
75.7
75.1
75.1
74.0
Females
84.9
86.9
86.4
86.9
85.7
Persons
79.4
81.3
80.7
80.9
79.8

(a) Includes part-time students.
Source: ABS data available on request, National Schools Statistics collection.


The apparent retention rates in 2005 of all students from Year 10 to Year 12 were 2.2 percentage points higher for males, and 2.1 percentage points higher for females, than in 1998. While both male and female retention have risen over this time, the difference between males and females remains at 12 percentage points (graph 10.8).

10.8 APPARENT RETENTION RATES FROM YEAR 10 TO YEAR 12, All students



Care should be taken in interpreting apparent retention rates as their calculation cannot take into account a range of factors such as overseas migration, repeating students, mature age students, and other net changes to the school population.

INDIGENOUS SCHOOL STUDENTS

In August 2005 there were 88,634 Indigenous FTE students attending primary schools and a further 47,032 attending secondary schools (table 10.10).

Graph 10.9 shows a decline in the number of Indigenous FTE school students at secondary school level, after Year 7. This decline is most marked from Year 10, and reflects leaving school at the end of compulsory education.

10.9 INDIGENOUS SCHOOL STUDENTS(a) - August 2005



Table 10.10 shows a 21% increase in total Indigenous FTE enrolments between 2000 and 2005, with increases of 16% in primary and 33% in secondary schooling over that period. New South Wales and Queensland experienced the largest increases in Indigenous FTE student numbers, by 7,767 and 7,251 respectively. Indigenous FTE secondary students increased in every state and territory over the period, whereas Indigenous FTE primary school students increased in every jurisdiction, except the Northern Territory. The age profile of the Indigenous population differs markedly from the non-Indigenous population. At 30 June 2001, 39% of the Indigenous population was aged 0-14 years, compared with 20% of non-Indigenous persons.


10.10 INDIGENOUS SCHOOL STUDENTS(a), By level of education - August

Year
NSW
Vic.
Qld
SA
WA
Tas.
NT
ACT
Aust.

PRIMARY

2000
21,235
3,950
21,235
4,791
12,209
2,747
9,980
550
76,697
2005
25,304
4,816
25,076
5,473
14,396
2,999
9,904
666
88,634

SECONDARY

2000
11,179
1,949
9,571
1,756
5,025
1,861
3,618
334
35,292
2005
14,877
2,869
12,982
2,398
6,594
2,267
4,608
438
47,032

TOTAL

2000
32,414
5,899
30,806
6,546
17,234
4,608
13,598
884
111,989
2005
40,181
7,684
38,057
7,871
20,990
5,266
14,512
1,104
135,666

(a) Full-time equivalent students.
Source: ABS data available on request, National Schools Statistics collection.


The apparent retention rate of Indigenous full-time students in secondary schooling increased between 1998 and 2005, but remains below that of non-Indigenous students. The increased retention of Indigenous students has generally been more notable than for non-Indigenous students over this period, leading to a reduction in the difference between Indigenous and non-Indigenous retention rates.

During the period 1998 to 2005, retention of Indigenous full-time students to Year 10 has increased from 83% to 88% (non-Indigenous retention remain stable at 99%). Over the same period, Indigenous retention to Year 12 increased from 32% to 40%, compared with 73% and 77% for non-Indigenous retention. However, Indigenous retention to Year 11 (after which the minimum school leaving age has usually been reached), increased more markedly, from 52% to 62%. The gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous retention to Year 11, narrowed from 33 percentage points in 1998 to 26 percentage points in 2005 (graph 10.11).

10.11 APPARENT RETENTION(a) TO YEAR 11, Full-time students

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