Australian Bureau of Statistics

Rate the ABS website
ABS Home > Statistics > By Release Date
ABS @ Facebook ABS @ Twitter ABS RSS ABS Email notification service
1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2002  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 25/01/2002   
   Page tools: Print Print Page RSS Feed RSS Bookmark and Share Search this Product  
Contents >> Education and Training >> Primary and secondary education

School attendance

School attendance is compulsory throughout Australia between the ages of 6 and 15 years (16 years in Tasmania). Most children commence primary school at 5 years of age.

As the preceding article illustrates, each State and Territory has developed its own approach to schooling, particularly in relation to the structure of Pre-year 1 education and the transition from primary to secondary schooling. Primary schooling in most States and Territories begins with a preparatory or kindergarten year, followed by six or seven primary grades, then a further five or six years to complete a full secondary course of study. In total, most States and Territories offer 13 years of schooling (except Queensland and Western Australia, which offer 12 years). While the final two years of schooling generally fall outside the compulsory stage of education, in 2000 some 85% of full-time secondary students remained at school until Year 11 and 72% remained until Year 12.

School organisation and operation

Primary schooling provides a general elementary program lasting for seven or eight years until Year 6 or Year 7. Students enter secondary schools at Year 7 in some State (or Territory) systems and at Year 8 in others. Primary and secondary schools are usually separate institutions, but in some areas there are central or area schools which provide both levels of schooling. In Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory, the final two years of government schooling are undertaken at separate secondary colleges.

Generally, schools in Australia have a considerable degree of autonomy. Most States and Territories have established 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. Typically, individual schools determine teaching and learning approaches within the given guidelines and offer various course options. The 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

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

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


Secondary schooling

In some systems 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 later years, a basic core of subjects is retained, with students able to select additional optional subjects. In other systems, students select options from the beginning of secondary school.

In senior secondary years, a wider range of options is available in the larger schools and there is an increasing trend towards encouraging individual schools to develop courses suited to the needs and interests of their students, subject to accreditation and moderation procedures. There is also an increasing emphasis on the incorporation of vocational programs into the senior secondary curriculum. School students may obtain certificates in VET as part of their senior study and undertake some parts of their 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) institution or a private business college. For many VET courses, completion of Year 10 of secondary school is a minimum entry requirement. For those continuing to the end of secondary school (Year 12), opportunities for further study are available at higher education institutions, VET institutions and other educational institutions. Students' eligibility to enter higher education institutions is assessed during, or at the end of, the final two years of secondary schooling.


Other schooling arrangements

Children may be exempted from the requirement of compulsory attendance at a school if they live too far from a school or have a disability. These children receive tuition through a variety of educational delivery mechanisms, including distance education, Schools of the Air, and use of computer and facsimile technologies.

Children of some Indigenous groups in remote areas of the Northern Territory, who live in small decentralised communities such as outstations or homeland centres, receive schooling from Indigenous teaching assistants supported by visiting teachers from established schools.

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

Special education is provided by government and non-government authorities in special classes or units in regular schools, by withdrawal from regular classes for periods of intensive assistance by special staff, or in specialist schools. In all States and Territories, and particularly in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria, parents have formed voluntary organisations to establish additional schools catering for their children's special needs. The Commonwealth 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.


Schools, students, and teaching staff

There were 9,595 schools operating in Australia in August 2000, 73% of which were government schools. There were 150,600 (69%) full-time equivalent (FTE) teaching staff employed in government schools, and a further 67,400 (31%) employed in non-government schools (table 10.8).

10.8 SCHOOLS, STUDENTS(a) AND TEACHING STAFF - 2000

Government
schools
Non-government schools


All schools
%
Anglican
%
Catholic
%
Other
%
Total
%
’000

Schools
72.6
5.1
64.4
30.6
27.5
9.6
Students(a)
Males
69.6
10.8
64.2
25.0
30.4
1,651.0
Females
68.8
10.1
64.2
8.0
31.2
1,596.4
Persons
69.2
10.4
64.2
25.4
30.8
3,247.4
FTE of teaching staff(b)
Males
67.9
15.0
54.0
31.0
32.1
731.4
Females
69.7
11.0
61.8
27.2
30.3
144.9
Persons
69.1
12.4
59.1
28.5
30.9
218.1

(a) Full-time students only.
(b) Full-time teaching staff plus full-time equivalent (FTE) of part-time teaching staff.
Source: Schools, Australia (4221.0).


In 2000, 3.2 million students were attending primary and secondary schools on a full-time basis, comprising 2.2 million (69%) in government schools and 1 million (31%) in non-government schools. Between 1990 and 2000, the number of students attending government schools increased by 40,400 (1.8%) while the number of students attending non-government schools increased by 97,600 (11%) (table 10.9).

10.9 STUDENTS(a), By Category of School

1990

’000
1996

’000
1997

’000
1998

’000
1999

’000
2000

’000

Government schools
Males
1,123.0
1,136.6
1,140.9
1,144.8
1,148.4
1,149.8
Females
1,070.3
1,084.9
1,089.2
1,094.6
1,099.2
1,098.5
Persons
2,193.3
2,221.5
2,230.1
2,239.4
2,247.7
2,248.3
Non-government schools
Males
425.5
464.1
473.9
482.4
491.7
501.2
Females
422.8
457.3
467.7
476.9
487.3
497.9
Persons
848.3
921.4
941.6
959.3
979.0
999.1
All schools
Males
1,548.5
1,600.7
1,614.8
1,627.2
1,640.1
1,651.0
Females
1,493.1
1,542.2
1,556.9
1,571.4
1,586.5
1,596.4
Persons
3,041.6
3,142.9
3,171.6
3,198.7
3,226.6
3,247.4

(a) Full-time students only.

Source: Schools, Australia (4221.0).


Table 10.10 shows the percentage of students in 2000 by level of education. Of all primary school students, 73% attended government schools while 27% attended non-government schools. At the secondary level, attendance at government schools was 64% and at non-government schools 36%. One-fifth of all school students attended non-government Catholic schools (19% of primary school students and 21% of secondary school students).


10.10 STUDENTS(a), By Level of Education - 2000

Non-government schools

All schools

Level/year of education
Government schools

%
Anglican

%
Catholic

%
Other

%
Total

%
Males

%
Females

%
Persons

’000

Primary
Pre-year 1(b)
71.9
6.4
71.7
22.9
28.1
51.5
48.5
192.9
Year 1
73.2
6.2
71.1
22.7
26.8
51.4
48.6
269.4
Year 2
73.2
6.2
71.5
22.3
26.9
51.2
48.8
268.5
Year 3
73.2
6.8
70.6
22.6
26.8
51.3
48.8
266.0
Year 4
72.9
7.0
70.5
22.5
27.2
51.1
48.9
266.3
Year 5
72.1
8.3
68.6
23.1
27.9
51.2
48.8
263.8
Year 6
71.9
8.9
67.1
24.0
28.1
51.1
48.9
261.1
Year 7 (Qld, SA, WA, NT)
73.7
11.5
59.4
29.1
26.3
51.2
48.7
99.9
Ungraded
83.1
0.2
10.5
89.3
16.8
64.8
35.1
16.0
Total primary
72.8
7.3
69.2
23.4
27.2
51.4
48.7
1,903.9
Secondary
Year 7 (NSW, Vic., Tas., ACT)
63.1
12.2
62.9
25.0
37.0
50.9
49.1
157.0
Year 8
64.3
12.9
59.5
27.6
35.7
51.2
48.8
255.7
Year 9
65.0
13.3
59.5
27.2
35.0
50.9
49.1
255.9
Year 10
64.8
13.9
58.7
27.4
35.2
50.5
49.5
251.4
Year 11
63.6
14.8
57.3
27.8
36.4
48.7
51.3
218.4
Year 12
61.3
15.5
56.7
27.8
38.8
46.9
53.1
185.8
Ungraded
87.5
7.1
28.3
64.6
12.9
60.4
39.7
19.2
Total secondary
64.2
13.8
58.8
27.4
35.8
50.1
49.9
1,343.5
Total
69.2
10.4
64.2
25.4
30.8
50.8
49.2
3,247.4

(a) Full-time students only.
(b) Pre-year 1 does not include Queensland and Western Australia.

Source: Schools, Australia (4221.0).


Graph 10.11 shows student/teacher ratios at government and non-government schools by level, in 1990 and 2000. These ratios represent the number of full-time students divided by full-time equivalent teaching staff. In 1990, non-government schools had a higher student/teacher ratio than government schools. By 2000 the difference between government and non-government schools was minimal (14.9 students and 14.8 students per teacher, respectively). The greatest change in the student/teacher ratio was for Catholic primary schools, where the ratio declined from 21.1 students per teacher in 1990 to 19.1 students per teacher in 2000.




Apparent retention rates

Apparent retention rates are important measures of the performance of education systems and related government policies. The apparent retention rate is an estimate of the percentage of students of a given cohort who continued to a particular level or year of education. For instance, in 2000 the apparent retention rate of full-time secondary school students from Year 7/8 to Year 12 was 72%. As in previous years, the apparent retention rate for female students remains higher than the corresponding rate for male students.

Table 10.12 shows apparent retention rates from Years 10 to 12 rather than from the commencement of secondary schooling, where attendance due to age requirements is most likely compulsory. Retention rates have been calculated for full-time students, and for all students (full-time and part-time), who continued to Year 12 from their respective cohort at Year 10.

10.12 SECONDARY STUDENTS, Apparent Retention Rates from Year 10 to Year 12 - 1995 to 2000

Full-time
males
%
Full-time
females
%
Full-time
students
%
All
males
%
All
females
%
All
students
%

1995
68.4
78.7
73.4
71.2
86.1
77.1
1996
68.6
78.7
73.6
71.7
83.2
77.3
1997
69.3
79.9
74.5
72.4
84.6
78.4
1998
68.9
79.4
74.1
71.8
83.6
77.6
1999
68.9
79.9
74.4
71.9
84.5
78.1
2000
69.0
80.0
74.4
72.1
84.7
78.3


Source: Schools, Australia (4221.0).

The apparent retention rate in 2000 of full-time students from Year 10 to Year 12 has increased by about 1% since 1995. The increase is similar over this period when part-time students are included.

Care should be taken in interpreting apparent retention rates since various factors affecting their calculation have not been taken into account. At the national level these include the effects of students who repeat a year of education, migration, and changing characteristics of the school population, such as the growing number of full-fee paying overseas students.

Previous PageNext Page

Bookmark and Share. Opens in a new window


Commonwealth of Australia 2014

Unless otherwise noted, content on this website is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Australia Licence together with any terms, conditions and exclusions as set out in the website Copyright notice. For permission to do anything beyond the scope of this licence and copyright terms contact us.