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1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2004  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 27/02/2004   
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Contents >> Education and training >> Primary and secondary education

School attendance

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

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, states and territories offer 13 years of schooling (except for Queensland, which offers 12 years and in 2003 is trialling Pre-year 1 in a small number of schools).

Commencing in 2002, a half cohort (a full cohort approximates the number of persons turning five years of age by 30 June in the year preceding Year 1 schooling) of students in Western Australia have begun attending a Pre-year 1 level of schooling full-time. The year is called Pre-primary in Western Australia but parallels Kindergarten, Transition, etc. in other states and is now within the scope of the schools collection.

While the final two years of secondary schooling generally fall outside the compulsory stage of education, in 2002 some 88% of full-time secondary students remained at school until Year 11 and 75% 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 and undertake New Apprenticeships in VET as part of their senior school 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 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. For students continuing to higher education, eligibility to undertake university courses is almost always based on completion of a senior secondary school certificate.

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, 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 the larger towns and cities. A small number of government schools, in particular those catering for groups such as Indigenous people, have residential hostels located close by.

Children may receive tuition at home, but they must have applied to their state or territory Department of Education for permission. 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 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 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.

Schools, students, and teaching staff

There were 9,632 schools operating in Australia in August 2002, 72% of which were government schools. There were 152,982 full-time, plus full-time equivalent (FTE) of part-time, teaching staff employed in government schools (68% of all teachers), and a further 72,371 employed in non-government schools (table 10.8).

10.8 SCHOOLS, STUDENTS AND TEACHING STAFF - August 2002

Non-government schools

Government schools
Catholic
Independent
Total
All schools
%
%
%
%
'000

Schools
72.4
17.6
10.0
27.6
9.6
Students (FTE)(a)
Males
68.9
19.5
11.6
31.1
1,688.1
Females
67.9
20.1
11.9
32.1
1,626.8
Persons
68.4
19.8
11.7
31.6
3,314.9
Teaching staff (FTE)(b)
Males
66.3
17.8
15.9
33.7
73.7
Females
68.7
18.9
12.5
31.3
151.6
Persons
67.9
18.5
13.6
32.1
225.4

(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: Schools, Australia, 2002 (4221.0).

In 2002, 3.3 million students (FTE) were attending primary and secondary schools, comprising 2.3 million (68%) in government schools and 1.0 million (32%) in non-government schools. Between 1997 and 2002, the number of students (FTE) attending government schools increased by 28,100 (1.3%) while the number of students attending non-government schools increased by 103,900 (11.0%) (table 10.9).

10.9 STUDENTS(a), By category of school - August(b)

1997
1998
1999
2000
2001
2002
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000

Government schools
Males
1,145.4
1,149.2
1,153.1
1,159.7
1,156.9
1,163.4
Females
1,095.3
1,100.5
1,105.9
1,105.6
1,103.0
1,105.4
Persons
2,240.7
2,249.7
2,259.0
2,260.3
2,259.9
2,268.8
Non-government schools
Males
474.2
482.8
492.2
501.7
512.1
524.7
Females
468.0
477.2
487.8
498.4
508.9
521.4
Persons
942.3
960.0
979.9
1,000.1
1,021.1
1,046.2
All schools
Males
1,619.7
1,632.0
1,645.3
1,656.5
1,669.0
1,688.1
Females
1,563.3
1,577.7
1,593.7
1,604.0
1,611.9
1,626.8
Persons
3,183.0
3,209.7
3,238.9
3,260.5
3,280.9
3,314.9

(a) Full-time equivalent students.
(b) School census date.
Source: Schools, Australia (4221.0).

Table 10.10 shows the percentage of school students (FTE) in 2002 by level of education. Among primary school students, 72.0% attended government schools and 28.0% attended non-government schools. For the secondary school students, 63.4% attended government schools and 36.6% attended non-government schools. Approximately one-fifth of all school students attended Catholic schools (18.9% of primary school students and 21.1% of secondary school students).


10.10 STUDENTS(a), By level/year of education - August 2002

Non-government schools
All schools


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

Primary
Pre-year 1(b)
70.7
20.3
9.0
29.3
51.7
48.3
204.3
Year 1
72.0
19.4
8.5
28.0
51.3
48.7
265.5
Year 2
72.4
19.2
8.4
27.6
51.3
48.7
268.6
Year 3
72.3
19.2
8.5
27.7
51.2
48.8
267.9
Year 4
72.2
19.1
8.7
27.8
51.1
48.9
269.0
Year 5
71.8
18.9
9.3
28.2
51.2
48.8
267.8
Year 6
71.3
19.0
9.7
28.7
51.1
48.9
269.0
Year 7 (Qld, SA, WA, NT)
73.1
15.7
11.2
26.9
51.3
48.7
103.7
Ungraded
85.9
2.1
12.0
14.1
65.9
34.1
16.9
Total
72.0
18.9
9.0
28.0
51.4
48.6
1,932.6
Secondary
Year 7 (NSW, Vic.,Tas., ACT)
61.8
23.7
14.5
38.2
51.2
48.8
161.4
Year 8
63.2
21.5
15.4
36.8
51.1
48.9
263.2
Year 9
63.8
21.1
15.2
36.2
50.9
49.1
257.4
Year 10
63.6
20.9
15.4
36.4
50.8
49.2
251.2
Year 11
63.3
20.4
16.3
36.8
49.2
50.8
228.3
Year 12
61.8
21.3
16.9
38.2
47.3
52.7
199.8
Ungraded
88.1
3.5
8.4
11.9
60.2
39.8
21.2
Total
63.4
21.1
15.5
36.6
50.3
49.7
1,382.3
Total
68.4
19.8
11.7
31.6
50.9
49.1
3,314.9

(a) Full-time equivalent students.
(b) Pre-year 1 does not include Qld.
Source: Schools, Australia, 2002 (4221.0).

Graph 10.11 shows student/teacher ratios by category of school by level, in 1998 and 2002. These ratios represent the number of students (FTE) divided by teaching (FTE) staff. In 1998, non-government schools had a slightly lower student/teacher ratio than government schools. In 2002, the ratios for both school systems were reduced, but non-government schools were still lower than government schools (14.5 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 19.9 students per teacher in 1998 to 18.5 students per teacher in 2002.

Graph -  10.11 Students to teaching staff, By category of school


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 2002 the apparent retention rate of full-time secondary school students from Year 7/8 to Year 12 was 75%. As in previous years, the 2002 apparent retention rate for female students remains higher than the corresponding rate for male students.

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

10.12 APPARENT RETENTION RATES, From Year 10 to Year 12

1997
1998
1999
2000
2001
2002
%
%
%
%
%
%

Full-time students
Males
69.3
68.9
68.9
69.0
70.8
72.4
Females
79.9
79.4
79.9
80.0
80.1
81.7
Persons
74.5
74.1
74.4
74.4
75.4
77.0
Total students(a)
Males
72.4
71.8
71.9
72.1
73.9
75.7
Females
84.6
83.6
84.5
84.7
84.9
86.9
Persons
78.4
77.6
78.1
78.3
79.4
81.3

(a) Includes part-time students.
Source: Schools, Australia (4221.0).

The apparent retention rate in 2002 of full-time students from Year 10 to Year 12 was 2.5 percentage points higher than the 1997 rate.

Care should be taken in interpreting apparent retention rates since various factors affecting their calculation have not been taken into account. These include 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.

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