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4725.0 - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Wellbeing: A focus on children and youth, Apr 2011  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 23/05/2012  Reissue
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EDUCATION: BEING AT SCHOOL

This article is part of a comprehensive series released as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Wellbeing: A focus on children and youth.

Note: In this section 'children' refers to people aged 5–14 years and the terms 'youth' and 'young people' refer to people aged 15–19 years. Information for children was provided by the parent or guardian or, where they were not available, by a close relative or other household member with responsibility for the child. Data presented are from the ABS National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey, 2008 (cat. no. 4714.0) and the Survey of Education and Work, 2008 and 2009 (cat. no. 6227.0).

KEY MESSAGES

Of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 5–14 years in 2008:
  • 98% were reported to be usually attending school (including 3% who were in preschool and 9% who were in kindergarten or preparatory school)
  • 8% were reported to have missed school without permission in the previous year.
Of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people aged 15–19 years in 2008:
  • 46% were attending secondary school and 14% were attending a tertiary institution such as university, TAFE or business college
  • 10% were not studying but had completed Year 12 or higher qualification.

Being at school provides children and young adolescents with opportunities to obtain basic literacy and numeracy skills and develop social skills that are needed to continue with their education. Staying on at school and completing Year 12 can also have positive effects on young people's wellbeing. Evidence suggests that those who complete Year 12 are more likely than those who leave school earlier to be employed full-time and to earn higher wages (Endnote 1).

SCHOOL ATTENDANCE

In 2008, almost all (98%) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 5–14 years were reported to be usually attending school (including 3% who were in preschool and 9% who were in kindergarten or preparatory school) (Endnote 2). Of those who usually attended school (excluding preschool), 95% were reported to usually attend five days per week.

MISSING SCHOOL WITHOUT PERMISSION

Irregular attendance can disrupt the learning experience and contribute to a lack of improvement in educational outcomes for children (Endnote 3).

Among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children usually attending school, only a small proportion were reported to have missed school without permission in the last year (8% or 9,800 children) (Endnote 4). This excludes children attending preschool or being home schooled.

Children living in non-remote areas were less likely to have missed school without permission than children living in remote areas (6% compared with 14%).

Children in Years 7 to 9 were more than twice as likely to have missed school (13%) as those in Kindergarten/prep to Year 6 (6%). This pattern was evident for children living in remote and non-remote areas and for boys and girls overall.

2.1 MISSING SCHOOL WITHOUT PERMISSION(a)(b) BY REMOTENESS AND SEX, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 5–14 years—2008
Graph: Missing school without permission by remoteness, sex and school grade, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 5–14 years, 2008
(a) Children who were reported to be usually attending school.
(b) In the previous year.
(c) Difference between Kindergarten/prep–Year 6 and Year 7–Year 9 is statistically significant.
Source: 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey


Children aged 5–14 years who had missed school without permission were more likely than those who had not missed school to have experienced one or more stressors, including:
  • problems keeping up with school work (40% compared with 20%)
  • a family member/friend having problems with alcohol and/or drugs (30% compared with 15%)
  • trouble with the police, and/or having had a family member in trouble with the police or in prison (28% compared with 16%).

BULLYING AT SCHOOL

In 2008, one in eight (12%) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 5–14 years reported being bullied at school because of their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander origin. Overall, the proportions of boys (13%) and girls (11%) who had experienced bullying were similar, however rates were higher among children living in non-remote areas, where 13% of children had experienced bullying compared with 8% of children in remote areas.

For more information on bullying at school, see Social and Emotional Wellbeing: Bullying at School in The Health and Welfare of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples (cat. no. 4704.0).


COMPLETING THE HIGHER YEARS OF SCHOOLING AND FURTHER EDUCATION

Between the ages of 15 and 19 years young people generally need to make a decision about whether or not they will stay on and complete the non-compulsory years of schooling. This decision can have a significant effect on their future wellbeing.

Among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Strait Islander youth aged 15–19 years in 2008:
  • 46% were studying at secondary school
  • 14% were studying at a tertiary institution such as a university, TAFE or business college
  • 10% had completed Year 12 or higher qualification and were no longer studying (Endnote 5)
  • 30% were neither studying nor had completed Year 12 or a higher qualification.
In comparison, 16% of young people aged 20–24 years (who had left school) were studying at a tertiary institution; just over one-third (35%) were not currently studying but had completed Year 12 or a higher qualification; and almost half (49%) were neither studying nor had completed Year 12 or a higher qualification.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people aged 15–19 years in non-remote areas were more likely to be studying at secondary school than those in remote areas (47% compared with 38%). However, the proportions of youth in non-remote and remote areas who were studying at tertiary institutions such as university, TAFE or business college, were not significantly different.
2.2 PARTICIPATION IN FORMAL EDUCATION BY REMOTENESS, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth aged 15–19 years—2008
Graph: Participation in formal education by remoteness, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15–19 years, 2008
(a) Difference between non-remote and remote areas is statistically significant.
(b) Comprises TAFE or technical college, business college, industry skills centre, and university or other higher educational institutions.
(c) Difference between non-remote and remote areas is not statistically significant.
(d) Derived measure based on responses about highest educational attainment, highest level of non-school qualification, and highest year of school (primary or secondary) completed.
Source: 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey


The proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people who were currently studying was lower than that for non-Indigenous young people, particularly for tertiary institutions such as university, TAFE or business college.

Nationally, according to the 2008 and 2009 Surveys of Education and Work (Endnote 6), among non-Indigenous youth aged 15–19 years:
  • 51% were enrolled at secondary school
  • 27% were enrolled at a tertiary institution such as a university, TAFE or business college
  • 12% had completed Year 12 or a higher qualification and were no longer currently enrolled in study
  • 10% were neither studying nor had completed Year 12 or a higher qualification.
2.3 PARTICIPATION IN FORMAL EDUCATION BY INDIGENOUS STATUS, youth aged 15–19 years—2008
Graph: Participation in formal education by Indigenous status, people aged 15–19 years, 2008
(a) Difference between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous rate is statistically significant.
(b) Comprises TAFE or technical college, business college, industry skills centre, and university or other higher educational institutions.
(c) Difference between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous rate is not statistically significant.
(d) Derived measure based on responses about highest educational attainment, highest level of non-school qualification, and highest year of school (primary or secondary) completed.
Source: 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey; 2008 and 2009 Survey of Education and Work.


SCHOOL COMPLETION AND OTHER ASPECTS OF WELLBEING

In 2008, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people aged 15–19 years who were currently studying or had completed Year 12 or a higher qualification were more likely than those who were neither studying nor had completed Year 12 or a higher qualification to:
  • have not consumed alcohol at all in the last 12 months (53% compared with 34%)
  • report that all or most of their friends had similar levels of education as themselves (71% compared with 48%)
  • feel that they could have a say with their family and friends all or most of the time on issues that were important to them (72% compared with 60%).
    They were also less likely to:
    • have been arrested in the last five years (6% compared with 26%)
    • have used illicit substances in the previous year (15% compared with 32%)
    • be a current daily smoker (19% compared with 50%)
    • have experienced one or more personal stressors (46% compared with 60%), including having been unable to find a job (10% compared with 22%).

    SPOTLIGHT: SUPPORT NEEDED TO COMPLETE SCHOOL AND FUTURE EDUCATIONAL INTENTIONS

    In 2008, 27,000 young people aged 15–19 years were studying at secondary school, 8,300 were studying at a tertiary institution and 23,900 were not studying at secondary school or a tertiary institution.

    Young people aged 15–19 years who were studying at secondary school were asked about the types of assistance that would help them to continue going to school until they had completed Year 12.

    The most common types of assistance reported were support from family, friends and school (81%), career guidance (30%) and greater access to apprenticeships (23%).

    Among students aged 15–19 years who were not studying at either secondary school or a tertiary institution, the majority (69%) said they intended to undertake some study in the future. More Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people in non-remote areas than in remote areas planned to study at some point in the future (76% compared with 45%).


    ENDNOTES
    1. Purdie, N. and Buckley, S. 2010 School attendance and retention of Indigenous Australian Students, Closing the Gap Clearinghouse, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Issues Paper No. 1 (p.5) <www.aihw.gov.au>
    2. The NATSISS school attendance question relies on respondents' interpretation of what 'usually attends school' means, and also requires that respondents use their recollection about the child's school attendance to answer the question. Because of this, the proportion of children who are reported to usually attend school may differ from other data collections.
    3. Senate Report, Completed Inquiries, March 2000, Chapter 3, Katu Kalpa-Report on the inquiry into the effectiveness of education and training programs for Indigenous Australians - Chapter 3, Parliament of Australia <www.aph.gov.au>
    4. Information was provided by the child proxy, who may not have known whether the child had missed school or the extent to which they may have missed school. Results may therefore underestimate the number of children who had missed school without permission in the previous year.
    5. Includes persons who had completed Year 12 or a Certificate II, or a higher qualification (such as a Bachelor degree).
    6. Estimates for non-Indigenous people from the Survey of Education and Work were averaged across the 2008 and 2009 surveys.

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