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1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2012  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/05/2012   
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Education and training

PRIMARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION

SCHOOLING STRUCTURES

The basic structure of schooling in Australia is a period of primary school followed by a period of secondary school. Primary school generally consists of 'years' ranging from Pre-Year 1 to Year 6/7, while secondary school generally consists of years ranging from 7/8 to 12, depending on the state or territory (figure 12.2).

The National Youth Participation Requirement (NYPR), agreed by the Council of Australian Governments in 2009, harmonised the compulsory school age across states and territories. From January 2010, the compulsory commencement age for schooling is six years for all states and territories, except Tasmania, where it is five years. However, most children commence the preliminary year of formal schooling, Pre-Year 1, between four and a half and five and a half years of age. Under the 2009 decision, there is now a mandatory requirement for all young people to participate in schooling until they complete Year 10 and to participate until the age of 17 years in full-time (at least 25 hours per week) education, training, employment, or a combination of these activities.



12.2 SCHOOLING STRUCTURES, By states and territories(a)(b)—2011


SCHOOL ORGANISATION AND OPERATION

Schools in Australia may be classified as either government or non-government schools. Government schools are the direct responsibility of the Director-General of Education (or equivalent) in each state or territory and receive funding from the relevant state or territory government. Non-government schools can be further classified, based on self-identification of the school’s affiliation. Non-government schools are grouped for reporting as Catholic (including Catholic affiliated independent schools) or independent (other non-government schools, including Anglican). Non-government schools operate under conditions determined by state and territory government regulatory authorities and receive funding from the Australian Government and relevant state or territory government.

Within national frameworks, curriculum and course offerings have historically been determined by state and territory education departments or at a school level. However, these approaches came under review in 2009, when the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority was established to develop a nationally agreed education program. Since then, there has been increasing harmonisation in the field of education including:
  • nationally consistent school participation policies through the National Youth Participation Requirement
  • establishment of an Australian Curriculum that outlines:
    • key learning areas (such as English, mathematics, science and history) and other subjects to be developed (such as geography, languages, the arts, economics, business, civics and citizenship, health and physical education, information and communication technology, and design and technology)
    • national general capabilities (literacy, numeracy, information and communication technology competence, critical and creative thinking, ethical behaviour, personal and social competence, and intercultural understanding)
    • national cross-curriculum priorities (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures, Asia and Australia’s engagement with Asia, and sustainability)
  • a national assessment reporting program aligned to the national curriculum, and
  • improved consistency of terminology.

Primary schooling

Primary schooling is generally provided in a structured learning environment delivered by a single qualified teacher. Primary school usually runs as a five-day school week, spread across four terms consisting of about ten weeks each. Students in primary schools should have the opportunity to learn in the key content areas identified in the Australian Curriculum but may also undertake learning in other areas such as religious instruction, foreign and community languages, and specific music courses.

Secondary schooling

Secondary schooling generally differs from primary schooling in the mode of delivery and variety of subject matter students may study. Secondary teachers commonly specialise in a specific subject area and so secondary students move regularly between classes and have contact with different teachers. While some core subjects, or content areas, are compulsory - particularly for satisfying certification requirements - there is increased choice for secondary students in the types of subjects that they study. Secondary schooling is usually provided during a five-day school week, spread across three or four terms depending on the state or territory.

There is some variation in the structure of secondary schooling throughout Australia, with some states and territories providing Years 11 and 12 in separate institutions to other secondary years. These Year 11 and 12 schools may be known as colleges or senior secondary schools.

Remote and rural education

There is a variety of options employed to assist with delivering education to students in remote locations.

Student boarding facilities overcome the issue of remoteness by locating the student at or near their school. While boarding schools are traditionally associated with the non-government sector, a small number of government schools address the issue similarly, with a location near residential hostels.

Some states and territories have established remote community centres with specifically trained staff to assist in the service delivery of education. Examples include the Homeland Learning Centres and Catholic Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander schools in the Northern Territory that are established to provide schooling for children in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. For more information on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students refer to chapter 3 ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER PEOPLES.

Virtual learning is likely to occur in many schools to some degree, particularly with the increased availability of enabling technology such as the Internet, which can facilitate discussion boards, web cam and voice over Internet protocols. Virtual learning can be seen as a further development of 'schools of the air', the first of which was established in Australia in 1951 using a two-way radio.

Home-schooling is also an option for students, including remote students, and may be complemented with virtual classroom learning. Home-schooling is available to students who meet 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 curriculum.

VOCATIONAL EDUCATION AND TRAINING

Vocational education and training (VET) provides skills and knowledge in preparation for entering the workforce through a national training system. VET may complement secondary studies or be undertaken in place of secondary schooling after Year 10. VET may be school-based, undertaken through a TAFE or through a registered training organisation. VET may also contribute to senior secondary certification, a trade qualification or be undertaken for personal reasons. Refer to the VOCATIONAL EDUCATION AND TRAINING (VET) section for more information.

SPECIAL EDUCATION

Students with impairments may be entitled to support that assists in providing them with an equal opportunity to participate in education. There are currently a variety of models across the states and territories for funding students with impairments to participate in education.

There are two main approaches to supporting students with impairments. They may receive additional resources within a mainstream school or attend a school with conditional enrolment that specialises in supporting students with certain impairments. The Commonwealth Government funds states and territories, non-government authorities and community groups to assist in service provision, maintenance and upgrading of special education facilities.

SCHOOLS

There were 9,468 schools operating in Australia in 2010, of which 71% were government schools. Of the non-government schools, nearly two-thirds were Catholic (table 12.3).

The number of combined schools (schools that have both primary and secondary years) continued to grow in 2010, while the number of schools teaching only primary or only secondary years continued to decline slowly. In 2010, primary schools outnumbered secondary schools almost five to one.

About 4% of the schools in Australia were categorised as special schools in 2010.


12.3 SCHOOLS AND STUDENTS—August 2010
NON-GOVERNMENT SCHOOLS
Government schools
Catholic
Independent
Total
All schools
no.
no.
no.
no.
no.

Schools
Primary
4 879
1 230
248
1 478
6 357
Secondary
1 034
303
72
375
1 409
Combined
498
148
640
788
1 286
Total(a)
6 743
1 708
1 017
2 725
9 468
Students(b)
Primary
1 392 938
390 831
231 248
622 079
2 015 017
Secondary
911 321
323 080
261 457
584 537
1 495 858
Total
2 304 259
713 911
492 705
1 206 616
3 510 875

(a) Special schools are included in the total count only.
(b) Includes students in combined schools.
Source: ABS data available on request, 2010 National Schools Statistics Collection.


Teaching staff

Teaching staff can be employed on a full-time or part-time basis and some teaching staff split their time between teaching and non-teaching roles. As a result, full-time equivalent (FTE) measures are used to compare teaching staff in schools (table 12.4).

In 2010, 65% of FTE teaching staff were in government schools compared with 35% in non-government schools. The proportions of FTE students in government and non-government schools were very similar to the proportions of teaching staff (66% and 34% respectively).

In 2010, 69% of all FTE teaching staff were women, who comprised 81% of FTE teaching staff in primary schools and 40% in secondary schools.


12.4 FULL-TIME EQUIVALENT (FTE) TEACHERS AND STUDENTS, By sex and school affiliation—August 2010
NON-GOVERNMENT SCHOOLS
Government schools
Catholic
Independent
Total
All schools
(FTE)
(FTE)
(FTE)
(FTE)
(FTE)

Teachers
Males
47 596.4
14 548.5
14 682.6
29 231.1
76 827.5
Females
116 101.0
32 842.5
25 650.8
58 493.3
174 594.3
Persons
163 697.4
47 391.0
40 333.4
87 724.4
251 421.8
Students
Males
1 180 258.7
357 539.0
245 909.5
603 448.5
1 783 707.2
Females
1 111 539.3
356 084.5
246 236.3
602 320.8
1 713 860.1
Persons
2 291 798.0
713 623.5
492 145.8
1 205 769.3
3 497 567.3

Source: ABS data available on request, 2010 National Schools Statistics Collection.


Student to teacher ratios

Student to teaching staff ratios are calculated as the FTE value of school students divided by the FTE value of teaching staff. Over the 10-year period, 2000 to 2010, the national student/teacher ratio for both school levels fell from 15.0 to 13.9. This decline was more marked in primary schools where the student/teacher ratio fell from 17.4 to 15.8. In 2000, student/teacher ratios were similar for government and non-government schools nationally at 15.0 and 14.8 respectively. By 2010, these ratios had decreased to 14.0 for government schools and 13.7 for non-government schools.

Graph 12.5 compares student/teacher ratios by affiliation and school level for 2000 and 2010.

Graph 12.5 FULL-TIME EQUIVALENT STUDENT TO TEACHING STAFF RATIOS, By affiliation, and school level - August 2010



School students

In 2010, there were 3.5 million students in Australian schools, two-thirds of whom were in government schools and one-third in non-government schools (table 12.7). Since 2000, the number of school students has increased by 7%. This growth reflects a 1% increase in government student numbers, an 11% increase in Catholic student numbers and a 37% increase in Independent student numbers over that time (graph 12.6).


Graph 12.6 NUMBER OF STUDENTS(a), By category of school - August 2010


In 2010, two-thirds of all school students attended government schools, which accounted for 69% of all primary students and 61% of secondary students. Catholic and independent schools accounted for 19% and 12% of primary students respectively, and 21% and 18% of secondary students.


12.7 PROPORTION OF STUDENTS, By year/school level and school affiliation—August 2010
NON-GOVERNMENT SCHOOLS
Government
schools
Catholic
Independent
Total
Year/school Level
%
%
%
%

Primary
Pre-Year 1
70.0
19.4
10.6
100.0
Year 1
69.4
19.9
10.7
100.0
Year 2
69.4
19.9
10.7
100.0
Year 3
68.5
20.1
11.4
100.0
Year 4
69.0
19.7
11.2
100.0
Year 5
68.4
19.6
12.0
100.0
Year 6
68.3
19.3
12.4
100.0
Year 7 primary(a)
66.6
17.6
15.8
100.0
Ungraded primary
92.9
1.5
5.6
100.0
Total Primary
69.1
19.4
11.5
100.0
Secondary
Year 7 secondary(a)
59.1
24.4
16.5
100.0
Year 8
59.4
22.8
17.8
100.0
Year 9
60.6
22.0
17.4
100.0
Year 10
61.3
21.2
17.5
100.0
Year 11
61.7
20.5
17.8
100.0
Year 12
59.2
21.5
19.2
100.0
Ungraded secondary
96.8
1.3
1.8
100.0
Total Secondary
60.9
21.6
17.5
100.0
All students
66.0
20.3
14.0
100.0

(a) Year 7 is classified as primary school in Qld, SA and WA, and secondary school in other states and territories.
Source: ABS data available on request, 2010 National Schools Statistics Collection.


Students identifying as being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander origin

There were 163,000 students who identified as being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander origin in Australian schools in 2010 - about 5% of the national student population. By jurisdiction, enrolments of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students varied from about 1% in Victoria to 41% in the Northern Territory (graph 12.8).

Between 2000 and 2010, the number of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander students increased by almost 50%. This probably occurred as a result of several factors, including actual increases in student numbers, improved data quality and changing attitudes towards identification.

Graph 12.8 STUDENTS IDENTIFYING AS ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER(a), By state and territory - August 2010



In 2010, 85% of Australian students who identified as being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander origin were enrolled in government schools, 9% were in Catholic schools and about 5% in independent schools. This distribution was fairly constant across all years.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students were under-represented in non-government schools in all states and territories. Overall, about one-third of all students were enrolled in non-government schools compared with one in seven Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

Student engagement

There are a number of measures of student engagement in schooling. These measures mostly focus on providing indicators of the level of participation in school by young people and whether students stay in school and progress through the years at expected rates.

The apparent retention rate (ARR) is a commonly used measure of student engagement and provides an indicator of the success of education systems in keeping students in school. The ARR measures the number of students in a designated year of education expressed as a percentage of their cohort group from the year that those students were likely to have commenced secondary school. Care should be taken in interpreting apparent retention rates as the calculation does not take into account a range of factors such as overseas migration, repeating students, mature-age students, changes in study patterns from full-time to part-time or part-time to full-time and other net changes to the school population.

In 2010, the national apparent retention rate for all full-time students in Year 12 was 78%. There was an observable gap between males and females, with the male retention rate at 73% and female rate at 83%. There has continued to be an observable difference in retention between the sexes since 2000, with the gap remaining reasonably consistent over that time (graph 12.9).

Between 2000 and 2010, the gap in retention rates to Year 12 between non-Indigenous students and those identifying as of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander origin remained high, ranging between 28 and 39 percentage points, with the difference at 2010 being 32 percentage points (graph 12.10).

Graph 12.9 APPARENT RETENTION RATES(a), By sex—Year 7/8 to 12


Graph 12.10 APPARENT RETENTION RATES(a)(b), By Year 7/8 to 12

 

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Statistics contained in the Year Book are the most recent available at the time of preparation. In many cases, the ABS website and the websites of other organisations provide access to more recent data. Each Year Book table or graph and the bibliography at the end of each chapter provides hyperlinks to the most up to date data release where available.



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