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1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2006  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 20/01/2006   
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Contents >> Chapter 10 - Education and training >> Primary and secondary education

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 around 5 years of age. The final two years of secondary schooling generally fall outside the compulsory stage of education. Despite this, just under 88% of the cohort of students who entered secondary school in 1999 or 2000 (depending on the state or territory of schooling) continued on to Year 11 in 2003, and 76% continued to Year 12 in 2004.

Although each state and territory has developed its own approach to schooling, moves are underway across Australia to standardise core education curriculum modules (such as mathematics, science and english) and the age of commencement of students. The expectation is that these changes will then ensure that all Australian children have access to 13 years of schooling, on a comparable basis, transferable anywhere in Australia.

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.

Schooling in most states and territories begins with a preparatory or kindergarten year, followed by six or seven primary grades. Secondary schooling then involves a further six or five years to complete a full course of school study. Primary and secondary schools are more often separate institutions, but in some areas there are central, combined or area schools which provide both levels of study. In Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory, the final two years of government secondary schooling are available 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 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 later 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 years, a wider range of subject 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 VET certificates and undertake apprenticeships in the VET sector as part of their senior school study, and undertake 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) 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 (at a satisfactory level) of a senior secondary school certificate (Year 12 qualification).

OTHER SCHOOLING ARRANGEMENTS

Children may be exempt 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, School 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 9,615 schools operating in Australia at the time of the August 2004 schools census, of which 72.2% were government schools. There were 156,156 teaching staff (full-time, plus full-time equivalent (FTE) of part-time), employed in government schools (67.0% of all teachers) and a further 76,910 employed in non-government schools (table 10.2).

10.2 SCHOOLS, STUDENTS AND TEACHING STAFF - August 2004

Non-government schools

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

Schools
72.2
17.6
10.2
27.8
9.6
Students (FTE)(a)
Males
68.1
19.6
12.3
31.9
1,702.6
Females
67.1
20.3
12.7
32.9
1,641.3
Persons
67.6
19.9
12.5
32.4
3,343.9
Teaching staff (FTE)(b)
Males
65.2
17.9
16.9
34.8
75.3
Females
67.9
18.8
13.3
32.1
157.7
Persons
67.0
18.5
14.5
33.0
233.1

(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, 2004.


In August 2004, 3.3 million students (FTE) were attending primary and secondary schools, comprising 2.3 million (68%) in government schools and 1.1 million (32%) in non-government schools. Between 1999 and 2004 the number of students (FTE) attending government schools increased by 1,200 (0.1%), while the number of students attending non-government schools increased by 103,700 (11%) (table 10.3).

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

1999
2000
2001
2002
2003
2004
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000

Government schools
Males
1,153.1
1,154.8
1,156.9
1,163.4
1,161.9
1,159.7
Females
1,105.9
1,105.6
1,103.0
1,105.4
1,103.1
1,100.6
Persons
2,259.0
2,260.3
2,259.9
2,268.8
2,265.0
2,260.2
Non-government schools
Males
492.2
501.7
512.2
524.7
534.1
543.0
Females
487.8
498.4
508.9
521.4
531.3
540.7
Persons
979.9
1,000.1
1,021.1
1,046.2
1,065.4
1,083.6
All schools
Males
1,645.3
1,656.5
1,669.0
1,688.1
1,696.0
1,702.6
Females
1,593.7
1,604.0
1,611.9
1,626.8
1,634.3
1,641.3
Persons
3,238.9
3,260.5
3,280.9
3,314.9
3,330.3
3,343.9

(a) Full-time equivalent students.

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


Table 10.4 shows the percentage of school students (FTE) in 2004 by level of education. Among primary school students, 71.3% attended government schools and 28.7% attended non-government schools. For the secondary school students, 62.5% attended government schools and 37.5% attended non-government schools. Approximately a fifth of all school students attended Catholic schools (19.0% of primary school students and 21.2% of secondary school students).

10.4 STUDENTS(a), By level/year of education - August 2004

Non-government schools
All schools


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

Primary
Pre-year 1(b)
70.8
19.9
9.3
29.2
51.6
48.4
216.5
Year 1
71.4
19.4
9.1
28.6
51.3
48.7
263.4
Year 2
71.0
19.7
9.3
29.0
51.2
48.8
252.8
Year 3
71.4
19.4
9.2
28.6
51.1
48.9
265.1
Year 4
71.5
19.1
9.4
28.5
51.2
48.8
269.9
Year 5
71.0
19.0
9.9
29.0
51.2
48.8
270.5
Year 6
70.8
18.9
10.4
29.2
51.1
48.9
272.1
Year 7 (Qld, SA, WA, NT)
71.9
15.7
12.4
28.1
51.0
49.0
106.3
Ungraded
86.9
1.6
11.5
13.1
67.3
32.7
16.7
Total
71.3
19.0
9.7
28.7
51.4
48.6
1,933.2
Secondary
Year 7 (NSW, Vic., Tas., ACT)
61.5
23.3
15.1
38.5
51.4
48.6
163.9
Year 8
62.6
21.5
15.9
37.4
51.0
49.0
271.6
Year 9
62.9
21.3
15.8
37.1
51.0
49.0
266.4
Year 10
62.4
21.3
16.4
37.6
50.7
49.3
258.6
Year 11
62.0
20.7
17.2
38.0
48.8
51.2
229.9
Year 12
60.3
21.7
18.0
39.7
47.4
52.6
198.8
Ungraded
89.1
3.1
7.9
10.9
61.3
38.7
21.4
Total
62.5
21.2
16.3
37.5
50.3
49.7
1,410.6
All students
67.6
19.9
12.5
32.4
50.9
49.1
3,343.9

(a) Full-time equivalent students.
(b) Pre-year 1 includes a small number of Qld students engaged in a trial of Pre-year 1 education.

Source: ABS data available on request, National Schools Statistics Collection, 2004.


Graph 10.5 shows student/teacher ratios by category of school by level, in 1994 and 2004. These ratios represent the number of school students (FTE) divided by teaching staff (FTE). The most significant reduction in these ratios between 1994 and 2004 was an almost 2 percentage point decrease for primary schools - down from 18.5 students per teacher in 1994 to 16.4 in 2004. Among secondary schools, both the Catholic and Independent schools showed decreases (from 13.7 to 13.0, and 11.8 to 10.8 respectively). Government secondary schools reported a small decrease from 12.5 to 12.4 students per teacher over the same period. Non-government schools had a higher student/teacher ratio than government schools in 1994 (15.5 and 15.4 respectively). In 2004 the student/teacher ratio for non-government schools was lower than for government schools (14.1 and 14.4 respectively). Both school systems showed decreases in their student/teacher ratios.

Graph 10.5: 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 percentage of students of a given cohort who continued to a particular level or year of education. For instance, in 2004 the apparent retention rate of full-time secondary school students from Year 7/8 to Year 12 was 75.7%. As in previous years, the 2004 apparent retention rate for female students (81.2%) was higher than the corresponding rate for male students (70.4%).

Table 10.6 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 all students.

10.6 APPARENT RETENTION RATES, From Year 10 to Year 12

1999
2000
2001
2002
2003
2004
%
%
%
%
%
%

Full-time students
Males
68.9
69.0
70.8
72.4
72.3
72.3
Females
79.9
80.0
80.1
81.7
81.6
82.1
Persons
74.4
74.4
75.4
77.0
76.9
77.1
Total students(a)
Males
71.9
72.1
73.9
75.7
75.1
75.1
Females
84.5
84.7
84.9
86.9
86.4
86.9
Persons
78.1
78.3
79.4
81.3
80.7
80.9

(a) Includes part-time students.

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


The apparent retention rate in 2004 of all students from Year 10 to Year 12 was 2.8 percentage points higher than the 1999 rate.


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

INDIGENOUS SCHOOL STUDENTS

In August 2004 there were 86,605 full-time equivalent (FTE) Indigenous students attending primary schools and a further 44,454 Indigenous students (FTE) attending secondary schools (table 10.8).

Most Indigenous students (87%) attended government schools in 2004. Of the remainder attending non-government schools, most were attending Catholic schools (66%).

Graph 10.7 shows a decline in the number of Indigenous school students at secondary school level, after Year 7. This decline is most marked in government schools and is due to a number of factors, such as declining retention, movement of students to non-government schools and to the difficulty in allocating a specific grade for some students. The number of Indigenous students attending non-government schools remained relatively stable across the early grades, followed by a slight increase in Year 8 and Year 9 students, then a moderate drop-off until Year 12.

Graph 10.7: INDIGENOUS SCHOOL STUDENTS(a) - August 2004


Table 10.8 shows an increase in Indigenous students (FTE) attending school between 1999 and 2004, from 106,961 to 131,060 students. New South Wales and Queensland experienced the largest increases in Indigenous school student (FTE) numbers, by 8,248 and 7,018 respectively. The number of Indigenous students (FTE) attending primary and secondary schools increased in every state and territory over the period.


Between 1999 and 2004 overall growth of Indigenous school students (FTE) was 23%. With the exception of the Northern Territory, all states had growth of over 15%. The Northern Territory grew by 6.5%. The number of secondary school Indigenous students (FTE) grew by 32% between 1999 and 2004, compared with 18% for primary students.

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

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

PRIMARY

Students
1999
20,233
3,630
20,266
4,558
11,903
2,587
9,537
513
73,225
2004
24,894
4,668
24,229
5,323
14,203
2,932
9,677
681
86,605

SECONDARY

Students
1999
10,570
1,883
9,179
1,657
4,728
1,805
3,602
312
33,736
2004
14,157
2,602
12,234
2,231
6,279
2,213
4,319
419
44,454

TOTAL

Students
1999
30,803
5,513
29,445
6,214
16,631
4,392
13,138
825
106,961
2004
39,051
7,271
36,463
7,553
20,482
5,145
13,996
1,100
131,060

(a) Full-time equivalent students.

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


The retention of Indigenous students in senior secondary years has increased over the five-year period to 2004. The growth in Indigenous retention has generally been more notable than is the case for non-Indigenous students (table 10.9).

The apparent retention rate for Indigenous students to Year 12 rose 4.8 percentage points from 1999 to 2004 compared with a rise of 3.6 percentage points for non-Indigenous students over the same period. Nonetheless, retention of Indigenous students in secondary schools remains substantially below that for non-Indigenous students. The apparent retention rate to Year 12 was 39.5% in 2004 for Indigenous compared with 76.8% for non-Indigenous students.

10.9 APPARENT RETENTION RATES(a), Indigenous and non-Indigenous students

1999
2000
2001
2002
2003
2004
Apparent retention of students from Year 7/8(a)
%
%
%
%
%
%

To Year 9
Indigenous
93.9
95.5
96.5
97.8
96.8
97.2
Non-Indigenous
99.9
99.8
99.9
99.8
99.9
99.9
To Year 10
Indigenous
82.0
83.0
85.7
86.4
87.2
85.8
Non-Indigenous
97.9
98.0
98.4
98.5
98.9
98.5
To Year 11
Indigenous
56.0
53.6
56.1
58.9
61.4
61.0
Non-Indigenous
86.4
86.2
87.6
88.7
89.5
88.9
To Year 12
Indigenous
34.7
36.4
35.7
38.0
39.1
39.5
Non-Indigenous
73.2
73.3
74.5
76.3
76.5
76.8

(a) Refers to retention from the first year of secondary school in each state. See 'Schools, Australia, 2004' (4221.0) for further detail.

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


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