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COMMENTARY ON STUDENT NUMBERS
Between 2011 and 2012, the number of students attending school in Australia rose from 3,541,809 to 3,589,986, an increase of 48,177 (1.4%). This is considerably more than the 2010 to 2011 increase of 0.9%.
The major increase occurred at the primary level of education, where student numbers rose by 41,038 (2.0%). In contrast, the number of secondary students rose by just 7,139 (0.5%).
Across the states, the largest increase in student numbers occurred in Queensland, with a rise of 15,887 (2.1%). Proportionally, the largest increase was in Western Australia, where student numbers rose by 2.8% (10,317). Tasmania, the only state where student numbers fell, recorded a small decrease of 817 (1.0%).
Government schools remained the main provider of school education in Australia, with a total of 2,342,379 students, compared with 736,595 students attending Catholic schools, and 511,012 students attending Independent schools. Student numbers rose for all three affiliations between 2011 and 2012. The Independent sector had the largest proportional increase in student numbers, 1.8%, which followed a similar rise, 1.9%, in the previous period (2010 to 2011). Between 2011 and 2012, the number of students attending Catholic and government schools rose by 1.7% and 1.2% respectively.
The proportion of male and female students remained fairly constant throughout primary and in the initial years of secondary schooling, with the number of male students exceeding female students by about two percentage points, up until Year 11. In Year 11 there were slightly more females than males, and in Year 12 females exceeded males by 3.2 percentage points.
For some years, Indigenous student numbers have been increasing at greater rate than for all students. In the period 2011 to 2012, Indigenous student numbers rose by 4.3%, with the increase being almost identical for primary and secondary levels at 4.4% and 4.2% respectively. Proportionally, the increase in Indigenous student numbers in non-government schools, 7.2%, was almost double that for government schools, 3.8%. However, in absolute terms Indigenous student numbers in government schools, 149,307, far exceeded the number in non-government schools, 26,750.
Apparent Retention Rates
Apparent retention rates for the range Year 7/8 to Year 12 peaked in 2004 at 75.7% for all affiliations, before falling back slightly over a number of years, then rising again in 2009, and each year thereafter. In 2012 the apparent retention rate for all students was 79.9%, with the female rate of 84.3% being 8.5 percentage points higher than the male rate of 75.8%.
In 2012, the rate varied considerably across affiliations: 75.8% in government schools, 82.1% in Catholic schools, and 91.8% in Independent schools, the latter down from a high of 94.9% in 2009.
Although still well below the figures for all students, apparent retention rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander full-time students continued their steady rise. Over the past 3 years, the apparent retention rate from Year 7/8 to Year 12 for these students has seen an average annual increase of almost 2 percentage points, and in 2012 the rate (51.1%) exceeded 50% for the first time.
Between 2011 and 2012, the apparent retention rate for Indigenous males rose by 3.1 percentage points to 49.2%, and for Indigenous females rose by 1.6 percentage points to 52.9%. The apparent retention rates from Year 7/8 to Year 10 for these students were significantly higher at 96.9% for males and 100.0% for females.
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