2902.0 - Census Update (Newsletter), Apr 1999  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 30/04/1999   
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Analysing Educational Outcomes Using Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA)

          By Judith Lydeamore and Frank Biedermann, Research Section, Senior Secondary Assessment Board of South Australia (SSABSA).

"The Senior Secondary Assessment Board of South Australia (SSABSA) has a legislative responsibility for administering the South Australian Certificate of Education (SACE). In carrying out this mandate, it prepares curriculum, conducts assessments, and certifies achievement for students in the final two years of secondary education.

Using student descriptors such as students' age, sex and language spoken at home, SSABSA undertakes annual monitoring of student participation and performance in each of the subjects offered by the Board. In each component of the SACE the Board investigates whether differential access and outcomes are being experienced by any groups of students. The SSABSA data indicate a range of factors affecting students' participation and performance in the SACE, particularly their socio-economic status.

          These findings prompted SSABSA to supplement its own data with the ABS' Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA), with particular reference to the Index of Relative Socio-Economic Disadvantage.

For SSABSA's purposes, the value of this Index lies in its coverage of a range of social and economic factors derived from attributes such as low income, low educational attainment, high unemployment, and jobs in relatively unskilled occupations.

This information has enabled SSABSA to determine quartile ranking's of relative disadvantage, based on the postcode of each student's home address.

The use of these quartiles enables SSABSA to analyse the relationship between socio-economic levels and student participation and performance.

Statistics using the SEIFA Index show that students from the most socio-economically disadvantaged background typically have the poorest subject results and complete the requirements of the SACE at a lower rate than students from higher ranked quartiles.

Their pattern of enrolments in non-compulsory subjects also reflects disadvantage in that such students tend to choose subjects that do not lead to professional careers.

The usefulness of SEIFA has encouraged SSABSA to purchase other ABS products, such as CDATA96, with a view to making data more accessible to the widest possible audience through visually enhancing tables of information with the graphics and mapping facilities they provide. SSABSA intends producing thematic maps based on SEIFA and census data to enhance its analyses, presentation and reporting of student participation and performance in the SACE to the SSABSA Board's subcommittees and the wider community.

"The capacity of products like CDATA96 to present large quantities of information in an attractive way that is easy to visualise and interpret will ensure SSABSA continues to use ABS products in the presentation of its statistical data."

Better schooling with Socio-Econmic Indexes For Areas

          This case study was provided to Census Update by Alan Williams, Company Secretary, Victorian Independent Schools Block Grant Authority. The Authority administers the Commonwealth Capital Grants Program for non-government schools in Victoria. Schools apply to them for capital funding .

Improving educational outcomes is a priority for the Authority - and this is particularly true of schools catering for students with disadvantaged backgrounds. Schools that meet initial eligibility guidelines are assessed - using the ABS' Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA) - and then placed in priority order according to their communities' social and economic characteristics.

The Authority uses the SEIFA "Index of Disadvantage" as one of its main indicators, as it focuses on low income earners, relatively lower educational attainment, high unemployment, rented dwellings and people lacking fluency in English.

The SEIFA index score provides an impartial and unbiased means of combining and weighting the needs of each schools' feeder community. It is used to rank the grant applications in order of need, and this information assists the Board of Directors in prioritising funding.

In addition, the Authority purchased CDATA96 as a service to participating member schools, as it allowed them to analyse the demographics of existing or proposed catchment areas. Member schools use the information by extracting data by age groupings, occupations, education, ethnicity, income characteristics and religion. This information has also been used by some school councils in decision making, policy development, planning and marketing.

The use of census information - firstly with CDATA91 and now with SEIFA and CDATA96 - has effectively assisted the Victorian Independent Schools Block Grant Authority to administer the grants program, especially in relation to socio-economic prioritisation.

"The ABS has helped develop detailed step-by-step manuals to meet our particular needs and as a result, the processes are easy enough that anybody could pick up the manual and produce the required information."

The Victorian Independent Schools Block Grant Authority has received many enquiries on the use of the packages from organisations who also use socio-economic factors in their submissions assessment process.

"Talking to the ABS about our particular needs has resulted in benefits for both organisations."