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The structure of primary and secondary schooling in Australia differs between states and territories. For the impact on comparability of statistics, please see Appendix: Differences in schooling structures.
The methodologies employed in compiling government sector data vary between the different state and territory departments of education. Data may be accessed from central administrative databases, sourced from education sectorial bodies or collected directly from education establishments. Data are provided to the ABS for the compilation of statistics.
The Australian Government Department of Education and Training collects data for establishments in the non-government sector for all states and territories for administrative purposes. The non-government sector statistics in this publication are a summary of results from that collection.
INTERPRETATION OF RESULTS
The comparability of these statistics may vary between state and territories, and that of schooling sectors, where different policies and administrative arrangements may affect:
There is no national standard covering the allocation of all students and classes to a particular grade of school education. A number of schools (other than special schools) do not maintain a formal grade structure. Where possible, students at these schools have been allocated to equivalent grades by the relevant education authorities, but otherwise appear against the ungraded category in either the primary or secondary level of school education.
Relatively small changes in some small populations between years can create large movements in rates and ratios. These populations might include smaller jurisdictions, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, and subcategories of the non-government sector.
The Estimated Resident Population (ERP) series is used in the calculation of some apparent rates in this product. ERP is used as a denominator to calculate students as a proportion of the Australian population, by state and territory, age and sex.
The ERP is a quarterly estimate of the population of Australia, based on data from the five yearly ABS Census of Population and Housing, and is updated using information on births, deaths, and overseas and internal migration provided by state, territory and Australian government departments. For more information, see: ABS Australian Demographic Statistics (cat. 3101.0).
This product includes apparent rates statistics measuring the proportion of students proceeding through the Australian schooling system. The calculation of actual rates is not currently possible due to the varied levels of detail in data provided to the ABS.
Rates are calculated using the total reported cohort populations in a selected jurisdiction at a selected year either as a percentage of the total population (ERP) or as a percentage of the population for the cohort in an earlier year. Rates calculated by this methodology are known as 'apparent' rates. Accordingly, the term 'apparent' is used to refer to all rates in this product that are not the 'actual' rate that would result from direct measurement of the movement of each individual student.
For example in NSW in 2011, the NSSC reported 45,262 students aged 15, while ERP reported 46,358 persons aged 15. In 2012, in NSW, the NSSC reported 41,195 students aged 16, while ERP reported 46,741 persons aged 16. This equates to an Apparent Continuation Rate (ACR) of 100*(41,195/46,741)/(45,262/46,358) or 90.3%.
There are a number of reasons why apparent rates may generate results that differ from actual rates. These reasons include, but are not limited to:
Such scenarios may also lead to apparent rates taking values of greater than 100%. From 2015 onwards, following a review of outputs from this product, the ABS released rates tables in two formats, one with rates exceeding 100% capped to a maximum value of 100.0 (capped), and one where rates exceeding 100% continue to be reported as the raw calculated value (uncapped). Rates that are capped at 100% are recommended for use as the authoritative measure/s of student progression, while uncapped rates tables may be more suitable for specific purposes such as undertaking time series analysis of the data or examining movements in underlying student populations.
The formulae and methodology used for the calculation of School Participation Rates, Apparent Continuation Rates and Apparent Progression Rates are available in the Research Paper: Deriving Measures of Engagement in Secondary Education from the National Schools Statistics Collection (cat. no. 1351.0.55.016) published in December 2006.
APPARENT RETENTION RATE (ARR)
This statistic provides an indicative measure of the proportion of students who have stayed at school, for a designated year and grade of education. It is expressed as a percentage of the respective cohort group that those students would be expected to have come from, assuming an expected rate of progression of one grade per year. For example, an ARR for grades 10 to 12 in 2018 would measure the proportion of grade 10 students in 2016 that had remained in the schooling system until grade 12 in 2018.
The grade of commencement of secondary school varies across states and territories and over time. Rates that use the grade of commencement of secondary school as the base grade, may use a different base grade for each state and territory, depending on the schooling structure in each state and territory. These data are comparable as the cohorts are retrospective to the grade and year from which the rate is calculated. These variations are incorporated into the calculation of rates at the Australia level.
In 2015, the structure of schooling in Queensland and Western Australia changed, with Year 7 becoming the first year of secondary schooling, whereas previously it was Year 8. For those ARRs using the first grade of secondary education as the base year, this will impact both state specific ARRs in Queensland and Western Australia, and national ARRs calculated from 2016 onwards.
South Australia is now the only state or territory where grade 8 remains as the first grade of secondary schooling. Grade 8 will remain as the base cohort for calculating rates for students commencing secondary school in South Australia.
SCHOOL PARTICIPATION RATE (SPR)
This is a measure of the number of school students of a particular age expressed as a proportion of the Estimated Resident Population (ERP) of the same age. It indicates the proportion of the population by age enrolled at school.
Rates in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) may exceed 100% by large amounts. This is mainly due to the enrolment of students in ACT schools who are not usual residents of the ACT, but who live in surrounding New South Wales regions. This is referred to as cross-border enrolment.
Non-participation in school education is not included in this product as it cannot be accurately calculated from the supplied administrative data.
APPARENT CONTINUATION RATE (ACR)
This is a measure of the proportion of a single year age group of students (full-time and part-time) who have continued from one calendar year to the next. It can be expressed as the school participation rate of a population age cohort in one year as a percentage of the School Participation Rate of the same cohort in the previous year. For example, an ACR for students aged 15 turning 16 would measure the proportion of those 15 year old school students that were still at school 12 months later.
Apparent Continuation Rates can be calculated for any population age cohort with a specific characteristic such as all students of a given sex or in a given jurisdiction as long as a count of the total population with that age and characteristic is available.
Apparent Continuation Rates include both full-time and part-time students, and are adjusted to factor in changes in the population.
APPARENT PROGRESSION RATE (APR)
In 2018 the ABS ceased producing apparent progression rates.
FULL-TIME EQUIVALENT (FTE) STUDENT/TEACHING STAFF RATIOS
FTE student/teaching staff ratios are calculated by dividing the FTE student figure by the FTE teaching staff figure. Student/teaching staff ratios are an indicator of the level of staffing resources used and should not be used as a measure of class size. They do not take account of teacher aides and other non-teaching staff who may also assist in the delivery of school education.
Some states and territories are not able to calculate FTE values on a time-spent basis for all staff functions, but instead use wages paid as a fraction of the full-time pay rate, or a resource allocation based formula. Some also use a pro-rata formula based on student or staff numbers to estimate aggregate FTE for some categories of staff. This includes staff at combined schools who are allocated to either primary or secondary.
In 2018, there were 91 students whose biological sex was reported as neither male nor female. Reporting on this basis was only completed by a small number of providers, so this number does not reflect the total number of Australian school students who are not male or female. Additionally, there were a small number of staff from the non-government schooling sector whose biological sex was reported as neither male nor female. In order to protect the confidentiality of these individuals the ABS have randomly assigned them to have either a male or female status. This approach aligns to the United Nations Statistical Division 2010, Handbook on Population and Housing Census Editing, Revision 1, (Sections 346-347). The ABS will seek to improve on this method once the input data quality can adequately support an alternative treatment..
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