This product contains statistics on students and schools, and the staff involved in the provision or administration of school education. It includes the government and non-government school populations for all Australian states and territories.
Data used in the compilation of these statistics are sourced from the National Schools Statistics Collection (NSSC) (non-finance), which is a joint undertaking between state and territory government departments of education, the Australian Government Department of Education and Training, and the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
These explanatory notes and the accompanying glossary and appendix provide information on the data sources, counting rules, terminology and classifications associated with these statistics. All data are collected and reported to standard classifications as stated in the NSSC Data Collection Manual which is available from the ABS on request.
Scope and coverge
The scope of the statistics in this publication relates to establishments which have, as their major activity, the administration and/or provision of full-time day primary, secondary or special education, or primary or secondary distance education. The statistics in this publication do not include school-level education conducted by other institutions, in particular Technical and Further Education (TAFE) establishments, unless such education is part of the student’s school enrolment.
Students undertaking 'home schooling' are only included if they are also formally enrolled and active in a course of study at an in-scope establishment. No part of a student’s home schooling is included in the NSSC.
Statistics for the government series relate to; all establishments administered by the departments of education under the director-general of education (or equivalent) in each state/territory, students attending those establishments, and all staff engaged in the administration or provision of school education at those establishments.
Statistics for the non-government series relate to all in-scope establishments not administered by the state/territory departments of education.
Data for the non-government establishments are reported by schools through the Schools Entry Point, which is managed by the Australian Government Department of Education and Training to support schools in meeting their mandatory reporting requirements under the Australian Education Act 2013. These data are then collated by the Department and a subset is provided to the ABS for the NSSC.
Education services in Jervis Bay Territory are provided by the Australian Capital Territory Education Directorate. For the purposes of the NSSC, figures for Jervis Bay Territory are included with those for the Australian Capital Territory.
Education services in the Territory of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands and the Territory of Christmas Island are provided by the Department of Education Western Australia. For the purposes of the NSSC, figures for these territories are included with those for Western Australia.
Education services in Norfolk Island are provided by the New South Wales Department of Education. For the purposes of the NSSC, figures for Norfolk Island are included with those for New South Wales.
Emergency and relief teaching staff who are employed on a casual basis are not included in this collection to avoid double counting. Emergency and relief teachers replace permanent teaching staff when they are absent for short periods of time.
Part-time student data by age are available only from 2006 onwards.
The census date for the National Schools Statistics Collection is the first Friday in August each year. For 2018, the census enrolment reference date was 3 August.
Age reference date
The age reference date for students is 1 July.
Occasionally, jurisdictions make changes in the administration of their education system that can impact on the coherence of the statistics produced in this publication over time. The following paragraphs (in reverse chronological order) note the most significant changes of this nature made to the collection from 2012 onwards. For changes prior to 2012 please refer to previous releases of Schools, Australia.
In 2018, New South Wales (NSW) introduced a new system to report staffing levels. The counts of government in-school staff reported through this new system are considered to be more accurate than in previous years. This change has resulted in a large increase in NSW government in-school staff numbers for 2018. Care should be taken when comparing NSW 2018 government in-school staff numbers with the presented time series statistics.
In 2018, a proportion of South Australian government students undertook a study load greater than 1 full-time equivalent (FTE) load. The study load component which exceeds 1.0 FTE for a single student has been excluded from these data.
In 2018, the Australian Capital Territory provided revised 2017 staff data, which have been included in this release. Care should be taken when comparing time series data in this release to previous releases of Schools, Australia.
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.
Commencing in 2015, Queensland government schools were expected to provide a language program in Years 5 to 8. Students enrolled in a school of distance education for their language program were recorded as a part-time enrolment in addition to their full-time enrolment at their base government school, resulting in dual enrolments for 2015 and 2016. The addition of these dual enrolments were not reconciled in student counts, resulting in an increase to the number of part-time students reported in Years 5 to 8 between 2014 and 2015, most noticeably in Year 5. This treatment of dual enrolments in Queensland government school student counts will also be present in other totals to which these counts contribute, although the number of students is thought to be small.
Prior to 2014 in South Australia, most children started school at age five, and it was common for children to start school at the beginning of the school term following their fifth birthday. From 2014 onwards, children will usually commence school at the start of the year in which they turn five.
Tasmania has alternated between a single and multiple entity college structure. This has impacted on the number of students included in the NSSC as these structural changes have seen some Year 11 and 12 students change classification between school and the vocational education and training sector and hence move in and out of scope of the NSSC.
From 2012 on, the Victorian Department of Education and Training assigns a proportion of the full-time equivalent (FTE) of staff working at combined schools, or at more than one school, at the school level. This was previously done at the state level. This results in a more accurate estimate of staff FTE.
In 2012, the Queensland Department of Education and Training noted continuing improvements in the response to identification of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status in government schools, along with a considerable reduction in the number of “not stated” responses. This may affect comparisons of students by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status with previous years.
The number of schools in a particular jurisdiction may vary from year to year due to administrative changes which alter the composition of schools. For example:
- secondary schools may split to create middle schools and senior secondary schools
- schools may fall in or out of scope based on changes in the major activity of the establishment, or
- two or more schools may be amalgamated to form one school. Such changes may also result in a changed profile of school characteristics (e.g. the merger of the primary and secondary school to form a combined school means that the amalgamated school's enrolment size would be reported as a sum of the enrolments).
For more information on specific changes in individual jurisdictions, please refer to the relevant state or territory department website.
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:
- the organisation of grades
- timing and rates of student intake and advancement
- flows from secondary to vocational education, or
- the recruitment and employment of teachers.
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:
- students progressing at a faster or slower rate than expected (one grade each calendar year)
- students changing between full-time or part-time study
- migration (interstate/international)
- inter-sector (affiliation) transfer
- enrolment policies (which contribute to different age/grade structures between states and territories)
- students who attend school in a state/territory different to that in which they live
- a different reference period used in calculating ERP (30 June) verses that used as the reference in the school system (1 August), and
- the children of diplomats, short term international exchange students and possible other anomalies, where students are counted in one statistic (school enrolment) but not in another (ERP).
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.