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Latest release

Schools, Australia methodology

Reference period
2019
Released
6/02/2020
Next release Unknown

Explanatory notes

Introduction

Schools, Australia 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 (non-finance), which is a joint undertaking between state and territory government departments of education, the Australian Government Department of Education, Skills, and Employment, and the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

These explanatory notes and the accompanying glossary 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 National Schools Statistics Collection Data Collection Manual which is available from the ABS on request.

Data from the collection support national education reporting through the Report on Government Services, the National Report on Schooling in Australia, and the National Indigenous Reform Agreement.

Scope and coverage

The scope of the statistics in this publication includes 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 do not include school-level education conducted by other institutions, in particular technical and further education establishments (commonly known as TAFEs), unless it 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 National Schools Statistics Collection.

Statistics for the government series include:

  • 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 include:

  • all in-scope establishments not administered by the state/territory departments of education
  • students attending those establishments, and
  • all staff engaged in the administration or provision of school education at those establishments.
     

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, Skills, and Employment 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 National Schools Statistics Collection.

Education services in Jervis Bay Territory are provided by the Australian Capital Territory Education Directorate. 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. 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. 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.

Census date

The census date for the National Schools Statistics Collection is the first Friday in August each year. For 2019, the census enrolment reference date was 2 August.

Age reference date

The age reference date for students is 1 July.

Data comparability

Occasionally, different 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 information notes the most significant changes of this nature made to the collection from 2012 onwards. For changes prior to 2012 please refer to previous releases.

In 2019, the structure of schooling for some non-government schools in South Australia changed, with year 7 becoming the first year of secondary schooling whereas previously it was year 8.

In 2019 and 2018, a proportion of South Australian Government school 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.

The New South Wales Department of Education transitioned to a new payroll system in a phased roll-out during the 2018 calendar year. This system provides stricter controls and validation over the way casual and temporary teachers are engaged. This improved the information available to distinguish and therefore better identify those teachers that should be included as ‘generally active’ in schools. Care should be taken when comparing New South Wales Government in-school staff time series data.

In 2018, the Australian Capital Territory provided revised 2017 staff data. Relevant revisions have been included in this release but have not been applied to the time series information presented in 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. This increase is expected 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 National Schools Statistics Collection 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 National Schools Statistics Collection.

From 2012 on, the Victorian Department of Education and Training has assigned a proportion of the full-time equivalent 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 full-time equivalent staff.

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.

Data sources

The compilation of 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 these statistics.

The Australian Government Department of Education, Skills, and Employment 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 year levels
  • 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 year level of school education. A number of schools (other than special schools) do not maintain a formal year level structure. Where possible, students at these schools have been allocated to equivalent values 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 series is used in the calculation of some apparent rates in this product. This series is used as a denominator to calculate students as a proportion of the Australian population, by state and territory, age and sex.

The estimated resident population 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: Australian Demographic Statistics (cat. no. 3101.0).

Apparent rates

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 estimated resident population or as a percentage of the population for the cohort in an earlier year. Rates calculated in this way 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 New South Wales in 2011, the National Schools Statistics Collection reported 45,262 students aged 15 years, while the estimated resident population was 46,358 persons aged 15 years. In 2012, in New South Wales, the National Schools Statistics Collection reported 41,195 students aged 16 years, while estimated resident population was 46,741 persons aged 16 years. This equates to an apparent continuation rate 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 year level 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/year level 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 the estimated resident population (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 school enrolments but not in the estimated resident population.
     

Such scenarios may also lead to apparent rates that are greater than 100%. From 2015 onwards, the ABS released rates tables in two formats, one with rates exceeding 100% capped to a maximum value of 100%, 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 measures 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

This statistic provides an indicative measure of the proportion of students who have stayed at school, for a designated calendar year and year level 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 year level each calendar year. For example, in 2019, an apparent retention rate for years 10 to 12 would measure the proportion of year 10 students in 2017 that had remained in the schooling system until year 12 in 2019.

The year level of commencement of secondary school varies across states and territories and over time. Rates that use the year level of commencement of secondary school as the base may use a different base for each state and territory to account for differences in schooling structures. Despite this, these rates are comparable as the cohorts are retrospective to the year level of schooling and calendar 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 apparent retention rates using the first year of secondary education as the base year, this will impact both state specific apparent retention rates in Queensland and Western Australia, and national rates calculated from 2016 onwards.

South Australia is the only state or territory where year 8 remains as the first of secondary schooling for most schools. While some non-government schools transitioned in 2019 to a new structure of year 7 being the start of high school, year 8 remained as the base cohort for calculating rates for students commencing secondary school in South Australia.

School participation rate

This is a measure of the number of school students of a particular age expressed as a proportion of the estimated resident population of the same age. It indicates the proportion of the population by age enrolled at school.

Rates in the Australian Capital Territory may exceed 100% by large amounts. This is mainly due to the enrolment of students in Australian Capital Territory schools who are not usual residents of the Australian Capital Territory, 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 data supplied.

Apparent continuation rate

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 an age cohort in one calendar year as a percentage of the school participation rate of the same cohort in the previous year. For example, an apparent continuation rate for students aged 15 turning 16 would measure the proportion of 15 year old school students that were still at school 12 months later.

Apparent continuation rates can be calculated for any age cohort with a specific characteristic such as all students of a given sex or in a given state/territory 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

In 2018 the ABS ceased producing apparent progression rates.

Full-time equivalent student/teaching staff ratios

Full-time equivalent student/teaching staff ratios are calculated by dividing the full-time equivalent student figure by the full-time equivalent 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 full-time equivalent 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 full-time equivalents for some categories of staff. This includes staff at combined schools who are allocated to either primary or secondary.

Sex classification

In 2019, there were 128 students whose biological sex was reported as neither male nor female. Reporting on this basis was only completed by a small number of providers. This number does not reflect the total number of Australian school students who are not male or female. There was also a small number of staff from the non-government school sector whose biological sex was reported as neither male nor female.

In order to protect the confidentiality of these individuals the ABS has randomly assigned them 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 review this approach as input data quality improves.

General acknowledgement

This publication draws extensively on information provided by state and territory government departments with responsibility for school education and the Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment. The information is provided to the ABS under applicable state and territory legislation. The continued co-operation of these agencies enables the ABS to publish a wide range of education statistics.

Rounding

Where estimates are rounded discrepancies may occur between component items and their totals.

Privacy and confidentiality

Information received by the ABS is treated in strict confidence as required by the Census and Statistics Act 1905 and the Privacy Act 1988. Some figures have been perturbed in order to prevent the disclosure of information that may allow the identification of individuals or organisations.

Inquiries

For further information about these and related statistics, contact the National Information and Referral Service on 1300 135 070.

Overview of schools, Australia

Schools, Australia is an annual publication of data on schools and students, and the staff involved in the provision or administration of primary and secondary education. It covers all Australian states and territories. All data are available by year, state and territory, and affiliation (government or non-government) with some data also available in further subcategories of the non-government classification (Catholic and independent).

Schools are classified by:

  • school type (primary, secondary, combined, special), and
  • size of primary and secondary enrolments.
     

Student data are available as counts of students and counts of full-time equivalent (FTE) students, and are classified by:

  • full-time or part-time status
  • Indigenous status
  • sex
  • school level (primary, secondary)
  • year level
  • age of student (as at 1 July of the reference year), and
  • affiliation of school.
     

In-school staff data are available as counts of staff and counts of full-time equivalent (FTE) staff, and are classified by:

  • school level (primary, secondary)
  • sex, and
  • major function (broad position role).
     

Out-of-school staff data are available as counts of staff and counts of full-time equivalent (FTE) staff, and are classified by:

  • sex, and
  • major function (broad position role).
     

Outputs published in Schools, Australia include:

  • number of students
  • number of full-time equivalent students
  • number of schools
  • number of schools and number of full-time equivalent students by the Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS) remoteness indicator
  • number of in-school staff
  • number of full-time equivalent in-school staff
  • number of out-of-school staff
  • number of full-time equivalent out-of-school staff
  • ratio of full-time equivalent students to teaching staff, and
  • measures relating to students, including apparent retention rates.

Appendix - differences in schooling structures

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Differences in schooling structures

The structure of primary and secondary schooling in Australia differs among states and territories.

In 2019, the two basic patterns in formal schooling in Australia were:

  • In all states and territories except South Australia, primary school was pre-year 1 to year 6, and secondary school consisted of year 7 to year 12.
  • In South Australia, primary school generally consists of pre-year 1 to year 7 and secondary school generally consists of year 8 to year 12. The structure of schooling for some non-government schools changed in 2019, with year 7 becoming the first year of secondary school.
     

Naming conventions for the first year of primary school (pre-year 1) differ between states and territories. Pre-year 1 is known as:

  • kindergarten in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory
  • preparatory in Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania
  • reception in South Australia
  • pre-primary in Western Australia
  • transition in the Northern Territory, and
  • foundation year in the Australian Curriculum.
     

Information on preschool education is available annually through Preschool Education, Australia (cat. no. 4240.0).

School commencement ages

The age at which children must attend school is the subject of specific legislation within each state and territory. In 2019, the minimum starting ages for pre-year 1 generally restricted enrolment to children aged between four and a half and five years at the beginning of the year.

  • New South Wales. Children must attend school from the age of six.
  • Victoria. Children must attend school from the age of six; however children turning five before 30 April may start school in that year.
  • Queensland. Children must attend school from the age of six years and six months.
  • South Australia. Children must attend school from the age of six; however children turning five before 1 May may start school in that year.
  • Western Australia. Children must start school from the beginning of the year if they are to reach the age of five years and six months during the year.
  • Tasmania. Children must attend school from the age of five.
  • Northern Territory. Children must attend school from the age of six.
  • Australian Capital Territory. Children must attend school from the age of six.
     

Changes to schooling structures over time is described in the Explanatory notes.

Glossary

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Affiliation (of school)

Affiliation categorises schools and their enrolments and refers to the systems that administer their operation. The affiliation classification has two broad categories, government and non-government.

In this product, the subcategories of non-government affiliation are reported as either Catholic (systemic and non-systemic) or independent (Anglican schools and other schools which have associations with religious or secular bodies, or are entirely independent).

Ancillary education establishment

An ancillary education establishment is defined as an establishment which satisfies all of the following criteria:

  • its major activity is the provision of aspects of full-time day primary, secondary or special school education to students supplementary to that provided by schools, and
  • it has attached to it (possibly on a part-time basis) at least one permanent teacher or other supervisory person, and
  • students from more than one school may undertake education at it.
     

Examples include:

  • hospital and prison schools (those not classified as special schools)
  • schools of the air which do not have officially recognised student enrolments (although students may be supervised with work programs from their 'home school' or a distance education school)
  • an education unit attached to a museum or art gallery, and
  • a work experience, music or computing centre, etc.
     

Apparent rates

Rates in this product are termed ‘apparent’ as they are calculated using aggregate student data and have been developed to provide indicative measurements of student engagement in secondary education. 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.

Apparent continuation rate

This statistic measures the proportion of an age group of students (full-time and part-time) that has continued in school from one year level to the next. See Explanatory notes for further information.

Apparent retention rate

This statistic provides an indicative measure of the proportion of students who have stayed at school, for a designated calendar year and year level 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 year level per calendar year. For example, an apparent retention rate for years 10 to 12 in 2019 would measure the proportion of year 10 students in 2017 that had remained in the schooling system until year 12 in 2019.

Estimated resident population

The estimated resident population is an estimate of the population of Australia, based on data from the five-yearly ABS Census of Population and Housing, and is updated quarterly using information on births, deaths, and overseas and internal migration provided by state, territory and Australian Government departments. See Australian Demographic Statistics, June 2019 (cat. no. 3101.0) for further details. The Explanatory notes contain further information on how this series is used in Schools, Australia, 2018 (cat. no. 4221.0).

Full-time student

This is based on the minimum workload required to ensure that a student could complete a given year level in a single calendar year. The prescribed workload may vary between states and territories and between year levels.

Full-time equivalent teaching (FTE) staff

The full-time equivalent value is a measure used to indicate the level of staffing resources. Staff who are employed full-time and engaged solely on activities which fall within the scope of this collection have a full-time equivalent value of 1.0. All full-time equivalent values are rounded to one decimal place.

Staff not employed on a full-time basis, and/or engaged in a combination of in-scope and out-of-scope activities, have their full-time equivalent value calculated on the basis of the proportion of time spent on in-scope activities compared with staff that would be considered full-time.

Indigenous status

Students are classified as being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander origin based on information provided by the student, or their parent/guardian, on the school enrolment form.

National Schools Statistics Collection

The National Schools Statistics Collection is a collection of data on students, schools, and staff involved in the provision or administration of primary and secondary education, in government and non-government schools, for all Australian states and territories. A statistical summary of the results of the National Schools Statistics Collection is the subject of this ABS publication.

Part-time student

A part-time student is one who undertakes a workload less than that specified as full-time. The full-time equivalent value of a part-time student is calculated by dividing the student's workload by that which is considered to be the minimum workload for a full-time student by that state or territory. The minimum workload for a full-time student is that which would ensure the student could complete a given year level in a single calendar year.

Methods for estimating the full-time equivalent value of part-time students vary between states and territories due to different policy and administrative arrangements.

School

A school is an education establishment which satisfies all of the following criteria:

  • its major activity is the provision of full-time day primary or secondary education or the provision of primary or secondary distance education
  • it is headed by a principal (or equivalent) responsible for its internal operation, and
  • it is possible for students to enrol for a minimum of four continuous weeks, excluding breaks for school vacations.
     

The term 'school' in this product includes schools in institutions and hospitals, mission schools and similar establishments.

The term 'school' in this product excludes preschools, early learning or long day-care centres, senior technical and agricultural colleges, evening schools, continuation classes and institutions such as business or coaching colleges.

Multi-campus arrangements are counted as one school. Changes to school counts in this product can occur when multiple schools amalgamate into a single multi-campus school, or multi-campus schools divide into separate schools.

Special school

A special school satisfies the definition of a school and enrols students with one or more of the following characteristics:

  • mental or physical disability or impairment
  • slow learning ability
  • social or emotional problems
  • in custody, on remand or in hospital.
     

Special schools include special assistance schools, as defined under the Australian Education Act, 2013. These are non-government schools that are:

  1. likely to be recognised by the state minister as a special assistance school, and
  2. primarily established to cater for students with social, emotional or behavioural difficulties.
     

Staff

Staff are persons engaged in the administration and/or provision of day primary, secondary or special school education, or primary or secondary education by distance education at in-scope education establishments.

The reporting of staff is split into two broad categories, In-school staff and out-of-school staff. In-school staff spend the majority of their time actively engaged in duties at one or more schools or ancillary education establishments. Out-of-school staff consists of executive staff and staff not generally active in schools or ancillary education establishments. Each of these is further categorised by major function, as determined by the duties performed.

Staff not employed on a full-time basis have their full-time equivalent value calculated on the basis of the proportion of time spent on in-scope activities compared with staff that would be considered full-time.

Staff absent from a position for a period of less than four continuous weeks, as at the census date, are included. Staff who have been absent from a position for a period of four or more continuous weeks are excluded. Replacement staff are included if they occupied the position for four or more continuous weeks.

Included in the definition of staff are:

  • staff teaching evening secondary students attending secondary colleges
  • staff paid from school grant payments, and
  • staff employed under various government sponsored employment schemes.
     

Excluded from the definitions of staff are:

  • persons not under the control of the director-general (or equivalent), e.g. nurses or therapists working for the state or territory department of health (or equivalent)
  • persons responsible to a state, territory or Commonwealth minister of education but not to the director-general (or equivalent), and
  • persons under the control of the director-general (or equivalent) who satisfy one or more of the following criteria:
     
    • are cleaners, whether salaried or employed on contract
    • are involved in the management and/or maintenance of boarding or hostel facilities for students
    • are paid from privately raised funds
    • have been occupying, or expect to be occupying, a position for a period of less than four continuous weeks at the census date, and/or
    • are persons replacing those who are temporarily absent.
       

Student

A student is a person who, as at census date, is formally enrolled in a school and active in a primary, secondary and/or special education program at that school. Students may be enrolled at more than one school, however jurisdictions employ strategies which ensure that, as far as possible, such students are reported only once in this collection.

Persons not present at a school on the National Schools Statistics Collection census date are included if they were expected to be absent for less than four continuous weeks.

Student participation in vocational education or training programs in schools, school-based apprenticeships or traineeships, work placements or tertiary extension studies, or a combination of such programs as part of the student’s school enrolment, is in scope for the National Schools Statistics Collection. The workload of these subjects/programs (which may take place outside the school premises) is included in a student’s aggregate workload to determine whether a student is classified as full-time or part-time, and in calculating the full-time equivalent for part-time students. The total workload recorded is capped at 1.00 full-time equivalent value.

Teaching staff

Teaching staff are defined as those who spend the majority of their time in contact with students. They support students either by direct class contact or on an individual basis, and are engaged to impart school curriculum.

For the purposes of this product, teaching staff also includes principals, deputy principals, campus principals and senior teachers mainly involved in administration. Teacher aides and assistants, and specialist support staff are excluded, except assistant teachers working in homeland learning centres and community schools in the Northern Territory.

Year level and school level

Year level of education comprises pre-year 1 through to year 12, including ungraded primary and ungraded secondary.

School level comprises primary and secondary.

Variations in schooling structures between the states and territories result in differences in the year levels that comprise school levels. In particular, variation occurs in the treatment of year 7, which is the first year level of secondary school for all states and territories except South Australia, where for most schools in 2019 it was the last year level of primary school.

For information on the structure of schooling in the various states and territories in Australia, see Appendix - differences in schooling structures. The Explanatory notes contain further information on data comparability.

Quality declaration - summary

Institutional environment

This national collection was established between 1980 and 1984 through the work of the former Australian Education Council, superseding individual state and territory based schools collections conducted by the ABS. Oversight of the collection rests with the Education Council.

Data on government and non-government schools are collected from administrative school enrolment databases, collated by the ABS through the non-finance National Schools Statistics Collection. In the case of government schools, the data are supplied to the ABS by each state/territory education authority. For non-government schools, the data are supplied to the ABS by the Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment.

Most education authorities supply the ABS with unit record level data for students and schools, which are subsequently processed and output in aggregate format.

For information on the institutional environment of the ABS, including the legislative obligations of the ABS which cover this collection, please see ABS Institutional Environment.

Relevance

This publication contains data on schools, students and staff involved in the provision or administration of primary and secondary education, in government and non-government schools, for all Australian states and territories including Other Territories and Norfolk Island.

Schools are classified by level of education (primary, secondary, combined or special) and affiliation (government or non-government, with non-government further subcategorised as Catholic or independent).

Students are classified by level and year of education, indigenous status, full-time or part-time status, age at 1 July, affiliation of school and sex.

Staff data are available as counts of staff or full-time equivalent value of staff. Categories used for reporting in-school staff may include pro-rated figures reported against more than one classification. This includes the classification of school level (particularly for staff in combined schools and staff working in more than one school) and major area of activity.

Full-time equivalent in-school staff are classified by level of school education (primary or secondary), major function (broad position roles) and sex.

Counts of in-school and out-of-school staff are classified by major function (broad position roles) and sex.

Outputs in the publication include the number of:

  • students
  • full-time equivalent students
  • schools
  • in-school staff
  • full-time equivalent in-school staff
  • out-of-school staff
  • full-time equivalent out-of-school staff
  • the ratio of full-time equivalent students to teaching staff, and
  • various measures relating to students, including apparent retention rates.
     

Comparable statistics are provided for each of the states and territories, and nationally where appropriate.

Student to teaching staff ratios include staff who have class contact but are not teachers, as well as staff who do not have a permanent class of students but are teachers (e.g. specialist teachers such as foreign language teachers). Thus, these figures are not indicative of class sizes.

Timeliness

The National Schools Statistics Collection is based on the national school census that is conducted annually on the first Friday in August by each state and territory department of education and the non-government education systems. Information is disseminated through the ABS website the following February.

Accuracy

The National Schools Statistics Collection is based on enrolment information from education administrative data systems at the time of the school census, collected in accordance with agreed national standards and definitions. For government data, each school provides and/or validates the information reflecting their enrolments to the relevant state education department. Each state and territory education department processes the data so that data forwarded to the ABS represents, or can be used to derive, student counts (a count of natural persons within a system of education).

Non-government data are co-ordinated through the Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment.

The ABS undertakes validation of all received data prior to publication to ensure nationally comparable and historically consistent output.

Due to the different enrolment systems, the ability to manage multiple records of enrolment for a student may vary among jurisdictions. This may result in a small degree of over-reporting of student numbers in some jurisdictions.

Some minor differences exist across jurisdictions in the interpretation of the standards applying to the collection and the ability of systems to collect data to the specifications of the collection. This may affect comparisons of school counts, student counts and student full-time equivalent values. Any differences are annotated in the tables where relevant.

Coherence

National Schools Statistics Collection school and student information is a subset of the enrolment information provided by the various education authorities. Staff information is a subset of those authorities’ administrative staff and human resources data.

The application of National Schools Statistics Collection business rules may result in counts which differ from those in other datasets originating from the same education authorities. For example, student counts may not reconcile to enrolment counts available in alternate datasets where multiple enrolments were reported for those students enrolled in more than one school. Similarly, schools counts may not reconcile to school counts reported elsewhere due to differences in the definition of a school. These issues are addressed in the Explanatory notes.

The production of aggregate counts from unit record level data by the ABS may lead to a difference between these and counts that would be obtained where the data are aggregated by another party. Again, the different application of business rules would be the source of any such differences.

At times, jurisdictions may make changes to their administrative systems that impact on the comparability of statistics between years. Key changes are documented in the explanatory material accompanying collection outputs.

Other reporting of information about schools, staff and students:

  • State and territory governments report on schools, students and staff in their Annual Reports.
  • State and territory governments provide National Schools Statistics Collection data to the Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment for Commonwealth funding purposes.
  • State and territory governments provide school, student and staff data to the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) for school level reporting.
  • National Schools Statistics Collection data are reported through the National Report on Schooling in Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Action Plan, and the Report on Government Services.
  • The Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment reports on student and staff data for non-government schools. These data are collected for the purposes of administering the Australian Education Act 2013.
     

The five-yearly Census of Population and Housing includes information on children attending school and the occupation of Australians (including teachers).

The ABS estimated resident population series is used in the calculation of some student-related measures in this publication. It is used as a denominator to calculate students as a proportion of the population. The estimated resident population is based on final data from the most recently published ABS Census of Population and Housing, updated quarterly using information on births, deaths, and overseas and internal migration provided by state, territory and Australian Government departments. See Australian Demographic Statistics (cat. no. 3101.0) for further details. These measures are subject to estimation error where the conceptual bases under which the data are collected and compiled differ. For example, there are a very small number of students counted in the schools collection that are not included in the estimated resident population (for example students who are children of foreign diplomats). For more information see the Explanatory notes.

Interpretability

Schools, Australia contains detailed explanatory notes and a glossary which provide information on the data sources, counting rules, terminology, classifications and other technical aspects associated with these statistics. All aggregate data are collected and reported to standard classifications as stated in the National Schools Statistics Collection Notes, Instructions and Tabulations manual. Unit record level data are collected and reported to classifications as stated in the National Schools Statistics Collection Data Collection Manual, and align with the aggregate data specifications in the Notes, Instructions and Tabulations manual. Both documents are available from the ABS on request.

Accessibility

If the information you require is not available from either the publication or the data cubes, contact the National Information and Referral Service on 1300 135 070.