National Report on Schooling in Australia 2011

National initiatives and achievements

2.8 Strengthening accountability and transparency

Both the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians and the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) National Education Agreement (NEA) emphasise increased transparency for reporting educational information and improved accountability for the use of public resources for education as core reforms.

This includes improved reporting to schools, families and students about student achievement and school performance and improved public reporting of individual and comparative school performance as well as reporting on the performance of Australian schooling overall.
In the Melbourne Declaration, Australian governments committed to working with all school sectors to ensure that public reporting of education:
  • focuses on improving performance and student outcomes

  • is both locally and nationally relevant

  • is timely, consistent and comparable.

States and Territories have committed to increasing the provision of transparent information about schools and their performance, including fostering direct discussion between parents and teachers on students’ progress and improving the capacity of schools to report in clear language to students and parents.
Under the NEA (government schools) and the Schools Assistance Act 2008 (non-government schools), all schools are required to provide to parents and carers of students in Years 1–10 a plain language report on the progress and achievement of each student. These twice-yearly reports must include an assessment against available national standards and, for each subject studied, an assessment against a five-point scale (such as an A–E scale) and an assessment relative to the performance of the student’s peer group.
All schools across Australia are also required to provide a publicly available school annual report. Schools must publish a range of information which includes contextual information, key student outcomes and information on satisfaction.
The NEA accountability framework also includes the following elements:
  • streamlined and consistent reports on national progress, including an annual national report on the outcomes of schooling in Australia¹ and the biennial COAG report Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage: Key Indicators

  • national reporting on performance of individual schools to inform parents and carers and for evaluation by governments of school performance.

Under the Schools Assistance Act 2008, the accountability framework for non-government schools and school systems is consistent with that of the NEA.

The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority

Ministers have assigned to the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) the implementation of the majority of national strategies and actions for accountability and transparency identified in the Four-year plan 20092012. These include:
  • developing nationally comparable data collections for all schools to support school evaluation, accountability and resourcing decisions

  • implementing fair, public, comparable national reporting on individual school performance, including comparing individual school performance against schools with similar characteristics

  • developing, where appropriate, value-added measures for schools’ performance and analysing student results over time

  • reviewing key performance measures for education in light of the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians and COAG agreed measures.

In terms of data collection and reporting², the functions of ACARA as provided in Section 6 of the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority Act (2008), are to:
  • collect, manage and analyse student assessment data and other data relating to schools and comparative school performance

  • facilitate information sharing arrangements between Australian government bodies in relation to the collection, management and analysis of school data

  • publish information relating to school education, including information relating to comparative school performance.

ACARA's responsibilities under its charter include the monitoring and review of the Measurement Framework for Schooling in Australia³, which sets out agreed national key performance measures for schooling, and the preparation and publication of the National Report on Schooling in Australia (this report).
ACARA led a major review of the Measurement Framework in 2010, to reflect the Melbourne Declaration and to incorporate COAG targets and NEA indicators for education. The revised framework, the Measurement Framework for Schooling in Australia 2010, was published on the ACARA website in early 2011.
In 2011, ACARA undertook the preparation of the National Report on Schooling in Australia 2010 in consultation with representatives of State and Territory education authorities, the non-government sectors and other relevant agencies. The 2010 report is the second to be published by ACARA and the second to report on progress in the reporting year towards the Melbourne Declaration Commitment to Action, on NEA indicators and against the Measurement Framework for Schooling in Australia 2010.

My School

ACARA is also responsible for the national data collection on individual schools housed on the My School website. My School reporting addresses both the Education Ministers’ strategy to establish fair, public, comparable national reporting on individual school performance and the requirement under the NEA to report on performance of individual schools to support school evaluation, accountability, resource allocation and policy development.
Developed by ACARA and first launched in January 2010, the My School website introduced a new level of transparency and accountability to schooling in Australia by providing extensive information on approximately 9,500 schools. The website includes a profile of each school and data on enrolment, attendance, staff numbers and senior secondary outcomes as well as summary data on student performance in the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) tests for Years 3, 5, 7 and 9. These data are provided, directly or indirectly, by jurisdictions, non-government school authorities and individual schools.
The website introduced the Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage (ICSEA), developed specifically for the purpose of identifying schools serving similar student populations. This enables students’ results on NAPLAN tests to be understood in a fair and meaningful way, and allows schools seeking to improve their students’ performance to learn from other schools with statistically similar populations.
In March 2011, an enhanced version of the website, My School 2.0, was released. As well as information previously included, the new version of the website provided data on schools’ recurrent income and capital expenditure at schools.
For the first time the website also depicted students’ gains in literacy and numeracy, along with the 2010 NAPLAN results. The measures of gain were obtained from results in NAPLAN 2008 and NAPLAN 2010 for students who were in the same school in the two years. My School 2.0 also employed a revised methodology for calculating ICSEA and included graphical presentations of data that combine information on mean results, margins of error and on whether differences are large enough to be noteworthy.
Between the launch of My School 2.0 on 4 March 2011 and 31 December 2011 there were 1,609,022 visits to the My School website.
As well as reporting NAPLAN results for each school on the My School website, ACARA is responsible for national reporting to the Australian public on the outcomes of the National Assessment Program. The NAPLAN National Report 2011 is published, along with previous reports for 2008 to 2010, on the ACARA National Assessment Program website. This report provides analyses of NAPLAN results including breakdowns by State and Territory, gender and language background. Further information about NAPLAN for parents, schools and students is also available on this website. This includes information on NAPLAN tests and on the individual student reports provided to the parents/carers of all students who participate in the NAPLAN tests.

Other initiatives

In their Four-year plan 2009–2012, Ministers identified two further strategies for strengthening accountability and transparency:
  • developing protocols for access to and use of information on schooling and how this is reported to students, parents and the community in line with agreed principles for reporting information on schooling

  • establishing a unique student identifier to track student performance from the first year of compulsory schooling to post-school education and training.

In 2009 MCEECDYA agreed to revised Principles and protocols for reporting on schooling in Australia. This document sets out eight principles for reporting on schooling, specifies the forms that national reporting will take, lists strategies to promote the responsible use of data, and lays down protocols for reporting on Australian schools and for third-party access to National Assessment Program data. The principles and protocols for reporting on schooling in Australia are intended to guide and inform the use and publication of data generated in the process of measuring the performance of schooling in Australia.

In February 2011, COAG endorsed the development of a unique student identifier to record all accredited vocational education and training (VET) undertaken, and qualifications achieved, for each individual who accessed VET over their lifetime. Once the unique student identifier has been implemented in the VET sector COAG will be able to consider its application to other education and training sectors.
¹ The National Report on Schooling in Australia, i.e. this report
² ACARA’s role in developing the Australian Curriculum and administering the National Assessment Program is outlined in Part 2.6 of this report.
³ Formerly the MCEETYA Measurement Framework for National Key Performance Measures