National Report on Schooling in Australia 2011

Student participation

4.2 Progression and retention

Increased student progression and retention to Year 10 and Year 12 (or approved alternative) are in line with the policy intent of Australian governments in establishing the National Youth Participation Requirement.
Apparent grade progression rates estimate the progression of students from one school grade/year level to the next. An apparent progression rate is calculated as the number of full-time students in a designated grade/year level as a percentage of the number enrolled in the grade/year level below in the previous calendar year.
Apparent retention rates estimate the progression of students through school over several calendar years and several grades/year levels, from the beginning to the end of a stage/level of schooling, for example, retention from Year 7/8 to Year 10, or across stages, for example, from Year 10 to Year 12. An apparent retention rate is calculated as the number of full-time students in a designated grade/year level as a percentage of their respective cohort group in a base year.
It is important to note that these progression and retention rates are ‘apparent’ only. They are based on aggregate enrolment data and do not record the progression of individual students. As such, they do not take into account that some students may repeat a grade or be promoted (moving between cohorts) or that new students may join a cohort through immigration. Apparent retention rates do not take account of changes in the cohort that may have occurred in the years between the base year and the designated year.
When apparent progression and retention rates are disaggregated, for example by state and territory or by school sector, they become less meaningful, as they do not then take into account movements of students between jurisdictions or sectors.
Figure 4.4 illustrates national apparent progression rates from Year 9 to Year 10, from Year 10 to Year 11 and from Year 11 to Year 12 for students enrolled in these cohorts over the five-year period 2007–11.
Figure 4.4 Apparent progression rates, Year 9 to Year 10, Year 10 to Year 11 and Year 11 to Year 12, Australia (2007–11)
Figure 4.4_Apparent_progression
Source: ABS, Cat. No. 4221.0, Schools, Australia, 2011
The upward movements in apparent progression rates from Year 9 to Year 10 and Year 10 to Year 11 shown in Figure 4.4 coincide with the progressive implementation of strengthened participation requirements for 15 and 16-year-olds across jurisdictions from 2006 and of the National Youth Participation Requirement in 2010 and 2011.
The apparent progression rate from Year 9 to Year 10 rose by 1.7 percentage points from 97.0 per cent in 2007 to 98.7 per cent in 2011, when the requirement for compulsory completion of Year 10 took full effect in all jurisdictions. Apparent progression from Year 10 to Year 11 rose by 3.0 percentage points from 87 per cent to 90 per cent over the same period, although the potential impact of the post-Year 10 participation requirement on Year 11 enrolments was not yet fully felt in all jurisdictions in 2011.¹
The apparent progression rate (Australia) from Year 11 to Year 12 has also risen in each of the past three years. This is less directly attributable to strengthened participation requirements, as most Year 12 students had reached their seventeenth birthday before the time of the schools census.² However, there is still likely to be a positive effect on Year 12 enrolments, due to students who commence Year 11 in order to meet the post-Year 10 participation requirement then choosing to complete Year 12 after they have turned 17. The potential effect of the youth participation requirement on Year 12 enrolments had not been fully realised by 2011, as it did not yet apply to Year 12 students in those jurisdictions that had implemented the requirement in 2010.
Data on apparent progression rates in each State and Territory are available in the ABS publication Schools, Australia (Table 65a).
The effects of strengthened participation requirements for older school students are also observable in rising retention rates over the last five years.
Figure 4.5 illustrates apparent retention rates from the first year of secondary school (Year 7 or Year 8 depending on jurisdiction) to Year 10 over the period 2007–11. (Detail from Figure 4.5 is also shown below the main graph.)
Figure 4.5 Apparent retention rates, Year 7/8 to Year 10 by sector, Australia (2007–11)
Figure 4.5_Apparent_retention
Source: ABS, Cat. No. 4221.0, Schools, Australia, 2011
Figure 4.5 (Detail) Data are identical to above – the vertical axis has been truncated for enhanced visibility
Figure 4.5 (Detail) Data are identical to above
During this period the apparent retention rate Year 7/8 to Year 10 for all students rose by 2 percentage points from 99.1 per cent to 101.1 per cent. (Percentages exceeding 100 per cent are possible because of net immigration to Australia of junior secondary students.) The proportionately higher rise in apparent retention in the government sector by 3.8 percentage points from 98.3 per cent to 102.1 per cent is likely to reflect both strengthened participation requirements for 15 and 16-year-olds and a greater share in enrolments of newly arrived migrant children. However, as noted above, comparisons between sectors are somewhat speculative as sector-specific retention rates can mask a variety of student movements between sectors.
Increased student progression and retention to Year 10 are outcomes intended by Australian governments in implementing the National Youth Participation Requirement. However, compulsory enrolment in Year 10 may also have had a negative impact on Year 10 school attendance rates, particularly for Indigenous students, in some jurisdictions and sectors. This effect is discussed further in Part 4.3: Student participation – attendance and Part 7: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education.
Figure 4.6 illustrates national apparent retention rates from the first year of secondary school (Year 7 or Year 8 depending on jurisdiction) to Year 12 over the period 2007–11.
Figure 4.6 Apparent retention rates, Year 7/8 to Year 12 by sector, Australia (2007–11)
Figure 4.6_Apparent_retention_rates
Source: ABS, Cat. No. 4221.0, Schools, Australia, 2011
During this period the Year 7/8 to Year 12 apparent retention rate for all students rose by 5.0 percentage points, from 74.3 per cent to 79.3 per cent. The greatest rise of 6.4 percentage points to 74.7 per cent was for the government sector, narrowing the gap in apparent retention to Year 12 between government and non-government schools, with apparent retention for Catholic schools up 3.1 percentage points to 81.3 per cent and a net gain for independent schools of 0.4 percentage points to 93.7 per cent. However, as noted above, sector-specific retention rates should be interpreted with caution as they do not take into account movements of students between sectors. In the case of Year 7/8 to Year 12 apparent retention, this includes students transferring between government and non-government schools for Years 11 and 12.
Figure 4.7 shows national apparent retention rates from Year 10 to Year 12 by sector.
Figure 4.7 Apparent retention rates, Year 10 to Year 12 by sector, Australia (2007–11)
Figure 4.7_Apparent_retention_rates_Year_10_to_Year_12
Source: ABS, Cat. No. 4221.0, Schools, Australia, 2011
Apparent retention rates from Year 10 to Year 12 have also risen in all sectors in the period 2007–11 with the overall apparent retention rate up 3.9 percentage points to 79.5 per cent in 2011 and the apparent rate for government schools rising 4.5 percentage points to 75.0 per cent. The gap between apparent retention Year 10 to Year 12 for government and non-government schools has narrowed from 13.6 percentage points in 2007 to 11.7 percentage points in 2011. These data are also subject to the caveat that they do not take into account movement of students between sectors, particularly between Years 10 and 11.


¹ The actual effect on Year 11 and 12 enrolments will depend on the proportion of students who pursue approved alternative pathways to senior schooling.
² Those who were under 17 were concentrated in Queensland and Western Australia. Source: ABS, Schools, Australia, 2011, Table 42b.