National Report on Schooling in Australia 2013

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 1.

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.

Progression and retention rates are ‘apparent’ as 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 reporting year.

When apparent progression and retention rates are disaggregated, for example, by state and territory or by school sector, they are less meaningful, as they do not take into account movements of students between jurisdictions or sectors. National apparent progression rates (but not apparent retention rates) for Australia include a weighting for the proportion of students in each state/territory and are adjusted to factor in changes in the population 2. Apparent progression rates reported in table 4.2 have been rebased to the 2011 Census of Population and Housing.


Table 4.2 Apparent progression rates (a), Year 9 to Year 10, Year 10 to Year 11 and Year 11 to Year 12, Australia, 2009–2013 (%)

Table 4.2 Apparent progression rates(a), Year 9 to Year 10, Year 10 to Year 11 and Year 11 to Year 12, Australia, 2009–2013 (%)

(a) Apparent progression rates are calculated using Estimated Residential Population (ERP) data based on the Census of Population and Housing. Rates for years prior to 2010 are calculated using ERP data based on the 2006 census. Rates for 2010 onwards are calculated using ERP data based on the 2011 census.

Source: ABS, Cat. No. 4221.0, Schools, Australia, 2013


These data are illustrated in figure 4.1.

Figure 4.1 Apparent progression rates, Year 9 to Year 10, Year 10 to Year 11 and Year 11 to Year 12, Australia, 2009–2013

Figure 4.1 Apparent progression rates, Year 9 to Year 10, Year 10 to Year 11 and Year 11 to Year 12, Australia, 2009–2013


Source: ABS, Cat. No. 4221.0, Schools, Australia, 2013


As noted in previous reports, this series records upward movements in apparent progression rates from Year 9 to Year 10, from Year 10 to Year 11 and from Year 11 to Year 12 3, following the implementation of strengthened education participation requirements for 15- and 16-year-olds.

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, especially for the government school sector.

Table 4.3 and figure 4.2 illustrate national apparent retention rates by school sector from the first year of secondary school (Year 7 or Year 8, depending on jurisdiction) to Year 10 over the period 2009–2013. (Detail from figure 4.2 is also shown below the main graph.)


Table 4.3 Apparent retention rates, Year 7–8 to Year 10 by sector, Australia, 2009–2013 (%)

Table 4.3 Apparent retention rates, Year 7–8 to Year 10 by sector, Australia, 2009–2013 (%)

Source: ABS, Cat. No. 4221.0, Schools, Australia, 2013


Figure 4.2 Apparent retention rates, Year 7/8 to Year 10 by sector, Australia, 2009–2013

Figure 4.2 Apparent retention rates, Year 7/8 to Year 10 by sector, Australia, 2009–2013


Source: ABS, Cat. No. 4221.0, Schools, Australia, 2013


Figure 4.2 (Detail) Data are identical to above – the vertical axis has been truncated for enhanced visibility

Figure 4.2 (Detail) Data are identical to above – the vertical axis has been truncated for enhanced visibility


During this period, the apparent retention rate from Year 7/8 to Year 10 for all students rose from 99.8 per cent to 101.5 per cent. (Percentages exceeding 100 per cent for national apparent retention rates are possible because of net immigration to Australia of secondary students.) This reflected rises in the apparent retention rate in the government school sector, which followed participation in Year 10 becoming compulsory in the two most populous states, New South Wales and Victoria. The fall-off, in 2009 and 2010, in the apparent Year 7/8 to Year 10 retention rate in the independent school sector may be partly due to a dip in the number of overseas students enrolled 4.

Table 4.4 and figure 4.3 describe 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 2009–2013.


Table 4.4 Apparent retention rates, Year 7/8 to Year 12 by sector, Australia, 2009–2013 (%)

Table 4.4 Apparent retention rates, Year 7/8 to Year 12 by sector, Australia, 2009–2013 (%)


Source: ABS, Cat. No. 4221.0, Schools, Australia, 2013


Figure 4.3 Apparent retention rates, Year 7/8 to Year 12 by sector, Australia, 2009–2013

Figure 4.3 Apparent retention rates, Year 7/8 to Year 12 by sector, Australia, 2009–2013


Source: ABS, Cat. No. 4221.0, Schools, Australia, 2013

During this period, there was a marked increase in the overall Year 7/8 to Year 12 apparent retention rate, which rose from 76.0 per cent to 81.6 per cent, and a convergence of rates for the three sectors. The greatest rise was of more than 8 percentage points for the government school sector, narrowing the gap in apparent retention to Year 12 between government and non-government schools. The convergence of rates between sectors suggests both a rise in the proportion of government school students continuing to Year 12, and a reduction in students transferring from government to non-government schools for Years 11 and 12. A fall in the enrolments of overseas students in Years 11 and 12 in the independent sector may have also contributed to the fall in apparent Year 7/8 to 12 retention rates for this sector. However, as noted above, sector-specific retention rates should be interpreted with caution.

Table 4.5 and figure 4.4 show national apparent retention rates from Year 10 to Year 12 by sector over the period 2009–2013.


Table 4.5 Apparent retention rates, Year 10 to Year 12 by sector, Australia, 2009–2013 (%)

Table 4.5 Apparent retention rates, Year 10 to Year 12 by sector, Australia, 2009–2013 (%)


Source: ABS, Cat. No. 4221.0, Schools, Australia, 2013


Figure 4.4 Apparent retention rates, Year 10 to Year 12 by sector, Australia, 2009–2013

Figure 4.4 Apparent retention rates, Year 10 to Year 12 by sector, Australia, 2009–2013

Source: ABS, Cat. No. 4221.0, Schools, Australia, 2013

Apparent retention rates from Year 10 to Year 12 rose by 5.3 percentage points for the government school sector and 4.9 percentage points for the Catholic sector in the period 2009–2013. The overall apparent retention rate rose by 4 percentage points to 80.7 per cent in 2013. The gap between apparent retention from Year 10 to Year 12 for government and independent schools narrowed from 19.6 percentage points in 2009 to 12.2 percentage points in 2013. While data are subject to the caveat that they do not take into account movement of students between sectors, the overall increase in retention to Year 12 is in line with the policy intention of governments in strengthening requirements for 15–17-year-olds to participate in education and/or training.






1 The National Youth Participation Requirement includes the mandatory requirement for all young people to participate in schooling until they complete Year 10, and the requirement to participate full-time in education, training or employment, or a combination of these activities, until the age of 17. These were implemented in Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania between 2006 and 2008 and in New South Wales, Victoria, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory in 2010.

2 For more information, see ABS, Cat. No. 4221.0, Schools, Australia, 2013, Explanatory Notes; ABS, Cat. No.4221 Schools, Australia, Alternative Measures of Engagement in Secondary Education, 2009

3 The effect on Year 11 and 12 enrolments will also depend on the proportion of students who pursue approved alternative pathways to senior schooling following Year 10.

4 Reported by the Independent Schools Council of Australia

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