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Executive summary


The National Report on Schooling in Australia 2016 is the annual report on Australia’s school education sector. It has been produced by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) on behalf of the Education Council.

The report highlights progress in 2016 towards the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians agreed by Australian education ministers in 2008.

The National Report on Schooling in Australia 2016 addresses the eight areas of commitment to action specified in the Melbourne Declaration. It describes the national policy and reporting context for school education in Australia and reports against the nationally agreed key performance measures (KPMs) for schooling, covering student participation, student achievement in national assessments and student transitions to further education and work. A selection of other statistical information on Australian schooling in 2016 and for the eight-year period 2009–2016 inclusive is included in the report, with more extensive data sets accessible through the National Report on Schooling data portal.

The data portal provides readers with interactive access to a wide range of data on schooling in Australia, including general statistics on enrolments and funding, and data on the agreed KPMs. In most cases, the portal allows readers to download data by state and territory, by school sector, by calendar year and by other breakdowns, such as gender and Indigenous status, as well as at the national level.

This is the eighth annual National Report on Schooling in Australia to address the Melbourne Declaration and the twenty-eighth annual report overall.

Editions of the report for the years 2009–2015 are available on the ACARA website. Editions prior to 2009 are available on the Education Council website.

Overview of the report

Overview of Part 1 - Schools and schooling
Overview of Part 2 - Policies and priorities
Overview of Part 3 - Measuring and reporting performance

Overview of Part 1

Part 1, ‘Schools and schooling’, provides information on the status of Australian schooling in 2016, including school, student and teacher numbers, school structures and funds used for school education.

In Australia, responsibility for school education rests mainly with the six state and two territory governments.1

All states and territories provide for 13 years of formal school education. Primary education, including a foundation year, lasts for either seven or eight years and is followed by secondary education of six or five years respectively.2 Typically, schooling commences at age five, is compulsory from age six until age 17 (with provision for alternative study or work arrangements in the senior secondary years), and is completed at age 17 or 18. School structures and age requirements in states and territories are summarised in Part 1.4.

The majority – 70.5 per cent – of schools are government schools, established and administered by state and territory governments through their education departments or authorities. The remaining 29.5 per cent are non-government schools, mostly associated with religious organisations. Non-government schools are established and operated under conditions determined by state and territory governments through their registration authorities. School numbers are shown in Part 1.1.

Around two-thirds (65.4 per cent) of school students are enrolled in government schools and approximately one-third (34.6 per cent) in non-government schools. Part 1.2 reports on numbers of students by school sector, state and territory, and Indigenous status.

Staff numbers closely reflect enrolments, with 64.0 per cent of school teachers.3 employed by the government school sector and 36.0 per cent by non-government schools. Part 1.3 reports on staff numbers and student–teacher ratios.

School, student and teacher numbers in 2016 are shown for Australia, and by state and territory in figure 1.

Schools are funded through a combination of state/territory government funding, Australian government funding, fees and charges and other parental/private contributions. School fundingarrangements and data are reported in Part 1.5.

1 New South Wales (NSW), Victoria (Vic.), Queensland (Qld), South Australia (SA), Western Australia (WA), Tasmania
(Tas.), Northern Territory (NT) and Australian Capital Territory (ACT).
2 SA is now the only jurisdiction to follow the eight-year/five-year pattern.
3 Full-time equivalent teaching staff.

ANR 2016 - Fig 1
ANR 2016 - Fig 1 - map

Student numbers are individuals (full-time students plus part-time students). Teacher numbers are full-time equivalent (FTE) teaching staff.
Source: ABS, Cat. No. 4221.0, Schools, Australia, 2016; National Report on Schooling data portal.

Overview of Part 2

Part 2, ‘Policies and priorities’, outlines the national policy context for Australian schooling in 2016 and reports against the commitments to action agreed by Australian education ministers in the Melbourne Declaration on the Educational Goals for Young Australians.

Part 2.1 of this report summarises the national policy context for schooling including the roles of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) and the Education Council in deciding agreed national policy and initiatives for education. It also provides examples of state and territory policy initiatives for school education in 2016.

Part 2.2 outlines the goals and commitments contained in the Melbourne Declaration and the COAG targets for education.

Parts 2.3–2.10 report on progress in implementing the Melbourne Declaration commitments to action with a focus on developments in 2016.

Progress towards the commitments to action reported for 2016 include:

  • A number of states and territories implemented new initiatives for early childhood education, for the middle years of schooling and for senior secondary schooling.
  • The first iteration of the Australian Curriculum for students from Foundation to Year 10 was completed in October 2016 with the publication of Auslan and Classical Languages curricula.

  • Annual tests in literacy and numeracy for Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 were conducted through the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) for the ninth time.

  • Work was progressed on the transition of NAPLAN testing to an online assessment platform, as agreed by education ministers.

  • The fourth three-yearly NAP sample assessment in Civics and Citizenship for Years 6 and 10 students was conducted online.

  • The Education Council agreed to extend NAP – Science Literacy to Year 10 students from 2018, and to expand the NAP – Civics and Citizenship assessment to include History from 2019.

  • A sample group of Australian students participated in the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) 2016.

  • The seventh release of the My School website occurred.

  • A report on Nationally Consistent Collection of Data for School Students with Disability (NCCD) was released by Education Council.

Overview of Part 3

Part 3, ‘Measuring and reporting performance’, reports on the performance of Australian schooling in 2016, using the nationally agreed key performance measures (KPMs) for schooling specified in the Measurement Framework for Schooling in Australia 2015.

Part 3 reports on 19 of the 26 agreed KPMs4 along with, in some cases, associated COAG targets. The measures are reported at the national level, and by various breakdowns, such as school  sector, state and territory, school year and Indigenous status. For selected KPMs, time series for the previous seven years 2009–2015 since the Melbourne Declaration are also included. Where relevant breakdowns or time series are not reported in Part 3, they are provided in the National Report on Schooling data portal.

Data reported for 2016 include that:

  • The average national attendance rate for students in Years 1–10 was 92.5 per cent. Average attendance rates were lower for Years 8, 9 and 10 than for Years 1–7.
  • At 83.4 per cent, the average attendance rate for Indigenous students was 9.7 percentage points lower than for non-Indigenous students (93.1 per cent). There was an increase in this gap of 0.3 percentage points in 2016.
  • Based on data collected for 2016, which excluded NSW government school students, 77.7 per cent of Australian students in Years 1–10 attended school for at least 90 per cent of school days. However, only 49.0 per cent of Indigenous students within this group met the 90 per cent benchmark.
  • NAPLAN participation rates for reading, writing and numeracy were over 90 per cent for each of Years 3, 5, 7 and 9, but were lower in each domain for Year 9 than for Years 3, 5 and 7.
  • The proportion of students achieving at or above the national minimum standard in NAPLAN tests was over 90 per cent for all year groups tested in reading and numeracy, and for Years 3 and 5 in writing. In writing, the proportion of students achieving at or above the national minimum standard was 89.7 per cent for Year 7 and 82.9 per cent for Year 9.
  • At 55 per cent, the proportion of Year 6 students achieving at or above the proficient standard in Civics and Citizenship was statistically similar to when this sample assessment was last conducted in 2013. However, there was a significant decrease in the proportion of Year 10 students achieving at or above the proficient standard, from 44 per cent in 2013 to 38 per cent in 2016.
  • The achievement of a sample of Australian Year 4 in the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) 2016 improved significantly from the last time this assessment was conducted in 2011, from 76 per cent to 81 per cent of students at or above the proficient standard.
  • The proportion of students proceeding to Year 12 (as measured by the apparent retention rate from Year 10 to Year 12) rose by 0.2 percentage points to 82.9 per cent. The apparent retention rate from Year 10 to Year 12 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students rose by 0.3 percentage points to 60.9 per cent, with the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous rates narrowing marginally to 23.1 percentage points.
  • The proportion of the 20–24-year-old population that has attained at least Year 12 or equivalent or AQF Certificate III or above, as measured by the ABS Survey of Education and Work, increased significantly from 87.1 per cent in 2015 to 89.2 per cent in 2016. The COAG target for this measure is 90 per cent by 2020. Data from the 2016 Census of Population and Housing show 87.9 per cent of 20–24-year-olds meeting this level of attainment (compared to 86.4 per cent in the 2011 Census).

Table 1 summarises the KPMs for 2016 in comparison with 2015 (or the most recent previous yearfor which comparable data exist).

4 The remaining seven KPMs, covering student achievement in the NAP international assessments PISA and TIMSS and in NAP sample assessments in ICT Literacy and Science Literacy, do not apply to the 2016 reporting year. For 2016 (a Census year), agreed supplementary measures, based on data from the Australian Census of Population and Housing, are also reported for agreed KPMs for enrolment, participation and attainment.

ANR 2016 Table 1 - KPM title


National Report on Schooling in Australia 2016 (PDF - 7847 Kb)

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