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Click here to read the full National Report on Schooling in Australia 2020 (PDF 3.0MB)

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Executive summary

Introduction

The National Report on Schooling in Australia 2020 is the 32nd annual national report on Australia’s school education sector. It has been produced by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) on behalf of Australian education ministers.

The report highlights progress in 2020 towards the Alice Springs (Mparntwe) Education Declaration released by Australian education ministers in 2019 and is the first national report to address these nationally agreed goals and commitments.

The written report addresses the 11 areas of commitment to action specified in the Alice Springs (Mparntwe) declaration, describes the national policy and reporting context for school education in Australia, and reports against the nationally agreed key performance measures (KPMs) for schooling specified in the Measurement Framework for Schooling in Australia 2020, providing data, analysis and commentary. It also includes other high-level statistical information on Australian schooling in 2020 and for the period 2010–2020 inclusive.

The National Report on Schooling data portal gives readers and researchers interactive access to a wider range of nationally consistent data on schooling in Australia. This includes data on enrolments, staffing, and school funding, and on the KPMs for student participation, achievement in the National Assessment Program (NAP), and attainment of Year 12 and post-school qualifications.

The data portal allows readers to view data by state and territory as well as at the national level, by calendar year and by other breakdowns, such as school sector, sex and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status, where possible and appropriate. Data sets are regularly updated as new data becomes available and may be downloaded from the portal.

For 2020, the data reported in both parts of the report has been limited by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on normal school operations across Australia.

Previous editions of the National Report on Schooling in Australia for the years 2009–2019 are available on the ACARA website. Editions from 1989 to 2008 are available in the Trove archive maintained by the National Library of Australia.

Overview of the report

Part 1, ‘Schools and schooling’, provides information on the status of Australian schooling in 2020, including school, student and teacher numbers, school structures, and funds used for school education.

In Australia, responsibility for school education rests mainly with the 6 state and 2 territory governments.

All states and territories provide for 13 years of formal school education. Primary education, including a foundation year, lasts for either 7 or 8 years and is followed by secondary education of six or five years respectively. 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 (70.0%) of schools are government schools, established and administered by state and territory governments through their education departments or authorities. The remaining 30.0% 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 (65.6%) of school students are enrolled in government schools and about one-third (34.4%) in non-government schools. Part 1.2 reports on numbers of students by school sector, state and territory, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status.

Staff numbers closely reflect enrolments, with 63.8% of school teachers employed by the government school sector and 36.2% by non-government schools. Part 1.3 reports on teaching staff numbers and student–teacher ratios by school sector and state and territory.

School, student and teacher numbers in 2020 are shown for Australia and by state and territory in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Number of schools, students and teachers by state and territory, Australia, 2020

Figure  1 ANR 2020

Part 2, ‘Policies and priorities’, outlines the national policy context for Australian schooling in 2020 and reports against the commitments to action agreed by Australian education ministers in the Alice Springs (Mparntwe) Education Declaration.

Part 2.1 of this report summarises the national policy context for schooling, including the role of national ministerial councils (the Education Council/Education Ministers Meeting) in deciding agreed national policy for education and major developments in education policy in 2020.

During 2020 a major restructure of these intergovernmental arrangements saw the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) replaced by the National Cabinet and the National Federation Reform Council (NFRC), and the COAG Education Council replaced by the Education Ministers Meeting.

The formation of the National Cabinet, and the changes to other ministerial forums that followed, were prompted by the need to coordinate Australia’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Schools in all states and territories were affected to some extent by community lockdowns and other restrictions imposed to combat the onset of COVID-19. National policy responses to COVID-19 for school education included a set of national principles to promote equitable outcomes for students during COVID-19 and the cancellation or postponement of national student assessments. These are summarised in Part 2.1, along with other national policy initiatives for education. State and territory responses, including changes to school operations in 2020, are detailed in Part 2.14.

In January 2020, the Alice Springs (Mparntwe) Education Declaration replaced the Melbourne Declaration as the ministerial statement of educational goals for young Australians and commitment to action for the coming decade. Ministers agreed that education continue to promote excellence and equity and enable all Australians to become confident and creative individuals, successful learners, and active and informed community members. The Alice Springs (Mparntwe) declaration emphasises the importance of learning throughout life and a renewed commitment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and cultures. Part 2.2 outlines the revised educational goals and commitment to action contained in the new declaration.

Parts 2.3–2.13 report on national progress in implementing the Alice Springs (Mparntwe) Education Declaration commitment to action with a focus on developments in 2020. They include activities addressing the 8 national policy initiatives specified in the National School Reform Agreement (NSRA) and list examples of state and territory initiatives relating to the commitment.

Progress towards the commitment to action reported for 2020 included:

  • States and territories implemented new and continuing partnerships with industry and the community to improve science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. The Australian Government contributed funding to support these initiatives.
  • Formal partnerships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples included ‘Walking Together, Working Together’ in New South Wales, and the Northern Territory’s Community-Led Schools initiative.
  • To support quality teaching and leadership, the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) reviewed the compliance and regulatory burden faced by teachers and school leaders, undertook quality assurance activities to strengthen the teacher accreditation system and supported the development of teaching effectiveness evaluation tools. States and territories and school sectors prioritised professional learning for teachers and school leaders.
  • States and territories and non-government sectors implemented initiatives for early childhood education, for the formative years of primary school, for the middle years of schooling and for senior schooling and youth transitions.
  • Education ministers published the final report of the Review of senior secondary pathways into work, further education and training and agreed to focus on specific aspects of the review.
  • In June 2020, education ministers requested ACARA to review the Foundation to Year 10 Australian Curriculum. ACARA is to complete the review by the end of 2021, with the revised Foundation to Year 10 Australian Curriculum released on a redesigned Australian Curriculum website by the start of 2022.
  • In line with the NSRA, work continued to explore how learning progressions and formative assessment can enhance the capacity of teachers to make evidence-based decisions about their students’ learning.
  • The Australian Government allocated funding for an Indigenous Youth Education Package to provide scholarships, academies and mentoring for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people. All states and territories operated programs to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and communities within their jurisdictions.
  • The Australian Government conducted a 5-yearly review of the Disability Standards for Education.
  • The My School website was revised in March 2020 with a number of changes to National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) reporting. These focused on reporting gains made by students rather than school averages. School information was updated in March and November 2020.
  • During 2020, work progressed on options to establish a national unique student identifier (USI) as agreed under the NSRA.
  • In December 2020, Education Council launched the Australian Education Research Organisation (AERO), a national policy initiative to improve the national evidence base under the NSRA.
  • The Measurement Framework for Schooling in Australia was revised to address the Alice Springs (Mparntwe) Education Declaration and endorsed by education ministers for the period 2020‒2023. The Measurement Framework for Schooling in Australia 2020 is used as the basis of KPMs in this report.

 

Part 3, ‘Measuring and reporting performance’, reports on the performance of Australian schooling in 2020, using the nationally agreed key performance measures (KPMs) for schooling specified in the Measurement Framework for Schooling in Australia 2020.

Part 3 reports on only 7 of the 17 agreed KPMs scheduled for reporting in 2020. This is a result of the cancellation of NAPLAN, the postponement of the NAP sample assessment in information and communication technology (ICT) literacy, and inconsistencies in attendance data due to COVID-19.

The measures are reported at the national level, and by various breakdowns, such as state and territory, school sector, school year and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status. For relevant KPMs, time series for the previous 10 years (2010–2019) 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, along with extensive statistical information on schooling in Australia.

Data reported for 2020 includes:

  • The national apparent retention rate from Year 10 to Year 12 increased by 0.1 percentage points to 82.1% in 2020. The apparent retention rate from Year 10 to Year 12 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students increased by 1.5 percentage points to 61.5%. These changes were not statistically significant, but the gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous rates narrowed by 1.4 percentage points to 21.8 percentage points in 2020. The long-term trends since 2010 in apparent retention rates from Year 10 to Year 12 were upward for all students and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, with a net fall in the gap of 5.2 percentage points between 2010 and 2020.
  • The proportion of the 15‒19-year-old population, including secondary students, undertaking vocational education and training (VET) decreased (but not significantly) from 27.2% in 2019 to 26.3% in 2020. The long-term trend in this measure since 2015 was downward.
  • The 3 KPMs measuring the participation of young people in education and/or work, as measured by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Survey of Education and Work (SEW), all fell significantly in 2020. This reflected falls in employment and post-school education and training as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. These falls affected young people more than other age groups in the workforce.
  • The proportion of 15–19-year-olds who were fully engaged in education, training or work decreased significantly from 87.0% in 2019 to 85.4% in 2020. There was no evident long-term trend in this measure for the period 2008–2020.
  • The proportion of 20–24-year-olds who were fully engaged in education, training or work decreased significantly from 75.5% in 2019 to 71.0% in 2020. With an average annual fall of 0.4 percentage points since 2008, the long-term trend in this measure was downward.
  • The proportion of 17–24-year-olds who had left school and were fully engaged in education, training or work decreased significantly from 74.0% in 2019 to 69.3% in 2020. With an average annual fall of 0.3 percentage points since 2008, the long-term trend in this measure was downward.
  • The proportion of the 20–24-year-old population that had attained at least Year 12 or equivalent or Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) Certificate II or above, as measured by the ABS SEW increased from 89.3% in 2019 to 89.9% in 2020. The proportion of the 20–24-year-old population that had attained at least Year 12 or equivalent or AQF Certificate III or above increased from 88.2% in 2019 to 89.4% in 2020. Neither increase in 2020 was significant. There was no apparent effect of COVID-19 on the 2 attainment KPMs in 2020. The long-term trends in both of these measures (of 0.5 percentage points per annum since 2008) were upward.

Table 1 summarises the KPMs for 2020 in comparison with 2019. This is expressed as the short-term change to each KPM.

Table 1 also summarises longer-term trends in the movement of KPMs. This data demonstrates that while small changes in KPMs from year to year are rarely statistically significant, successive increments over time may result in measurable long-term trends.

 

Table 1: Key performance measures for schooling, Australia, 2019-2020, and long-term trends



Part 4, ‘School funding’, reports data on government spending on Australian schooling and data on school income and capital expenditure.

Part 4 outlines intergovernmental funding arrangements for school education, and reports on state and territory and Australian Government expenditure on government and non-government schools. It also summarises data on school income from all sources and capital expenditure on schools.

Schools are funded through a combination of state or territory government funding, Australian Government funding, fees and charges and other parental or private contributions.

In the 2019‒20 financial year, total recurrent government funding for schooling was $70.63 billion. This was made up of $48.22 billion (68.3%) from state and territory budgets and $22.41 billion (31.7%) from the Australian Government (Commonwealth) budget.

Overall, 74.5% of recurrent government funding was allocated to government schools and 25.5% to non-government schools. The bulk (91.6%) of state and territory funding was allocated to government schools. Most (62.2%) of the Australian Government funding was allocated to non-government schools.

Between the 2019 and 2020 calendar years there was a substantial (12.3% per student) increase in Australian Government grants to non-government schools. This was partly due to additional financial assistance provided to non-government schools in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Click here to read the full National Report on Schooling in Australia 2020 (PDF 3.0 MB)