Key Facts

In Australia in 2023:

  • A total of 4,086,998 students were enrolled in Australian schools, an increase of 1.1% from 2022

  • 64.0% of school students were enrolled in government schools, 19.7% were in Catholic schools and 16.3% in independent schools

  • 55.3% of students were primary school students and 44.7% were in secondary school. This difference is mainly due to the structure of schooling, in which primary schooling includes more year groups than secondary schooling.

Over the past 10 years:

  • Total enrolments grew by 441,479 (12.1%), largely reflecting the growth in the school-age population

  • The number of students in independent schools rose from 521,436 in 2013 to 666,581 in 2023 – a 27.8% increase. This has resulted in a 2.0 percentage point increase in the proportion of students attending independent schools

Notes and caveats

    • Data is drawn from the National Schools Statistics Collection (NSSC) collected in August each year and published in ABS, Schools, Australia.
    • In 2020 and 2021, restrictions due to COVID-19 may have impacted on NSSC enrolment data. However, students who were learning remotely, or whose schooling was temporarily disrupted due to COVID-19 at the time of the collection were included in the count. Overall, it is estimated that the impacts of COVID-19 on the data were minor. For further details see Schools, Australia 2020 and 2021.
    • In 2020 and 2021 border closures due to COVID-19 impacted on school enrolments due to reduced immigration and, in particular, to falls in the numbers of full fee-paying overseas students (FFPOS). The fall in FFPOS enrolments in 2021 was 24.5% (5,480 students) from 2020, and 36.5% (9,696 students) from 2019. For further details see Schools, Australia 2020 and 2021.
    • Categories used in tables and graphs showing "school level" are "primary" and "secondary". In some tables, the categories "primary", "junior secondary", "senior secondary" and "total secondary" are used.
      • Junior secondary comprises the years from commencement of secondary schooling (Year 7 or Year 8) to Year 10, including ungraded secondary.
      • Senior secondary comprises Year 11 and Year 12.
      • Students attending special schools are allocated to either primary or secondary school on the basis of year level or school level, where identified. Where the year level or school level is not identified, students are allocated to primary or secondary school level according to the typical age level in each state or territory. See Glossary for definition of special schools.
    • In ABS, Schools, Australia, and in the National Report on Schooling in Australia, Catholic independent/non-systemic schools are counted as Catholic rather than as independent.
    • All students = Full-time students + part-time students.
      • Part-time students account for less than one per cent of total enrolments and are mostly in Years 11 or 12.
    • From 2015 primary education comprises Foundation (pre-Year 1) followed by Years 1-6 in New South Wales (NSW), Victoria (Vic.), Queensland (Qld), Western Australia (WA), Tasmania (Tas.), Northern Territory (NT) and Australian Capital Territory (ACT). Secondary education consists of Years 7-12 in these jurisdictions.
    • In 2015, Year 7 in Qld and WA was moved from a primary school year to a secondary school year. This change affected the number and proportion of primary and secondary students for these states and nationally from 2015.
    • Until 2019 in South Australia (SA), primary education comprised Foundation (pre-Year 1) followed by Years 1-7. Secondary education consisted of Years 8-12.
    • In 2019, Year 7 was moved from a primary school year to a secondary school year in some South Australian non-government schools. This affects the number and proportion of primary and secondary students in SA in 2019. In 2020, three government schools also moved Year 7 to become the first year of secondary schooling.
    • In 2022, all remaining South Australian government and non-government schools completed the transition to Year 7 as the starting school grade of secondary schooling. This meant that 2022 is the first year South Australian schools across all affiliations had Year 7 as their starting secondary school grade.
    • From 2020, support students in New South Wales Government mainstream schools are recorded against their grade of enrolment, to be more aligned with national counting rules. Only students in Schools for Specific Purposes (SSP) are now recorded as ungraded. Care should be taken when comparing with previous years as enrolments by grades will be higher than previously due to the revised methodology.
    • In 2018 to 2020, a proportion of South Australian government students undertook a study load greater than 1 full-time equivalent (FTE) load. The study load component which exceeds 1.0 FTE for a single student has been excluded from these data.
    • In 2023, there were 2,560 students whose sex was reported as neither male nor female (1,604 in 2022, 626 in 2021, 234 in 2020, 128 in 2019 and 91 in 2018). However, not all providers reported on this basis. This number does not reflect the total number of Australian school students who identify as neither male or female.
      • In order to protect the confidentiality of these individuals the ABS has randomly assigned them either a male or female status. The ABS will review this approach as input data quality improves.
      • In addition, some providers supply gender data, rather than sex, for this classification.
      • Although sex and gender are conceptually distinct, these terms are commonly used interchangeably, including in legislation. All government education systems now collect data on student gender at enrolment.  

Source: ABS, Schools, Australia

See Glossary for definitions of school level, school sector, special school and full-time equivalent (FTE) and for further information on the NSSC.