Student background data collection for independent schools


About the collection

ACARA collects student background data (SBD) for all Australian schools to calculate Socio-Educational Advantage and Disadvantaged Language Background other than English (DLBOTE).  

Usage of the data

The Index of Socio-Educational Advantage (ICSEA) is used to report NAPLAN performance against schools with similar backgrounds.

The proportions of students in the lower two quarters of Socio-Educational Advantage are used by the Australian Government Department of Education and Training (AGDE) to calculate the socio‑educational disadvantage loadings. The proportion of DLBOTE students is used to calculate the low English proficiency loading. For further information, please see Section 18 of the Australian Education Regulation 2013

ICSEA values for schools are increasingly being used by government and non-government organisations for determining which schools qualify for special assistance.

What information is collected

Each students’ date of birth, sex, Indigenous status and language. Each parents’ language, education level and occupation level.  

Completing the SBD template

  1. Download a copy of the SBD Template 2020 (Excel 77 kb)
  2. In the 'SubmitterDetails' tab, enter your first name, last name and email address
  3. Fill in the 'SBD Template' tab
    • Enter each student attending your school or campus(es), one per row. An example of how data should be entered is included in the 'SBD example' tab
    • Ensure the 'ACARA SML ID' and 'School name' is filled in on every row as this identifies all schools and campuses throughout Australia. These details can be found in the Non-government school List (Excel 327 kb)
    • The 'Data dictionary' tab provides a description of all the background data fields
    • The 'Language list' sheet contains the Australian Standard Classification of Languages to assist you in entering values for the student (Students Main SLG) and parents (Parent Guardian 1 & 2 Main SLG) main language spoken at home.

Important notes

  • If you are submitting the SBD data for multiple schools/campuses, please include ALL of them in one file
  • Please do not change column headers or tab names as this will result in a data load error on submission.

Submitting data to ACARA

  1. Email [email protected] to request a secure FTP account to upload the completed template. If you submitted data last year, you likely already have an account, so please visit the FTP site and enter your login details (select forgot password if necessary)
  2. When the account is created, you will receive an automatic email with instructions on how to securely upload the completed SBD template
  3. Rename the completed spreadsheet to “SBD_Independent_School_Template_2020 (YOUR school name)"
  4. Submit your schools file through the secure FTP site by clicking 'Add File' within the File Manager tab
  5. Once you can see that your file has successfully uploaded, ACARA will be able to access it. There is no need to email this file from within the FTP site.

NOTE: The reason we request data submissions via a secure FTP site and not email is because data as an email attachment may not be secure. If you require assistance uploading your template, please contact [email protected]. Please do not email this template. 

SBD submission due date

The 2020 SBD collection from Independent schools round 2 closed in August. If you submit after then, your data will still be passed on to AGDESE and used for future adjustments.

Please follow the Completing the SBD template and Submitting data to ACARA steps outlined above.

Accuracy of the data

Schools must ensure that the data provided in the template is valid according to the 'Data dictionary' tab of the template. For example, the parental school education entered must be a value of 0, 1, 2, 3 or 4.

Please ensure that the data entered into the template is as complete and correct as possible as your school’s funding relies on this information.

Quality control of the data

Once your template is received, automated quality control checks are completed by ACARA to ensure that the values provided in each column are valid for that field. If corrections are required to the data, an automated exception report will be emailed to you detailing what needs to be changed. If the data has passed all quality checks, a confirmation email will be sent to you.

Process flow

2020 Full process overview of Independent schools’ SBD data collection

Completeness of the data

The accuracy of the ICSEA model improves as the completeness of Student Background Data (SBD) being fed into the model increases. For an Independent school, a higher level of completeness results in:

a. NAPLAN similar student results being more accurate and fairer.
b. Calculations of SEA quarters and disadvantaged LBOTE values being more stable and will lead to more stable school funding loadings.

In December 2020, ACARA will identify and write directly to Independent schools with a low completeness rate and in it will refer to the SBD completeness rate data dictionary.

Contact us

For assistance in preparing the template or submitting the data, please review the frequently asked questions below or contact ACARA via: [email protected].


Frequently asked questions

The student background data collection does not measure economic advantage or disadvantage, but socio-educational advantage, as it correlates highly with student performance and tends to be more stable over time. In 2020, ACARA will continue to use the ABS standards for Parental Occupation. There are no plans to review these standards in response to the COVID-19 situation, as these measure the skill level of the parental occupation and NOT the salary/ loss of income. Option 8 is only applicable to parents out of work 12 months or more. Therefore, we will likely see an increase in Option 8’s in next year’s SBD collection.
Key inputs to the measure of educational advantage, parental education and occupation correlate highly with student performance and whilst temporary changes to parents’ employment situation will undoubtedly impact on student learning, these attributes are unlikely to impact on the student’s long term aptitude. Therefore ACARA is more interested in collecting Student Background Data under normal circumstances, rather than allowing economic changes to vary the measure of educational advantage.
So, if a parent had paid work until January, but lost their job in February due to COVID-19 and are currently unemployed (so has had a job in the last 12 months / retired in the last 12 months) please use the person’s last occupation. If the person has not been in paid work in the last 12 months, enter ‘8’ for occupation.
ACARA encourages schools to update parental attributes as frequently as practical, so as to provide the best possible estimates of socio-educational advantage for purposes of school funding and tracking student performance, but acknowledges that annual updating of parental attributes puts a significant burden on schools.

Yes. All students in all grades must be included in the template to ensure that the data reflect the entire school community.  

If immediately prior to coming to Australia, a student was enrolled and active at a school in their own (or another) country and they are in Australia for a 12-month (or longer) period, then they should be included as a regular student.  

Records for such students should be included in the submission without the student and parent attributes, only the school ID, school name, calendar year, student ID and grade of enrolment. All other fields can remain unknown or missing. The modelling process will allow for missing information.  

“Jurisdiction Student ID” is the school or system student ID that uniquely identifies a student. It can be the student ID issued by the school or a system-level identifier. However it must uniquely identify a student at each school or campus (i.e. only one instance of a Student ID per ACARA_SML_ID). If you simply do not have such an identifier, a row number from 1 to the total count of students can be used. However, if you need to correct any data after the submission to ACARA has been made, it will be necessary to link this number to your database of students.  

Parental attributes are collected to assess the impact of each student’s natural parents on learning outcomes. Therefore, ACARA’s preference is to receive the background data of the deceased parent(s). If the natural parents’ data are not available, the background data of the custodial guardian(s) should be provided. In instances where this is also unavailable, please enter the not stated/unknown/missing codes for the relevant fields when completing the template.  

The parental background data are collected to assess the impact of each student’s natural parents on learning outcomes. Therefore, ACARA’s preference is to receive the background data of the deceased parent(s). If the natural parents’ data are not available, the background data of the custodial guardian(s) should be provided. In instances where this is also unavailable, please enter the not stated/unknown/missing codes for the relevant fields when completing the template.  

Government and Catholic schools provide this same information through their central offices.  

In some states/territories, year one minus two students form a separate stream that is funded by both State and Commonwealth departments as “child care” and the enrolments are not part of the school.
In these cases, year one minus two students should not be included in the student background data if they are not enrolled at the school.
However, in some schools in WA particularly, these students are state-funded and regarded as part of the school community as the age of compulsory schooling is five years and six months.
Consequently the socio-educational status of the school is better reflected by the inclusion of these students.
Therefore, year one minus two students should be included in the student background data under this particular circumstance.
For information on how to code these years in the template, please refer to the DataDictionary Tab.

When collecting student information at the time of enrolment or during their schooling, schools and school systems must comply with the Privacy legislation under which they operate. The collection of this information should be accompanied by a privacy notice advising parents of the collection, storage, use and disclosure of personal information about them and their children.
Such information should be distributed to parents along with enrolment or special data collection forms, reproduced in the school’s or school system’s privacy policy as well as any other relevant documents and, if appropriate, provided on associated websites. Most governing bodies for schools should have pre-prepared notices that can be used.


If data is not available for one parent and this is difficult to obtain, the socio-educational model uses whatever data is available to produce estimates of the count of students in each SEA quarter. However, having the most complete set of data will more accurately reflect the socio-educational background of students at the school, which is why ACARA request that every effort is made to provide complete data.