Chapter 11 Education and learning

Key statistics at a glance

Profile of schools in NSW

  • In 2010, there were 2,947 schools in NSW with 1,120,430 full-time equivalent enrolments.
    • 55.5 per cent were primary school students and 44.5 per cent were secondary school students.

School readiness

  • In 2009, just over one in five children in the first year of school were developmentally vulnerable in one or more of the five key areas of physical health and well-being, social competence, emotional maturity, language and cognitive skills, and communication skills and general knowledge.

A higher proportion of five year old children than four year old children; male children than female children; Aboriginal children than non-Aboriginal children; children who spoke a language other than English at home than children who spoke English at home (with the exception of the emotional vulnerability domain); and children living in areas of relatively high disadvantage[1] than children living in the least disadvantaged areas; were developmentally vulnerable on all five domains.

Enrolment and attendance

  • In 2010, just over 1.1 million children were enrolled in NSW educational institutions.
    • Government schools accounted for 66.2 per cent of student enrolments; 69.5 per cent of primary school enrolments and 62.1 per cent in secondary school enrolments.
    • Of Aboriginal students, 59.2% were enrolled in primary school and 40.8% in secondary school. Of non-Aboriginal students 55.3% were enrolled in primary school and 44.7% in secondary school.
    • In 2010, the average attendance[2] rate for NSW government primary school students was 93.7 per cent. For high school students, attendance dropped to 89.2 per cent in Years 7–10 and 88.9 per cent in Years 11–12.
    • There was a marked difference in the proportion of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children attending school, which increased with each school year. In Year 1 the percentage difference was five per cent increasing to a 12 per cent difference by Year 10.
    • Across the primary school years, Years 7–10 and Years 11–12 the attendance rate was below the state average in Western NSW, New England, Illawarra/South Coast and Hunter/Central Coast regions.
    • Over the period 2003–2010 the attendance rate showed little change, remaining between 91 and 92 per cent. Since 2008, the attendance rate in Years 11–12 has decreased by 0.2 per cent each year.

Enjoying school

  • In 2008, 89.1 per cent of teachers of children aged 8–9 years reported that the children enjoyed attending school and 85.3 per cent for children aged 4–5 years (those attending child care were included for this younger group).
    • Teachers reported that a smaller proportion of male children than female children enjoyed attending school.
  • In 2010, teachers of 6–7 and 10–11 year old children reported that a smaller proportion of male children than female children were eager to learn new things often and were able to pay attention often.

Stress and pressure

  • One third of the 16–17 year olds taking part in the Longitudinal Study of Australia in 2007 reported that they let study stress get on top of them.
    • A greater proportion of male students than female students felt they could deal with the pressures of schoolwork and exams.
  • In 2008, nearly 40 per cent of high school students had problems studying at home or school that affected their performance in school tests and other work.
    • A greater proportion of male students than female students and 16–17 year olds than 12–15 year olds had problems studying at home or school that affected their performance in school tests and other work.
    • Just over four in 10 children who had study problems spoke to no one about it. When children spoke with someone it was most often a family member or friend.

Time spent doing homework

  • In 2008, one in 10 high school students spent on average more than two hours a day doing homework.
    • A lower proportion of 12–15 year olds than 16–17 year olds spent on average more than two hours a day doing homework.
    • A smaller proportion of students in the Hunter and New England former Area Health Service[3] spent, on average, more than two hours a day doing homework than all NSW 12–17 year old school students.
  • Over the seven years to 2008 the proportion of students spending on average more than two hours a day doing homework fluctuated from 12.7 per cent in 2002, 9.8 per cent in 2005, and 10.8 per cent in 2008.

Disciplinary absences from government school

  • In 2010, 1.7 per cent of students in NSW government schools received a long suspension;[4] one in four of these students had been suspended more than once.
    • Four in every 100 students in Years 7–10 had received a long suspension; one in every 100 students in Years 11–12; and one in every 200 students in Kindergarten to Year 6.
    • Persistent misbehaviour, closely followed by physical violence, were the primary reasons for a long suspension across the years making up between 44.0% and 42.0% of all long suspensions respectively.
    • A greater proportion of students enrolled in the education group of Bourke, Eastern Lake Macquarie, New England West and New England South received a long suspension than other education group areas of NSW.
    • In the six years to 2010 the number of long suspensions increased by 6,181. This increase is largely accounted for by an increase in long suspensions received by students for persistent misbehaviour.

Completing Year 12

  • In 2010, an estimated 67 per cent of all students in NSW completed Year 12 or an equivalent qualification.[5]
    • A higher proportion of female students than male students; students living in metropolitan and remote areas than other areas; and students living in areas of low socioeconomic disadvantage than students living in areas of high socioeconomic disadvantage completed a Year 12 qualification.
  • Over the six years to 2010 the proportion of students in NSW completing a Year 12 qualification remained at 67%. In 2009 the completion rate fell to 65 per cent.

Apparent Retention Rates[6]

  • In 2010, 74.5 per cent of students who started Year 10 continued on to Year 12.
    • A higher proportion of female students than male students, non-Aboriginal students than Aboriginal students who started Year 10 completed Year 12.

Academic achievement

  • In 2011, most NSW students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 were at or above the national minimum standard in reading, writing, spelling, grammar and punctuation and numeracy.
  • With the exception of reading in Years 7, the proportion of students achieving at or above the national minimum standard generally declined with each school year for reading, writing, spelling, grammar and punctuation and numeracy.
  • In general a higher proportion of female students than male students; non-Aboriginal students than Aboriginal students; and students who live in metropolitan or provincial areas than remote and very remote areas achieved at or above the national minimum standard.
  • On the whole, students who speak a language other than English at home perform similarly to students living in homes where English is the main language spoken.
  • While 15 year olds in NSW ranked among the best in the world in reading, literacy, scientific literacy and mathematical literacy in 2009, performance has declined in reading and mathematics since testing began in the early part of this century.
  • In 2006–2007, Year 4 and Year 8 students ranked at or above the international average in mathematics and science.

Educational deprivation

  • In 2006, just over two in every 100 15 year olds in NSW were educationally deprived.[7] While this compares with an OECD average of 3.5 in every 100 15 year olds, it is close to five times higher than the equivalent figure for Iceland and Germany.

Study areas

  • In 2010, 70,459 HSC students were enrolled in 371,868 Board of Studies endorsed courses.
    • A substantially greater proportion of female students than male students were enrolled in at least one language, creative arts, Personal Development, Health and Physical Education (PDHPE) or Vocational Education and Training courses (VET).
    • A substantially greater proportion of male students than female students were enrolled in at least one non-VET Board endorsed course, Life Skills course or Technology course.

Post school engagement in education and learning

  • In 2011, almost half of the 18–24 year olds in NSW were engaged in post school education and learning.

Introduction

In 2010, there were 2,947 schools across NSW with 1,120,430 full-time equivalent enrolments and 2,346 part-time students (ABS, 2011). Primary school students accounted for 55.5 per cent of enrollments and secondary school students accounted for 44.5 per cent of enrollments (Table A11.1 (XLSX 311.1KB)). Each child spends on average seven hours a day five days a week attending school.

Education in Australia aims to provide children ‘with the knowledge, understanding, skills and values to take advantage of opportunity and to face the challenges of this era with confidence’ (MCEECDYA, 2008:4). The Ministerial Council for Education, Early Childhood Development and Youth Affairs (MCEECDYA) notes that ‘schools play a vital role in promoting the intellectual, physical, social, emotional, moral, spiritual and aesthetic development and well-being of young Australians, and in ensuring the nation’s ongoing economic prosperity and social cohesion’ (MCEECDYA, 2008).

The importance of education is enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (the Convention). The Convention states that all children have the right to an education (Article 28) that is directed at developing their personality, talents and mental and physical abilities; prepares them for a responsible life including respect for the natural environment; and develops their respect for human rights and for their family, cultural and other identities and languages (Article 29) (OHCHR, 1990).

The MCEECDYA has set two educational goals for young Australians. The first is that Australian schooling promotes equity and excellence, and the second is that all young Australians become successful learners, confident and creative individuals, and active and informed citizens (MCEECDYA, 2008).

This chapter describes young children’s transition to primary school; school enrolment, attendance and engagement in education; school suspension; academic achievement; educational deprivation; quality of school life; subjects studied; and pathways after leaving school. The data presented are drawn from existing collections, and established state, national or international measures are reported. Some additional information is provided to fill data gaps identified through the work of the NSW Commission for Children and Young People.

The data are made available as a resource for policy and service delivery professionals working in both government and non-government settings to enhance knowledge about children’s lives. Since the purpose of reporting these data is to inform the development of legislative, policy, program and service delivery responses and support their continuous improvement, many of the measures point to deficits or problem areas. While deficit measures miss the positive aspects of children’s lives that can be drawn out through strengths-based measures (and may potentially miss some emerging issues that may require new policy responses), such measures do assist efforts to address equity, effectiveness and efficiency concerns.

At the outset the reader should be aware that what is reported in this chapter is a subset of what is known about the education and learning of school age children or what could be known. The data paints one picture of this domain of children’s lives among many possible pictures.

Transition to primary school

It is generally agreed that the experiences of children in the first five years have a significant impact on their later lives including their transition to school learning and their development.

Supporting the optimal development of young children greatly increases their chances of a successful transition to school, of achieving better learning outcomes while at school, and of better education, employment and health after school (Centre for Community Child Health and Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, 2009).

The proportion of children entering school with basic skills for life and learning has been adopted as a national headline indicator for children’s health, development and well-being (AIHW, 2010) and a national and NSW priority. NSW 2021: A plan to make NSW number one aims to increase the proportion of NSW children who are developmentally on track in the five Australian Early Development Index domains by 2021.

The Australian Early Development Index (AEDI) is a national imitative designed to describe early childhood development at the time children start school. Implemented in 2009, it is a population measure of young children’s development in communities across Australia. The AEDI gives a snapshot of children’s development across five key areas of early childhood development: physical health and well-being, social competence, emotional maturity, language and cognitive skills (school based) and communication skills and general knowledge. It is completed by teachers during children’s first year of full-time school.

Source: www.rch.org.au/aedi/

The AEDI is the most reliable source of data on Australian children’s transition to school. As with all administrative data, caution should be exercised in interpretation. Some problems include missing data, difference in the perceptions of teachers reporting, differences in responses because of the particular time the information was collected and mistakes in data preparation. If a certain number of questions are not answered by a teacher, the relevant children do not contribute to the domain analyses. In addition the results for children with special needs are not included. The reader should keep the limitations of this collection in mind when interpreting the data. More information is in Appendix 1: Key survey sources and data report.

In 2009, the AEDI was administered to an estimated 97.5 per cent of the national five year old population. Results indicate that the majority of children in NSW were doing well on each of the five developmental domains (Figure 11.1) (Table A11. 2) (XLSX 311.1KB).

There were, however, a number of children in NSW who were identified as developmentally vulnerable[8] as they entered school. In 2009, of the approximately 82,000 children assessed, 21.3 per cent were identified as developmentally vulnerable in one or more of the AEDI domains, and 10.3 per cent as developmentally vulnerable in two or more of the AEDI domains (Table A11. 3) (XLSX 311.1KB). This is slightly lower than the national average of 23.5 per cent and 11.8 per cent (Centre for Community Child Health and Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, 2009).

Figure 11.1: Children in their first year of school by AEDI domain and category, NSW, 2009

Notes: Children are not included if they are less than three years old, if they have special needs or if the minimum number of questions required are not answered. It is possible that a child will be included in the analysis of some domains but not others. The AEDI scores range from 0 to 10 (0 is the lowest score and 10 is the highest).

Source: Centre for Community Child Health and Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, 2009 (Table A11. 2) (XLSX 311.1KB).

Characteristics of the children

When the statistical significance of age, sex, Aboriginal identity, language spoken at home, preschool or day care attendance, place of birth, socioeconomic disadvantage and geographic location are considered (Table A11.6) (XLSX 311.1KB):

  • Five year olds are 1.1 times more likely to be developmentally vulnerable compared with four year olds.
    • Five year olds are most different from four year olds in the domains of Physical Health and Well-being, Social Competence, and Communication Skills and General Knowledge.
    • Six year olds were 1.3 times more likely to be developmentally vulnerable in the domain of Social Competence and 1.4 times more likely to be developmentally vulnerable in the Language and Cognitive Skills (school based) domain compared with four year olds.
    • Seven years olds were 3.8 times more likely to be vulnerable in the Language and Cognitive Skills (school based) domain and 2.6 times more likely to be vulnerable in Communication Skills and General Knowledge domain the compared with four year olds.
  • Male children were approximately twice as likely as female children to be developmentally vulnerable.
    • Male children were most different from female children in the Emotional Maturity domain, being more than three times as likely to be developmentally vulnerable in this domain.
  • Aboriginal children were more than twice as likely as non-Aboriginal children to be developmentally vulnerable in all domains, except the Emotional Maturity domain.
    • In the Language and Cognitive Skills (school based) domain Aboriginal children were nearly three times as likely as non-Aboriginal children to be developmentally vulnerable.
  • Children who speak a language other than English at home were more likely to be vulnerable on the Social Competence, Language and Cognitive skills (school based), and Communication and General Knowledge Skills domains compared with children who do.
    • Children who speak a language other than English at home were most different from children who speak English at home in the Communication Skills and General Knowledge domain, being approximately three times as likely to be developmentally vulnerable in this domain.
  • There was no difference in the risk of being developmental vulnerable between children born in an English speaking country other than Australia and children who were born in Australia.
  • Children born in a non-English speaking country were more likely than children born in Australia to be developmentally vulnerable in the domains of Language and Cognitive Skills (school based) and Communication Skills and General Knowledge.
    • Children born in non-English speaking countries were most different from children born in Australia in the Communication Skills and General Knowledge Domain, being nearly twice as likely to be developmentally vulnerable.
  • Children who did not attend a preschool or kindergarten program in the year before they started school were more likely than children who did so to be developmentally vulnerable.
    • Children who did not attend preschool or kindergarten program in the year before school were most different from children who did so in the Language and Cognitive Skills (school based) domain, being more than twice as likely to be developmentally vulnerable.
  • Children living in the most socioeconomically disadvantaged areas were more likely to be developmentally vulnerable than children living in relatively advantaged areas. Emotional Maturity and Language and Cognitive Skills (school based) are the exception, with children in the fourth most disadvantaged groups being slightly more likely to be developmentally vulnerable.
    • Children in the most socioeconomically disadvantaged areas were most different from those children in relatively advantaged areas in the Language and Cognitive Skills (school based) domain, being more than twice as likely to be developmentally vulnerable in this domain (Table A11. 6) (XLSX 311.1KB).
  • Children living in the Richmond–Tweed, Mid-North Coast, Northern, and Far West geographic areas are more likely to be developmentally vulnerable in at least one domain than children living in Sydney area.
    • Children living in the Far West are 37 per cent more likely to be developmentally vulnerable compared with children living in the Sydney area (Table A11. 5) (XLSX 311.1KB).

Figure 11.2: Children in their first year of school assessed as developmentally vulnerable by Statistical Division, NSW, 2009

Notes: Children are not included if they are less than three years old, if they have special needs or if the minimum number of questions required are not answered. It is possible that a child will be included in the analysis of some domains but not others. The AEDI scores range from 0 to 10 (0 is the lowest score and 10 is the highest). Excludes Jervis Bay as it is classified as an off-shore territory under the ABS Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC).

Source: NSW Commission for Children and Young People calculation based on the Australian Early Development Index Unit Record File (Table A11. 5) (XLSX 311.1KB).

The National Partnership Agreement on Early Childhood Education outlines the Australian Government’s commitment that by 2013 every child will have access to a preschool program in the 12 months prior to full-time schooling. The preschool program is to be delivered by a four year university qualified early childhood teacher, in accordance with a national early years learning framework, for 15 hours a week, 40 weeks a year.

The Agreement states it will be accessible across a diversity of settings, in a form that meets the needs of parents and in a manner that ensures cost does not present a barrier to access.

Source: www.deewr.gov.au/Earlychildhood/Policy_Agenda/ECUA/Pages/EarlyChildhoodEducationNationalPartnership.aspx

School enrolment and attendance

The ABS National Schools Statistics Collection (NSSC), a census of all schools, provides the most reliable and up to date data on school enrolment in Australia (AIHW, 2010). The NSW Department of Education and CommunitiesReturn of Absences Collection provides the most up to date information on school attendance for NSW children as part of the ongoing monitoring of education in NSW. Demographic characteristics of ongoing interest include Aboriginal children and children with a disability. For both enrolments and attendance the NSSC and Return of Absences Collection collect information on Aboriginal identity but not on children with a disability.

As with all administrative data, caution should be exercised in interpretation. Typical problems include missing data, difference in respondents’ interpretations of the meaning of questions, differences in the responses because of the particular time the information was collected or recorded and mistakes in data preparation. In addition, while the NSSC is comprehensive it does not include children in school level education who attend Technical and Further Education (TAFE) establishments. The reader should keep the limitations of this collection in mind when interpreting the data. Further information specific to this collection can be found in Appendix 1: Key survey sources and data report.

School enrolments

In 2010 there were 1,120,430 full-time equivalent students[9] in NSW (Table A11. 7) (XLSX 311.1KB).

Overall, 55.5 per cent of enrolments were primary school students and 44.5 per cent were secondary school students.

  • 59.2 per cent of Aboriginal students were in primary school and 40.8 per cent were in secondary school. Of non-Aboriginal students 55.5 per cent were in primary school and 45.5 per cent in secondary school.

The number of children enrolled remains fairly constant until Year 10 where there is a drop off in enrolments (Figure 11.3) (Table A11. 7) (XLSX 311.1KB). This probably reflects the NSW requirement at the time of data collection that children attend school until 15 years of age and the awarding of the School Certificate at the end of Year 10.[10]

Figure 11.3: Full-time student enrolments as a proportion of all school enrolments from Kindergarten to Year 12, by school year, NSW, 2010

Note: Totals may not add up to 100 due to rounding.

Source: National Schools Statistics Collection (NSSC), ABS Schools, Australia, 2010, Cat. No. 4221.0 (Table A11. 7) (XLSX 311.1KB).

In 2010, two-thirds (66.2%) of full-time equivalent enrolments in NSW were in government schools. A higher proportion of primary school enrolments compared with secondary school enrolments were in government schools (69.5% and 62.1%) (Table A11. 8) (XLSX 311.1KB).

School attendance

It is difficult for schools to support children to become successful learners, confident and creative individuals, and active and informed citizens if children do not attend school regularly. Non-attendance impacts not only on children’s academic performance but also on their opportunities to develop socially and emotionally – key objectives of education in Australia. Prolonged non-attendance can have serious consequences including low levels of literacy and numeracy and the risk of dropping out of education completely.

The school attendance rate of primary school children is a national headline indicator for children’s health, development and well-being (AIHW, 2006). Attendance data are not strictly comparable between Australian jurisdictions and school sectors because not all jurisdictions and sectors can currently report over the designated reporting period or calculate the attendance rate using the agreed national definition. As a result attendance is reported for the government school sector only.

In 2010, the average attendance rate for NSW government schools was 91.8 per cent. For primary schools the rate was 93.7 per cent. Attendance rates drop noticeably in the first years of high school, from 91.7 per cent in Year 7 to 87.5 per cent in Year 10 (Table A11. 9) (XLSX 311.1KB).

The gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children’s attendance widened with school year, from 4.8 per cent in Year 1 to 12.3 per cent in Year 10 (Figure 11.4) (Table A11. 10) (XLSX 311.1KB).

Figure 11.4: Student attendance in NSW government schools Years 1 to 10 by Aboriginal identity and school year, NSW, 2010

Notes: Attendance rates are based on actual term enrolments. Secondary support students have been included in the junior secondary (Years 7–10) attendance rate calculations and primary support students have been included in primary attendance rate calculations. Year 12 absences and enrolments during Term 4 have been excluded from calculations of secondary and senior secondary attendance rates. The student attendance rate means the ratio of the number of enrolled students actually in attendance against the number of enrolled students.

Source: NSW Department of Education and Communities Statistical Compendium 2011 (Table A11. 10) (XLSX 311.1KB).

There was some variation in attendance by the former Department of Education and Training[11] regions. The attendance rate in the Western NSW, New England, North Coast, Riverina, Illawarra/South Coast and Hunter/Central Coast regions were below the state average (Figure 11.5)(Table A11.11). Across the primary school years, Years 7–10 and Years 11–12 the attendance rate was below the state average in the Western NSW, New England, Illawarra/South Coast and Hunter/Central Coast regions (Figure 11.5) (Table A11. 11) (XLSX 311.1KB).

Figure 11.5: Student attendance in NSW government schools by former Department of Education and Training school region, NSW, 2010

Notes: Attendance rates are based on actual term enrolments. Secondary support students have been included in the junior secondary (Years 7–10) attendance rate calculations and primary support students have been included in primary attendance rate calculations. Year 12 absences and enrolments during Term 4 have been excluded from calculations of secondary and senior secondary attendance rates. The student attendance rate means the ratio of the number of enrolled students actually in attendance against the number of enrolled students.

Source: NSW Department of Education and Communities Statistical Compendium 2011 (Table A11. 11) (XLSX 311.1KB).

Over the period 2003–2010 the attendance rate has shown little change, remaining between 91 and 92 per cent (Table A11. 9) (XLSX 311.1KB). This pattern is similar for the primary school years and Years 7–10. Between 2008 and 2010, the attendance rate in Years 11–12 has decreased by 0.2 per cent each year.

Quality of school life

There is a growing and compelling body of research that shows that the quality of the learning environment has a significant impact on educational and other outcomes. For example, a consistently positive school climate promotes students’ academic achievement, resilience, healthy development and relationships (Lee & Breen, 2007; OECD, 2009a). It is therefore important that all children have accessible and positive experiences of school to maximise participation and performance.

The quality of a student’s school life has been identified internationally as a key indicator of child well-being (OECD, 2009a; Currie et al., 2008).

Reflecting OECD reporting in this area, two indicators of quality of school life are reported here: liking school and feeling pressured by schoolwork. Data on disciplinary absences from school is also presented.

Four sources of data are used to report on quality of school life: the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC); the Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth (LSAY); the NSW School Students Health Behaviours (SSHB) survey; and the NSW Department of Education and Communities (DEC) long student suspensions collection.

The LSAC is a longitudinal study collecting a range of information about children and their families including education and schooling. The LSAY is an annual survey program of young people beginning from their middle years of secondary schooling providing a range of information including the pressures experienced at school. The SSHB survey provides data about the health behaviours and attitudes of students in Years 7–12 in NSW, including study problems. The DEC collection is a population-based surveillance system providing information on long student suspensions received by students across the school years in NSW government schools.

Demographic characteristics of ongoing interest include Aboriginal children and children with a disability. Neither the LSAC, the LSAY, the DEC collection nor the SSHB report on either characteristic. While the SSHB collects information on Aboriginal children the small sample size limits regular reporting of Aboriginal children separately from non-Aboriginal children. The DEC collection does allow for information on Aboriginal identity to be recorded however this does not allow Aboriginal children to be reported separately from non-Aboriginal children.

The reader should note that any study using a survey approach is subject to error. The limitations of LSAC, LSAY and SSHB include non-sampling and sampling errors. An additional limitation of the LSAC data is that information is reported by parents or teachers and not the child concerned. Problems with population-based surveillance systems such as the DEC collection are likely to include missing data, differences in respondents’ interpretations of policy and guidelines, differences in the responses because of the particular time the information was collected or recorded, and mistakes in data preparation. It is important for the reader to keep these limitations in mind when interpreting the data. More information is in Appendix 1: Key survey sources and data report.

Liking school

The emotional aspect of life quality in the school setting can be gleaned through school satisfaction (see Currie et al., 2008:41). Research suggests that students who do not like school are most likely to be the children who are failing academically and at greatest risk of leaving school, and engaged in risky health behaviours (Diaz, 2003).

Results from LSAC

In 2008, parents or carers of LSAC children aged 4–5 years and teachers of children aged 8–9 years were asked how often they enjoyed school. In 2010 teachers of LSAC children 6–7 years and 10–11 years were asked: "How often did child demonstrate the following behaviour in the past month or two?" ...."Shows eagerness to learn new things", "Pays attention well".

In 2008, a greater proportion of teachers of children aged 8–9 years (89.1%) compared with parents or carers of children aged 4–5 years (85.3%) reported that the children enjoyed attending school, or preschool or child care for the younger group (Table A11. 12) (XLSX 311.1KB).

A smaller proportion of parents or teachers of male children reported that these children enjoyed attending school or preschool or child care (82.6% for the 4–5 year old group and 86.9% for the 8–9 years old group) compared with parents or teachers of female children (88.2%; 91.5%) (Figure 11.6) (Table A11. 12) (XLSX 311.1KB).

Figure 11.6: Children aged 4–5 and 8–9 years who almost always enjoy attending school or preschool or child care by sex, NSW, 2008

Notes: Estimates based on a sample of 1,011 children. Parents, carers or teachers were asked, ‘How often does the child appear to look forward to going to school?’

Source: Social Policy Research Centre, UNSW calculations based on LSAC 2008, Wave 3 data (Table A11. 12) (XLSX 311.1KB).

In 2010, 55.9 per cent of teachers of 6–7 year old children reported that the child was eager to learn new things very often at school and 42.8 per cent stated the child was able to pay attention well very often. A greater proportion of teachers of female children reported this compared with teachers of male children (50.2% and 61.8%; 30.6% and 42.8% respectively) (Table A11. 13) (XLSX 311.1KB).

Among teachers of 10–11 year old children, 49.8 per cent stated that the child was eager to learn new things very often and 45.8 per cent said the child was able to pay attention very often. Teachers of girls were more likely to state this than teachers of boys (40.3% and 59.7%; and 29.9% and 62.3% respectively) (Table A11. 13) (XLSX 311.1KB).

School pressures and study problems

Feeling under pressure or stressed by schoolwork can impact on children’s experience of school and their enjoyment of it. As with stress in other domains of a child’s life, high levels of school stress are associated with a range of poor health and well-being outcomes (Currie et al., 2008), and at the extreme can lead to suicide (CDRT, 2010).

Results from LSAY

In the 2007 LSAY telephone survey, school students aged 16–17 years were asked: ‘People cope differently with the pressure of schoolwork and exams. Please tell me whether you strongly agree, agree, disagree or strongly disagree with the following statements about coping at school: I believe I’m mentally tough when it comes to exams; I don’t let study stress get on top of me; I’m good at bouncing back from a poor mark in my school; I think I’m good at dealing with schoolwork pressures; I don’t let a bad mark affect my confidence; and I’m good at dealing with setbacks at school.’

For NSW in 2007, over three-quarters of children aged 16–17 years were able to deal with the pressures of schoolwork and exams (Table A11. 14) (XLSX 311.1KB). Study stress was an exception, with one third (33.7%) of the children ‘let[ting] study stress get on top of them’.

There were substantial differences between males and females. A greater proportion of male students than female students felt they could deal with the pressures of schoolwork and exams. For example 76.1 per cent of males don’t let study stress get on top of them compared with 56.9 per cent of females (Figure 11.7) (Table A11. 15) (XLSX 311.1KB).

Just over 80 per cent (81.6%) of males agree that they don’t let a bad mark affect their confidence compared with 69.0 per cent of females (Table A11. 15) (XLSX 311.1KB). This reflects the general finding that males report lower levels of distress compared with females. This issue is discussed in detail in Chapter 6: Mental health.

Figure 11.7: Children aged 16–17 years who strongly agree or agree that they can cope with the pressures of schoolwork and exams, NSW, 2007

Notes: Estimates are based on a sample size of 2,537 children. Children who were at school during 2007 were asked: ‘People cope differently with the pressures of schoolwork and exams. Please tell me whether you strongly agree, agree, disagree or strongly disagree with the following statements about coping at school.’ Students who said they agreed or strongly agreed are included in this count.

Source: Social Policy Research Centre, UNSW calculations based on LSAY 2006 Cohort, Wave 2 data (Table A11. 14 and Table A11. 15) (XLSX 311.1KB).

Results from the SSHB Survey

Study problems can increase the pressure of schoolwork and exams. In 2008, the SSHB survey asked students aged 12–17 years in high school: ‘During the last six months, was there a time when you had problems studying at home or school that affected your performance in school tests and other work?’

Nearly 60 per cent (59.3%) of students had no problems studying at home or school that affected their performance in school tests and other work in the previous six months. Twenty per cent had experienced ‘about usual’ levels of study problems, 9.7 per cent ‘worse than usual’ levels, 8.4 per cent ‘quite bad’ levels, and 2.9 per cent experienced levels that were ‘almost more than I could take’ (Table A11. 16) (XLSX 311.1KB).

  • A greater proportion of older students (16–17 year olds) than younger students reported levels that were ‘quite bad’ or ‘almost more than I could take’ (11.5% and 4.5% compared with 7.2% and 2.3%).
  • A smaller proportion of female students compared with male students reported experiencing no problems studying at home or school that affected their school tests and other work performance (55.5% and 62.9%). Indeed, a greater proportion of females compared with males reported experiencing problems that were ‘quite bad’ or ‘almost more than I could take’ (12.3% and 10.4%) (Table A11. 16) (XLSX 311.1KB).

The greatest proportion of children who had experienced study problems spoke with no one about their problems (43.1%). When children spoke to someone it was most often to family (38.6%) or friends (29.0%)), followed by a teacher or school counsellor (10.9%). This is consistent with the findings that other than family and friends, teachers are some of the most important people in the lives of children (CCYP & Social Justice and Social Change Research Centre, 2007; CCYP, 2002) (Figure 11.8) (Table A11. 17) (XLSX 311.1KB).

Figure 11.8: Students aged 12–17 years who had experienced study problems that affected their school performance and other work by the person spoken to about these problems, NSW, 2008

Notes: Estimates are based on 3,105 respondents. Students were asked: During the previous six months was there a time when you had problems studying at home or school that affected your performance in school tests and other work? When you were having those study problems who did you talk to? No one, family, friends, teachers or school counsellors, doctors or other health professionals, religious advisers or groups, helpline or internet or other person or group? Respondents could mention more than 1 response. Response options with less than one per cent are excluded from this figure. These options are Religious advisers or groups, Helpline or internet, Counsellor, psychiatrist or therapist, Other person or group, and Other.

Source: NSW School Students Health Behaviours Survey 2008 (HOIST). Centre for Epidemiology and Research, NSW Department of Health (Table A11. 17) (XLSX 311.1KB).

Time spent doing homework

In 2008, the SSHB survey asked students aged 12–17 years in high school: ’On an average school day, about how many hours a day do you do the following when you are not at school?’ ‘Homework’ was one of the activities listed.

An estimated 10.8 per cent of students aged 12–17 years spent on average more than two hours a day doing homework. The greatest proportion of students who spent on average one hour or less per day (54.0%) (Figure 11.9) (Table A11. 18) (XLSX 311.1KB).

Figure 11.9: Students aged 12–17 years by the average number of hours spent doing homework, NSW, 2008

Notes: Students aged 12–17 years were asked: ‘On an average school day, about how many hours a day do you do the following when you are not at school?’ ‘Homework’ was one of the activities listed.

Source: New South Wales School Students Health Behaviours Survey 2008 (HOIST). Centre for Epidemiology and Research, NSW Department of Health (Customised table) (Table A11. 18) (XLSX 311.1KB).

When the significance of age, sex, location and socioeconomic disadvantage of students are considered:

  • A smaller proportion of 12–15 year old students spent on average more than two hours a day doing homework compared with 16–17 year old students (7.5% and 11.9%).
  • There was no significant difference by sex.
  • A smaller proportion of students in the former Hunter and New England (5.8%) Area Health Services[12] spent on average more than two hours a day doing homework compared with the NSW average (10.8%).
  • The smallest proportion of students spending on average more than two hours a day doing homework lived in the fourth most socioeconomically disadvantaged areas[13] (Table A11. 19) (XLSX 311.1KB).

The proportion of students spending on average more than two hours a day doing homework has fluctuated over the years. In 2002, the proportion was 12.7 per cent, in 2005 9.8 per cent, and in 2008, 10.8 per cent (Table A11. 20) (XLSX 311.1KB).

Disciplinary absences from school

Absences imposed on NSW students as a consequence of their behaviour are known as suspensions. There are two types of suspensions in NSW public schools – short and long. A short suspension is for a period of one to four school days and a long suspension is for a period up to and including 20 school days.

Long suspensions are imposed for behaviour that is considered to be serious or sustained including physical violence which results in pain or injury or which seriously interferes with the safety and well-being of other students and staff; use or possession of a prohibited weapon, firearm or knife; possession or use of a suspected illegal substance (not including alcohol or tobacco); use of an implement as a weapon or threatening to use a weapon; serious criminal behaviour related to the school; or persistent misbehaviour. Persistent misbehaviour includes repeated refusal to follow the school discipline code; making serious threats against students or staff; behaviour that deliberately and persistently interferes with the rights of other students to learn or teachers to teach (DET, 2007).

In its Suspension and Expulsion of School Students – Procedures (2011), DEC notes that a suspension is not intended as a punishment but is ‘one strategy for managing inappropriate behaviour within a school’s student welfare and discipline policies’ (DEC, 2011:2.)

Suspension can have serious unintended negative consequences for the suspended student, including disengagement from school, alienation, dropping out of school and intensifying academic difficulties (Hemphill et al., 2010).

In 2010, 1.7 per cent (12,273) of students enrolled in NSW government schools received a long suspension; a quarter (28.5%) of these students had been suspended more than once (DEC, 2011). The proportion of students enrolled in government schools who received a long suspension varied across school years. In 2010, 4.1 per cent of students in Years 7–10 had received a long suspension compared with 1.3 per cent in Years 11–12 and 0.5 per cent in years Kindergarten to Year 6 (Table A11. 21) (XLSX 311.1KB).

Persistent misbehaviour closely followed by physical violence were the primary reasons for a long suspension (44.0% and 42.0%) (Table A11. 22) (XLSX 311.1KB).

There was variation in the proportion of students receiving a long suspension by location. In 2010 more than two per cent of students enrolled received a long suspension in the school regions of New England (2.9%), Western NSW (2.8%), North Coast (2.4%), and Hunter Central Coast (2.4%) (Figure 11.10) (Table A11. 23) (XLSX 311.1KB).

Figure 11.10: Student suspensions as a proportion of students enrolled from Kindergarten to Year 12 by former Department of Education and Training regions and Year, NSW, 2010

Notes: A student may be suspended on more than one occasion in any given year. Per cent is of student enrolments.

Source: NSW Department of Education and Training, Long suspensions and expulsions summary 2010 (Table A11. 23) (XLSX 311.1KB).

Each school region is made up of a number of School Education Groups. Within School Education Groups, more than four per cent of students enrolled in the Bourke (5.2%), Eastern Lake Macquarie (4.9%), New England West (4.2%) and New England South (4.0%) School Education Groups received a long suspension (Table A11. 24) (XLSX 311.1KB).

The number of long suspensions has increased each year over the period 2005–2010 (11,216 to 17,397), although the rate of increase slowed between 2008 and 2009. The increase in suspensions across the years is largely accounted for by the increase in suspensions received by students for persistent misbehaviour. There has been a corresponding decrease in long suspensions for physical violence and possession or use of a suspected illegal substance (Table A11. 22) (XLSX 311.1KB).

Engagement in school

Two indicators of school engagement are reported here: Year 12 attainment and apparent retention rates (ARRs).[14] The ARR from Years 7–8 to Year 12 is a key national indicator for the health and well-being of young Australians (AIHW, 2010).

As part of a COAG agreement the NSW government committed to ensuring that all school students acquire the knowledge and skills needed to participate effectively in society and employment in a globalised economy (COAG, 2009). To achieve this, the National Education Agreement sets a target to lift the Year 12 or equivalent attainment rate to 90 per cent by 2020. This is reflected in NSW 2021: A plan to make NSW number one, which sets a target of 90 per cent of 20–24 year olds achieving Year 12 or Certificate II attainment by 2015 and Year 12 or Certificate III by 2020.

The NSW Parliament passed legislation in May 2009 to increase the school leaving age from 15 years of age to 17 years of age. This law became operational from 1 January 2010.

Two sources of data are used to report school engagement: Report on Government Services produced by the Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision (SCRGSP), and the National Schools Statistics Collection (NSSC). Both collections are population-based surveillance systems.

The SCRGSP provides the most up to date information on high school completion rates in NSW, and the NSSC is the best source of information on apparent retention rates (ARRs) for all students in NSW. Demographic characteristics of ongoing interest include Aboriginal children and children with a disability. The SCRGSP does not report on Aboriginal identity or children with a disability for Year 12 completion. The NSSC collects information on the ARRs for Aboriginal identity but not for children with a disability, and reports on Aboriginal children separately to non-Aboriginal children.

As with all administrative data, caution should be exercised in interpretation. In particular the method of calculation for ARRs does not take into account a range of factors including students enrolled in Year 12 on a part-time basis or repeating a year; movements of students between states and between school sectors; the impact of full fee paying overseas students; varying enrolment patterns in which students choose to undertake their Higher School Certificate at TAFE. These limitations become increasingly important with the increase in alternative education pathways and part-time schooling options. More information is in Appendix 1: Key survey sources and data report.

Year 12 attainment

Successful completion of secondary schooling (Year 12 in NSW) is associated with positive outcomes including opportunities for future study, employment opportunities, and increased health and well-being (DEECD, 2009; Muir et al., 2009).

NSW 2021: A plan to make NSW number one sets targets to improve Year 12 completion rates for students in low Index of Community Socio-educational Advantage (ICSEA) schools; halve the gap in Year 12 or equivalent attainment for Aboriginal 20–24 year olds by 2020; for 90 per cent of 20–24 year olds in rural and regional NSW to have attained a Year 12 or AQF Certificate III qualification or above by 2020; and 60 per cent of all school students with a confirmed disability to have a confirmed learning and support plan by 2020.

In 2010, the SCRGSP reports an estimated 67 per cent of all students in NSW completed a Year 12 qualification (Table A11. 25) (XLSX 311.1KB).[15] Estimated completion rates vary substantially by sex and socioeconomic disadvantage. Higher proportions were seen for:

  • Female students compared with male students (72% and 63%).
  • Students living in areas of low disadvantage compared with students living in areas of high disadvantage (78% and 63%) (Figure 11.11) (Table A11. 25) (XLSX 311.1KB).

Figure 11.11: Students completing a Year 12 certificate by sex, remoteness* and socioeconomic disadvantage**, NSW, 2010

Notes: NSW completion rates are estimated by calculating the number of students who meet the requirements of a Year 12 certificate expressed as a percentage of the potential Year 12 population. The potential Year 12 population is an estimate of a single year age group which could have attended Year 12 that year, calculated as the estimated resident population aged 15–19 years divided by five. Students who complete an Australian Qualification Framework (AQF) Certificate III qualification or above are not included. *The locality definitions are based on the MCEECDYA geographic location classification. In the Metropolitan Zone are Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong and included in the provincial zone are Ballarat, Bathurst–Orange, Coffs Harbour, Dubbo and Port Macquarie. **Areas can be ranked and then grouped according to their socioeconomic disadvantage. Three groups are used here, with the first group being the least disadvantaged areas and the third group being the most disadvantaged areas.

Source: SCRGSP (Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision), Report on Government Services 2012. (Table A11. 25) (XLSX 311.1KB).

Over the period 2005 to 2010 the proportion of students in NSW completing Year 12 or an equivalent qualification remained at 67 per cent except in 2009 when the completion rate fell to 65 per cent (Table A11. 25) (XLSX 311.1KB).

Apparent Retention Rates

In 2010, the NSSC reports that approximately 74.5 per cent of school students in NSW who started Year 10 continued on to Year 12 (Table A11. 26) (XLSX 311.1KB).

Apparent retention rates (ARRs) for Year 10–Year 12 varied substantially by sex and Aboriginal identity. Higher proportions were evident for:

  • Female students compared with male students (79.1% and 70.1%).
  • Non-Aboriginal students compared with Aboriginal students (75.5% and 45.3%) (Figure 11.12) (Table A11. 27) (XLSX 311.1KB).

Figure 11.12: Year 10–Year 12 student retention by sex and Aboriginal identity, NSW, 2010

Notes: The apparent retention rate is the number of school students in a designated year of education expressed as a percentage of their respective cohort group in a base year (Year 7 or Year 10). The descriptor ‘apparent’ is used to emphasise the indirect nature of the continuation and progression measures, and the inability to restrict their calculation exclusively to the chosen reference cohort. Care should be exercised in the interpretation of apparent retention rates as the method of calculation does not take into account a range of factors, including students repeating a year of education, migration and other net changes to the school population, inter-sector transfer and interstate movements of students.

Source: National Schools Statistics Collection (NSSC), ABS Schools, Australia, 2010, Cat. No. 4221.0 (Table A11. 26) (XLSX 311.1KB).

The ARR for Year 10–Year 12 has fluctuated over the period 1993 to 2010, increasing by 1.1 per cent from 1993 to 2010 (Table A11. 26) (XLSX 311.1KB).

Academic achievement

Reading, writing and numeracy are considered key life skills. They are vital for pursuing further educational opportunities and employment prospects (AIHW, 2007, Muir et al., 2009) and are essential in day to day life. Low educational achievement is thought to have a long-term impact on earning capacity, mental and physical health, risk of homelessness, drug and alcohol abuse and crime (Black, 2006; Dusseldorp Skills Forum and Reconciliation Australia, 2009).

Children’s performance in reading, writing and numeracy can be affected by a number of factors including parents’ own educational attainment, attitudes towards reading and mathematics in the home and time spent reading with the child (AIHW, 2007; OECD, 2004; Zammit et al., 2002).

The National Partnership Agreement on Literacy and Numeracy seeks to support children to meet basic literacy and numeracy standards, for overall levels of literacy and numeracy achievement to improve, and for Australian students to excel by international standards (COAG, 2009). National minimum standards have been developed to assess students’ performance in the domains of reading, writing, language conventions (spelling, grammar and punctuation) and numeracy.

Since 2008 there has been a national testing program in Australia in literacy and numeracy for all students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9. This program is known as the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN). NAPLAN is a diagnostic tool that assists teachers in meeting the specific learning needs of students and consists of a test in each of the domains: reading, writing, language conventions (spelling, grammar and punctuation) and numeracy. Students achieving the national minimum standard have typically demonstrated the basic elements of reading, language conventions, writing and numeracy for that year level. Students who do not achieve the national minimum standard require intervention and support to help them achieve the skills they need to progress satisfactorily through their schooling (ACARA, 2010).

Five areas of educational achievement are reported here: reading, writing, numeracy, spelling and punctuation and grammar. Also reported are international achievement in mathematics and science, and international mathematical, reading and scientific literacy.

The proportion of young people achieving at or above the national minimum standards for literacy and numeracy is a key national indicator for the health and well-being of young Australians (AIHW, 2010). The proportion of primary school children who achieve the literacy and numeracy benchmark is a national headline indicator for children’s health, development and well-being (AIHW, 2006).

NSW 2021: A plan to make NSW number one sets a target to increase the proportion of NSW students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 at and above the national minimum standard for reading and numeracy, to increase the proportion of NSW students in the top two performance bands for reading and numeracy, and to halve the gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students in reading and numeracy by 2018. NSW 2021 also sets a target to increase the participation of NSW students in NAPLAN tests that consistently exceeds the national average for participation.

 

The NAPLAN collection is the key source of information on reading, writing, language conventions (spelling, grammar and punctuation) and numeracy achievement. The Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) are used to provide internationally comparative data. The TIMSS provides data on mathematics and science achievement of students in Year 4 and Year 8 and PISA provides data on reading, mathematics and science achievement for 15 year old students.

Demographic characteristics of ongoing interest include Aboriginal children and children with a disability. NAPLAN collects and reports on Aboriginal identity, but as students with significant intellectual disabilities may be exempted from testing, information on disability is not reported. TIMSS and PISA do not collect information on Aboriginal identity or on students with a disability.

NAPLAN is a full cohort assessment covering all children in the Years 3, 5, 7 and 9. The collection is subject to measurement error. Sources of potential error in the testing and measurement process include error associated with locating the cut-points on the measurement scale which define the achievement bands and standards, measurement error, sampling error and error associated with equating the level of difficulty and scope of the current year’s NAPLAN test to NAPLAN tests administered to students in previous calendar years. NAPLAN is subject to error including item non-response, transcription errors, coding errors, clerical and editing errors, and data conversion errors. Further, PISA and TIMSS like any surveys are subject to error including non-sampling and sampling errors (for additional information on TIMSS see Olson et al., 2008). The reader should keep the limitations of these three collections in mind when interpreting the data. More information is in Appendix 1: Key survey sources and data report.

National achievement

In 2011, NAPLAN reports that on average most students’ literacy and numeracy levels in NSW were at or above the national minimum standard. The proportion of students achieving at or above the national minimum standard generally declined with each school year for all domains. This decline was particularly evident for writing where 96.5 per cent of Year 3 students were at or above the national minimum standard for their year group, compared with 84.9 per cent of Year 9 students (Figure 11.13) (Table A11. 28, Table A11. 29, Table A11. 30 and Table A11. 31) (XLSX 311.1KB).

Figure 11.13: Students at or above the national minimum standard by attainment area and school year, NSW, 2011

Notes: Students achieving the national minimum standard have typically demonstrated the basic elements of the domain being assessed for that year level. The domains assessed are reading, writing, numeracy, spelling and punctuation and grammar.

Source: Source: MCEECDYA, National Assessment Program, 2011 (Table A11. 28, Table A11. 29, Table A11. 30 and Table A11. 31) (XLSX 311.1KB).

Achieving at or above the national minimum standard varied substantially by sex and Aboriginal identity. In 2011, a higher proportion of the following groups achieved at or above the national minimum:

  • Female students compared with male students on all domains across all year groups, with the exception of Year 9 numeracy. This supports general trends in Australia that suggest females are likely to perform better in reading and writing than males, with fewer gender differences for numeracy (Muir et al., 2009).
  • Non-Aboriginal students compared with Aboriginal students regardless of school year group.
  • Students who live in metropolitan or provincial areas compared with remote and very remote areas across all school year groups. The greatest difference between metropolitan and remote areas was for Year 9 students in the writing domain.
  • The gap between students in very remote areas and metropolitan areas increased with school year. For example, at Year 3 there was a less than a 20 percentage point difference between students’ reading ability in metropolitan and very remote areas. This difference had increased to over 28 percentage points by Year 9.
  • Overall, students from a non-English speaking background performed similarly to students from an English speaking background.
    • By Year 9, students from non-English speaking backgrounds did better than average in writing, spelling and numeracy, but not as well in reading, and grammar and punctuation.
    • The differences between students from a non-English speaking background and students from an English speaking background were generally smaller in NSW than other states and territories (MCEECDYA, 2009) (Table A11. 28, Table A11. 29, Table A11. 30 and Table A11. 31) (XLSX 311.1KB)

Between 2008, the first year of NAPLAN testing, and 2012, the proportion of students at or above the national minimum standard remained relatively stable for most school year levels and domains. However, there was a statistically significant increase in performance for:

International achievement

In the 2009 PISA assessment, 15 year olds in NSW ranked among the best in the world in literacy and exceeded both the national average and the OECD average for reading and scientific literacy. NSW was only just above the OECD average for mathematical literacy and slightly below the average for Australia (Table A11. 32) (XLSX 311.1KB).

Despite this high achievement, NSW performance has declined since testing began in the early years of this century. Between the 2000 and 2009 surveys, there was a statistically significant decline of 23 score points in reading. Performance in mathematics declined by 14 score points between 2003 and 2009, a result which was also statistically significant (Thomson et al., 2010).

In the TIMSS 2006–07 assessment of Year 4 and Year 8, students in NSW ranked at or above the international and national average in mathematics and science (Table A11. 33) (XLSX 311.1KB).

The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) has been established by all Australian governments to develop a rigorous and world-class Australian Curriculum from Kindergarten to Year 12, beginning with the learning areas of English, mathematics, science and history. ACARA is also responsible for the management of assessment and reporting at a national level.
Source: http://www.acara.edu.au

Educational deprivation and disadvantage

Children need access to a range of educational items to support them in their schoolwork. An investigation of school performance in Australian states and territories using data from PISA 2000 and PISA 2003 found that after controlling for the effect of gender, age, school year, state/territory and socioeconomic status, home educational resources predicts a student’s academic achievement. The fewer educational resources available the less well a student will perform across the three areas measured in PISA (reading, science and mathematics) (Rowe, 2006).

The PISA collection provides the best source of information on the educational deprivation of children in NSW. Demographic characteristics of ongoing interest include Aboriginal children and children with a disability. PISA does not collect information these characteristics.

The PISA surveys 15 year olds about reading, mathematics and science and as with any survey it is subject to error include non-sampling and sampling errors. The reader should keep the limitations in mind when interpreting the data. More information is in Appendix 1: Key survey sources and data report.

The PISA survey asked 15 year old children directly about the availability of the following items in their homes: a desk to study, a quiet place to work, a computer for schoolwork, educational software, an internet connection, a calculator, a dictionary, and school text books. Children are considered educationally deprived if they have fewer than four of these eight items.

In 2006, PISA reports that just over two in every 100 students aged 15 years in NSW were educationally deprived (OECD, 2009b). While this compares with an OECD average of 3.5 in every 100 15 year olds it is close to five times higher than the figures for Iceland and Germany.

Aboriginal students continue to be the most educationally disadvantaged student group, with consistently lower levels of academic achievement and engagement. The Aboriginal Education Review Report (2004) concluded that ‘at the broadest level, the poor outcomes that continue to disadvantage Aboriginal students in Australian schools have been too narrowly defined without sufficient regard for the broader social justice contexts within which these issues need to be viewed. Social, cultural, environmental, economic and health factors were identified as contributing to Aboriginal students’ alienation and poor achievement. There is a strong emphasis in current policy on these issues. The national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Education Action Plan 2010–2014 which is being implemented across all schools in all states and territories including NSW, sets a strong agenda to accelerate change for Aboriginal children and young people. It targets the following areas as priority domains with targets in each: readiness for school, engagement and connections, attendance, literacy and numeracy, leadership, quality teaching and workforce development, and pathways to real post-school options. (AECG & DET 2004; MCEECDYA, 2008).

Source: The Report of the Review of Aboriginal Education Yanigurra Muya: Ganggurrinyma Yaarri Guurulaw Yirringin.gurray (https://www.det.nsw.edu.au/media/downloads/reviews/aboriginaledu/report/aer2003_04.pdf)

Source: Freeing the Spirit: Dreaming an Equal Future and the Aboriginal and the Torres Strait Islander Education Action Plan 2010–2014 (http://www.mceecdya.edu.au/verve/_resources/A10-0945_IEAP_web_version_final2.pdf)

Study areas

Ministerial Council for Education, Early Childhood Development and Youth Affairs (MCEECDYA) under the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians (MCEECDYA, 2008) is promoting world-class curriculum and assessment. The learning areas include English, mathematics, sciences (including physics, chemistry, biology), humanities and social sciences (including history, geography, economics, business, civics and citizenship), the arts (performing and visual), languages (especially Asian languages), health and physical education, information and communication technology, and design and technology.

In NSW, in addition to English, mathematics and science, society and its environment (HSIE) and personal development, health and physical education (PDHPE) are compulsory study areas in Years 7–10. At some time during Years 7–10, students are also required to study courses in creative arts, technology and applied studies and languages (BOS, 2004).

The NSW Board of Studies (BOS) reports the subjects studied by students who attempted the Higher School Certificate (HSC). This collection is the best source of data on study areas available at this time. As with all administrative data caution should be exercised in interpretation. Likely problems include missing data and mistakes in data preparation. It is important to note that the subjects students attempt reflect a range of factors including the subjects offered for study at the school attended, the subjects offered by learning institutions within travelling distance, and options for distance learning. The subjects attempted may not always reflect a student’s learning interests. More information is in Appendix 1: Key survey sources and data report.

In 2010, more than 100 subjects were offered to students for HSC study. For ease of reporting, these subjects are grouped into these categories: English; mathematics; science; human society and its environment (HSIE); personal development, health and physical education (PDHPE); creative arts; technology; languages; vocational education and training (VET) courses, including Board developed VET courses; Board endorsed VET courses; non-VET Board endorsed courses; and life skills courses.

In 2010, 70,459 HSC students were enrolled in 371,868 Board endorsed courses (Table A11. 34 and Table A11. 35) (XLSX 311.1KB).

The subject areas of study differed by the sex of students:

  • A substantially greater proportion of female students were enrolled in at least one language, creative arts PDHPE or VET endorsed course compared with male students.
  • A substantially greater proportion of male students were enrolled in at least one non-VET Board endorsed course, Life skills course or Technology course compared with female students (Figure 11.14) (Table A11. 34) (XLSX 311.1KB).

These findings support Australian research that indicates that there were differences in the subjects male and female students choose to study. In general, female students study clusters of subjects spread across key learning areas that are less career-focused, whereas males tend to study narrow clusters of subjects that are often more directly related to employment pathways (Taylor & Nelms, 2008). This is important because subject choice can have a direct impact on future study and work opportunities, as well as earning capabilities (see for example, Lamb & Bell, 1999).

Figure 11.14: HSC enrolled students by subject area and sex, NSW, 2010

Notes: Data is as at 30 June 2011. Enrolments have been counted only where the course was reported as completed on the student’s HSC record of achievement in 2010. Only enrolments for the HSC year have been included. The count is based on the number of unique students who have completed one or more courses in a subject area. The total students is the total number of students who were awarded the HSC and/or a HSC Record of Achievement in 2010. *HSIE subjects include Aboriginal studies, ancient history, business studies, economics, geography, HSC history extension, legal studies, modern history, society and culture, and studies of religion. **Technology subjects include agriculture, design and technology, engineering studies, food technology, industrial technology, information processes and technology, software design and development, and textiles and design. ***PDHPE subjects include dance, drama, music 1, music 2 and music extension, visual arts, community and family studies, personal development, and health and physical education.

Source: NSW Commission for Children and Young People calculations based on Board of Studies, 2011 (Customised report) (Table A11. 34) (XLSX 311.1KB).

Pathways after leaving school

NSW is committed to all school students acquiring the knowledge and skills to participate effectively in society and employment in a globalised economy (COAG, 2009).

The Compact with Young Australians is a COAG agreement to promote young people’s participation in education and training. The Compact entitles 15–24 year olds to an education or training place for government subsidised qualification (subject to admission requirements and the course being available). COAG sets a target to lift the Year 12 or equivalent or Certificate II attainment rate to 90 per cent by 2015. The proportion of young people aged 15–24 years undertaking or with post school qualifications is a key national indicator and a headline indicator of children’s health, development and well-being in Australia (AIHW, 2010).

NSW 2021: A Plan to Make NSW Number One aims to increase the proportion of young people who participate in post school education and training. The plan sets the following targets: 90 per cent of young people who have left school are participating in further education or employment by 2020 and a 10 per cent increase in the number of apprenticeship and traineeships completions by 2016, including in  rural and regional NSW.

Source: http://www.2021.nsw.gov.au

The Compact with Young Australians and the National Youth Participations Requirement have strengthened the requirements for young people to participate in education, training or employment.

Source: http://deewr.gov.au/compact-young-australians

The labour force participation of 15–17 year olds is discussed in Chapter 5: Work and income of children.

One indicator of post school activity is reported here, namely engagement in education or work. Data on where students obtain information about post school options is also presented to fill an identified information gap.

Two data sources are used; the ABS Survey of Education and Work (SEW) and the Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth (LSAY) collection. These collections currently provide the best source of data in this area.

The SEW provides information on the transition between education and work for young people and is the most current source of information in this area. It provides data for children and young people 15 years of age and over. The LSAY is a program of annual surveys of young people that focus on the education and labour market experiences, beginning from their middle years of secondary schooling.

Demographic characteristics of ongoing interest include Aboriginal children and children with a disability. Neither the SEW or the LSAY report on either characteristic.

It is important to note that any study using a survey approach is subject to error. The limitations of these collections include non-sampling and sampling errors, and for the ABS Survey of Education and Work possible reporting by a parent on behalf of the child. The reader should keep these in mind when interpreting the data. More information is in Appendix 1: Key survey sources and data report.

More information on children’s work employment can be found on Section 4: Economic well-being, Chapter 9: Work and income of children.

Post school engagement in education and learning

In May 2011, the ABS Survey of Education and Work found that 60.1 per cent of young people aged 15–24 years were engaged in education (Table A11. 36) (XLSX 311.1KB).

The proportion of young people engaged in education fell between the ages of 15–17 and 18–24 years: 90.9 per cent of 15–17 year olds were engaged in education compared with 48.1 per cent of 18–24 year olds (Table A11. 36) (XLSX 311.1KB).

The aim of the Digital Education Revolution (DER) is to contribute sustainable and meaningful change to teaching and learning in Australian schools that will prepare students for further education, training and to live and work in a digital world. Through the DER, the federal government is investing $2.4 billion over seven years in initiatives including provision of information and communication technology for school students in Years 9 to 12 and high speed broadband to Australian schools.

Source: http://www.deewr.gov.au

In 2008, 43.0 per cent of Aboriginal young people aged 18–24 years in NSW were not employed and not engaged in study (SCRGSP, 2011: 123). Over the period 2002–2008 there was no statistical difference in the proportion of Indigenous and non-Indigenous young people aged 18–24 years who were not employed and not studying in Australia (SCRGSP, 2011: 32)

Advice about post school education and work

Towards the end of school, students start to think about and plan for their post school life. Some young people will have a career path in mind, while others may be unsure of the direction they want to take.

The LSAY asked 16–17 year olds: ‘Have you ever done any of the following to find out about future careers or types of work: talked to a career adviser individually about your career plans; listened or talked to someone working in a job you might like; attended an organised visit to a workplace; completed a questionnaire about interests and abilities; attended a TAFE information session; read information about different types of study or work; taken part in a group discussion about careers; used an internet site or a computer program to learn about careers; attended a university information session; attended a careers expo or fair?’

In 2006, LSAY participants reported using a range of strategies to find out about careers and the types of work available to them. The most popular strategies, used by one fifth of students, were to talk to a career adviser individually about their career plans, or listen to or talk to someone working in a job they might like. One in eight students had visited a workplace and one in 10 had attended a careers expo, with slightly fewer attending an information session at a university (Figure 11.15) (Table A11. 37) (XLSX 311.1KB).

Figure 11.15: Students aged 16–17 years using strategies to find out about careers or types of work by type of strategy, NSW, 2007

Notes: Population weighted results. Sample size is 3,041. Young people were asked: ‘Have you ever done any of the following to find out about future careers or types of work? Talked to a career adviser individually about your career plans; Listened or talked to someone working in a job you might like; Attended an organised visit to a workplace; Completed a questionnaire about interests and abilities; Attended a TAFE information session; Read information about different types of study or work; Taken part in a group discussion about careers; Used an internet site or a computer program to learn about careers; Attended a university information session; Attended a careers expo or fair.’

Source: LSAY 2007, 2006 Cohort, Wave 2 data (Table A11. 37) (XLSX 311.1KB).

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[1]Certain socioeconomic characteristics of a geographic area can be used to determine its socioeconomic disadvantage (ABS, 2006). Areas can be ranked and then grouped according to their socioeconomic disadvantage. Five groups are reported. The least disadvantaged areas are in the first group and the most disadvantaged areas are in the fifth group.
[2] The student attendance rate means the ratio of the number of enrolled students actually in attendance to the number of enrolled students.
[3]On 1 January 2011 Local Health Districts (LHD) replaced Area Health Services (AHS) as the NSW Health geographic area. See Appendix Maps of NSW geographical areas used in reporting.
[4]A long suspension is for a period up to and including 20 school days.
[5] For NSW completion rates are estimated by calculating the number of students who meet the requirements of a Year 12 certificate expressed as a percentage of the potential Year 12 population. The potential Year 12 population is an estimate of a single year age group which could have attended Year 12 that year, calculated as the estimated resident population aged 15–19 divided by five. Students who complete an Australian Qualification Framework (AQF) Certificate III qualification or above are not included.
[6]Currently there is no direct measure of school engagement in Australia. The best available measure in Australia is Apparent Retention Rates (ARRs). ARRs provide a useful measure for performance monitoring, retention and progress of students through secondary school.
[7]Children are considered educationally deprived if they have fewer than four of the following items in their homes: a desk to study, a quiet place to work, a computer for schoolwork, educational software, an internet connection, a calculator, a dictionary, and school text books.
[8]The AEDI scores range from 0 to 10 (0 is the lowest score, 10 is the highest). Children who score in the lowest 10 per cent of the AEDI population are classified as ‘developmentally vulnerable’. However due to the distribution of results, natural breaks closest to the 10th percentile were used. The actual cut-offs for vulnerability were: physical health and well-being: 9.3 per cent, social competence: 9.5 per cent, emotional maturity: 8.9 per cent, language and cognitive skills (school based): 8.9 per cent, and communication skills and general knowledge: 9.2 per cent.
[9]A full-time equivalent student is a measure which calculates the number of students by taking each student’s workload and dividing it by the workload of a full-time student of that year level.

[10]From January 2010 children have been required to attend school until 17 years.

[11] The Department is now the Department of Education and Communities.

[12]On 1 January 2011 Local Health Districts (LHD) replaced Area Health Services (AHS) as the NSW Health geographic area. See Appendix Maps of NSW geographical areas used in reporting.

[13]Certain socioeconomic characteristics of a geographic area can be used to determine its socioeconomic disadvantage (ABS, 2006). Areas can be ranked and then grouped according to their socioeconomic disadvantage. The NSW Department of Health uses five groups. The least disadvantaged areas are in the first group and the most disadvantaged areas are in the fifth group.

[14]Currently there is no direct measure of school engagement in Australia. The best available measure in Australia is Apparent Retention Rates (ARRs). ARRs provide a useful measure for performance monitoring, retention and progress of students through secondary school. The ABS has recently investigated possible alternative measures including School Participation Rate, Apparent Continuation Rate, and Apparent Progression Rate (ABS, 2010).

[15] For NSW completion rates are estimated by calculating the number of students who meet the requirements of a Year 12 certificate expressed as a percentage of the potential Year 12 population. The potential Year 12 population is an estimate of a single year age group which could have attended Year 12 that year, calculated as the estimated resident population aged 15–19 divided by five. Students who complete an Australian Qualification Framework (AQF) Certificate III qualification or above are not included.