Key Facts

  • Apparent retention rates estimate the progression of students through school over several years through several year levels.

  • The national apparent retention rate from Year 10 to Year 12 decreased by 0.3 percentage points - from 79.0% in 2022 to 78.7% in 2023. 

  • The apparent retention rate from Year 10 to Year 12 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students decreased by 0.6 percentage points, from 56.4% in 2022 to 55.8% in 2023.

  • Between 2013 and 2023, Year 10 to Year 12 apparent retention for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students was net unchanged, at 55.8% in 2013 and 2023. Among non-Indigenous students, apparent retention rates decreased by 1.8 percentage points over this period, leading to a narrowing of the gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous students.

Notes and caveats

    • Data is drawn from the National Schools Statistics Collection (NSSC) collected in August each year and published in ABS, Schools, Australia. The ABS notes that relatively small changes in student numbers can create large movements in the apparent retention rates when calculated for small populations.
    • In 2020 and 2021, restrictions due to COVID-19 may have impacted on NSSC enrolment data. However, students who were learning remotely, or whose schooling was temporarily disrupted due to COVID-19 at the time of the collection were included in the count. Overall, it is estimated that the impacts of COVID-19 on the data were minor. For further details see Schools, Australia 2020 and 2021.
    • In 2020 and 2021 border closures due to COVID-19 impacted on school enrolments due to reduced immigration and, in particular, to falls in the numbers of full fee-paying overseas students (FFPOS). This may have impacted the numerator and/or the denominator for this measure in 2020 and 2021. For further details see Schools Australia 2020 and 2021.
    • Until 2018, Key Performance Measure 1(e) was defined as: Apparent retention rates from Year 10 to Year 12 (Indigenous school students compared to non-Indigenous school students). From 2019, Key Performance Measure 1(e) is defined as: Apparent retention rate from Year 10 to Year 12. Indigenous and non-Indigenous apparent retention rates continue to be reported as a disaggregation of the KPM.
    • The apparent retention rate is an indicative measure of the number of full-time school students in a designated year level of schooling as a percentage of their respective cohort group in a base year. For example, the apparent retention rate for Year 10 – Year 12, 2021, is the number of students in Year 12 2021 as a percentage of the number of students in that cohort in Year 10 in 2019 (the base year), two years earlier. Part-time and ungraded students are not included in calculations of apparent retention rates.
    • Apparent retention rates for Year 7/8 - Year 9, Year 7/8 - Year 10, Year 7/8 - Year 11 and Year 7/8 - Year 12 measure the apparent retention rate from the first year of secondary schooling (Year 7 or Year 8, depending on jurisdiction) to a later year of schooling. Up to and including 2016, the base year for these calculations was Year 8 for Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia and Year 7 for other states and territories.
    • In 2015, the structure of schooling in Queensland and Western Australia changed, with Year 7 becoming the first year of secondary schooling, whereas previously it was Year 8. For those apparent retention rates using the first year of secondary education as the base year, this will progressively impact both state specific rates for Queensland and Western Australia, and national rates calculated from 2017 onwards. While some non-government schools transitioned in 2019, and three government schools transitioned in 2020 to a new structure of Year 7 being the start of high school, Year 8 remained as the base cohort for calculating rates for students commencing secondary school in South Australia.
    • Until 2019 in South Australia (SA), primary education comprised Foundation (pre-Year 1) followed by Years 1-7. Secondary education consisted of Years 8-12.
      In 2019, Year 7 was moved from a primary school year to a secondary school year in some South Australian non-government schools. In 2020, three government schools also moved Year 7 to become the first year of secondary schooling. 
      In 2022, all remaining South Australian government and non-government schools completed the transition to Year 7 as the starting school grade of secondary schooling. This meant that 2022 is the first year South Australian schools across all affiliations had Year 7 as their starting secondary school grade.
    • From 2020, support students in New South Wales Government mainstream schools are recorded against their grade of enrolment, to be more aligned with national counting rules. Only students in Schools for Specific Purposes (SSP) are now recorded as ungraded. Care should be taken when comparing with previous years as enrolments by grades will be higher than previously due to the revised methodology.
    • The ABS publishes both capped apparent retention rates, which are capped at 100 per cent, and uncapped apparent retention rates. This report publishes uncapped rates.
    • It is not currently possible to calculate actual retention rates. There are a number of reasons why apparent rates may differ from actual rates, why they may differ between states and territories and between school sectors, and why apparent retention rates by state and/or sector may exceed 100 per cent. These reasons include, but are not limited to:
      • students progressing at a faster or slower than the expected rate of one school year/grade per year
      • students changing between full-time or part-time study
      • migration (interstate/international)
      • students changing schools across state/territory boundaries
      • students transferring between school sectors
      • enrolment policies, which contribute to different age/year level structures between states and territories, and age/year level requirements for leaving school
      • the availability of approved alternatives to senior schooling, which may vary across states and territories.
    • In Schools, Australia, and in this publication, Catholic non-systemic schools are counted as Catholic rather than as independent.
    • See Glossary for definition of school sector and Indigenous status and for further information on apparent retention rates and the NSSC.

Source: ABS, Schools, Australia