National Report on Schooling in Australia 2010

National initiatives and achievements

2.8 Strengthening accountability and transparency

Both the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians and the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) National Education Agreement (NEA) emphasise increased transparency for reporting educational information and improved accountability for the use of public resources for education as core reforms.
This includes improved reporting to schools, families and students about student achievement and school performance and improved public reporting of individual and comparative school performance as well as reporting on the performance of Australian schooling overall.
In the Melbourne Declaration, Australian governments committed to working with all school sectors to ensure that public reporting of education:
  • focuses on improving performance and student outcomes

  • is both locally and nationally relevant

  • is timely, consistent and comparable.

States and Territories have committed to increasing the provision of transparent information about schools and their performance, including fostering direct discussion between parents and teachers on students’ progress and improving the capacity of schools to report in clear language to students and parents.
Under the NEA (government schools) and the Schools Assistance Act 2008 (non-government schools), all schools are required to provide to parents and carers of students in Years 1–10 a plain language report on the progress and achievement of each student. These twice-yearly reports must include an assessment against available national standards and, for each subject studied, an assessment against a five-point scale (such as an A–E scale) and an assessment relative to the performance of the student’s peer group.
All schools across Australia are also required to provide a publicly available school annual report. Schools must publish a range of information which includes contextual information, key student outcomes and information on satisfaction.
The NEA accountability framework also includes the following elements:
  • streamlined and consistent reports on national progress, including an annual national report on the outcomes of schooling in Australia and the biennial COAG report Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage: Key Indicators

  • national reporting on performance of individual schools to inform parents and carers and for evaluation by governments of school performance.

Under the Schools Assistance Act 2008, the accountability framework for non-government schools and school systems is consistent with that of the NEA.
National strategies and actions to support the commitment for accountability and transparency identified in Education Ministers’ Four-year plan 20092012 include:
  • developing protocols for access to and use of information on schooling and how this is reported to students, parents and the community in line with agreed principles for reporting information on schooling

  • developing nationally comparable data collections for all schools to support school evaluation, accountability and resourcing decisions

  • implementing fair, public, comparable national reporting on individual school performance, including comparing individual school performance against schools with similar characteristics

  • developing, where appropriate, value-added measures for schools’ performance and analysing student results over time

  • reviewing key performance measures for education in light of the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians and COAG agreed measures

  • establishing a unique student identifier to track student performance from the first year of compulsory schooling to post-school education and training.

In 2009 MCEECDYA agreed to revised Principles and protocols for reporting on schooling in Australia.This document sets out eight principles for reporting on schooling, specifies the forms that national reporting will take, lists strategies to promote the responsible use of data, and lays down protocols for reporting on Australian schools and for third party access to National Assessment Program data.
COAG supports the introduction of a national unique student identifier (USI) for the VET sector that is capable of being fully integrated within the entire education system, and could involve early childhood education. The VET sector has agreed to the development of a business case for the implementation of a USI which is capable of being extended for use across sectors.
MCEECDYA has directed the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) to implement other national strategies listed above.

The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority

ACARA was established under the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority Act (2008) in December 2008 and became operational at the end of May 2009.
ACARA’s role in developing the Australian Curriculum and administering the National Assessment Program is outlined in National initiatives and achievements – promoting world-class curriculum and assessment in this report.
In terms of data collection and reporting, the functions of ACARA as provided in Section 6 of the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority Act (2008), are to:
  • collect, manage and analyse student assessment data and other data relating to schools and comparative school performance

  • facilitate information sharing arrangements between Australian government bodies in relation to the collection, management and analysis of school data

  • publish information relating to school education, including information relating to comparative school performance.

In 2009, a number of the responsibilities of the former Performance Measurement and Reporting Taskforce (PMRT) of MCEETYA were transferred to ACARA. These included responsibility for managing the Measurement Framework for National Key Performance Measures (the Measurement Framework), which supports nationally comparable reporting of student participation, achievement and attainment and the coordination of the annual National Report on Schooling in Australia (this report).
ACARA led a major review of the Measurement Framework in 2010, to reflect the Melbourne Declaration and to incorporate COAG targets and indicators for education. The revised framework, the Measurement Framework for Schooling in Australia, is published on the ACARA website.
In 2010, ACARA’s work in preparing the National Report on Schooling in Australia was facilitated by the collaboration of Australia’s school systems and sectors, which were represented on a working group established by ACARA to oversee the report’s production. The main function of the National Report on Schooling is to inform Australians on progress in the previous calendar year against the national goals for schooling. It describes the national policy context for school education in Australia, outlines nationally agreed policy initiatives and reports against nationally agreed key performance measures set out in the Measurement Framework for Schooling in Australia.
Another of ACARA’s responsibilities is to report to the Australian public on the outcomes of the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) for 2009 and beyond. The NAPLAN National Report 2010 is published on the ACARA National Assessment Program website. This report provides analyses of NAPLAN results including breakdowns by State and Territory, gender and language background. Further information about NAPLAN for parents, schools and students is also available on this website. This includes information on NAPLAN tests and on the individual student reports provided to the parents/carers of all students who participate in the NAPLAN tests. Since January 2010, NAPLAN results for each school have also been reported on the My School website.

My School

ACARA is also responsible for the national data collection on individual schools housed on the My School website and required under the National Education Agreement to support school evaluation, accountability, resource allocation and policy development.
A milestone in national reporting on schooling in 2010 was the launch of the My School website on 28 January 2010. There were 3,397,162 visits to the website between 28 January and 30 June 2010.
The My School website provides detailed information on over 9,000 schools in Australia. It uses a new index, the Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage (ICSEA), developed specifically for the purpose of identifying schools serving similar student populations. This enables schools’ results on national tests to be understood in a fair and meaningful way, and enables schools seeking to improve their performance to learn from other schools with statistically similar populations. Further information on ICSEA is available on the My School website.
By providing extensive information on Australian schools, the My School website introduces a new level of transparency and accountability to schooling in Australia.
Data and comments on the My School website including school profiles, school census data, NAPLAN performance data and senior secondary outcomes, are provided, directly or indirectly, by jurisdictions, non-government school authorities and individual schools.
ACARA conducted a multidimensional review of the My School website after it went live, undertaking focus group and survey work to evaluate the impact and accessibility of the website’s contents, with a view to informing development of an updated website after 2010.
ACARA also convened a working party comprising representatives from various associations of teachers, principals, parents and experts to provide advice on enhancements to the site, in terms of both content and forms of display.
In August 2010, My School received the annual Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) award for best e-Government website.