National Report on Schooling Australia 2012

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 transparency in reporting educational information and accountability for the use of public resources for education as core reforms.

This includes reporting to schools, families and students about student achievement and school performance as well as public reporting of individual and comparative school performance and 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.

Under the NEA (government schools) and the Schools Assistance Act 2008 (non- government schools), all schools must provide plain language student reports to parents and carers and an annual report made publicly available to their school community on the school’s achievements and other contextual information.

The NEA performance reporting framework also includes:
• streamlined and consistent reports on national progress, including an annual national report on the outcomes of schooling in Australia covering the Melbourne Declaration and the Measurement Framework for Schooling in Australia¹ 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.

A review of the NEA performance reporting framework was undertaken in 2012 and a revised agreement to reflect the outcomes of the review came into effect in July 2012.

Under the Schools Assistance Act 2008, the performance information and reporting framework for non-government schools and school systems is consistent with that of the NEA.

The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority

The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) is responsible for implementing the majority of national strategies for accountability and transparency agreed by Education Ministers under the Melbourne Declaration.

In terms of data collection and reporting², 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.

ACARA's priorities under its charter include: the monitoring and review of the Measurement Framework for Schooling in Australia, which sets out agreed national key performance measures (KPMs) for schooling; producing a comprehensive and authoritative National Report on Schooling in Australia related to the Melbourne Declaration and national KPMs; developing, or supporting the development of, national definitions and managing the collection, quality assurance and reporting of school information through the My School website.

Measurement Framework for Schooling in Australia

In 2012 ACARA conducted a review of the Measurement Framework for Schooling in Australia 2010, in consultation with jurisdictions, school sectors and relevant government agencies. This review coincided with the review of the NEA performance reporting framework. The revised measurement framework, the Measurement Framework for Schooling in Australia 2012, reflects revisions to the NEA indicators and was published on the ACARA website in early 2013 following its approval by Education Ministers.

National Report on Schooling in Australia

In 2012, ACARA published the National Report on Schooling in Australia 2010 and undertook the preparation of the National Report on Schooling in Australia 2011 on behalf of the Standing Council on School Education and Early Childhood (SCSEEC) in consultation with representatives of state and territory education authorities, the non-government sectors and other relevant agencies. The 2011 report was the third to be published by ACARA and to report on progress in the reporting year towards the Melbourne Declaration Commitment to Action, on NEA indicators and against the Measurement Framework for Schooling in Australia 2010.

Development of national definitions and measures

In October 2012, ACARA published the Data Standards Manual: Student Background Characteristics for use by schools and school systems, test administration authorities and assessment contractors. This is the sixth edition of the manual and replaced the 2010 Data Standards Manual – Student Background Characteristics and previous editions published on the SCSEEC/MCEECDYA website.

The manual provides standard definitions and technical specifications for the student background characteristics (sex, Indigenous status, socio-economic background and language background) required for use by government and non-government schools and systems in designing enrolment forms, collecting information from parents, maintaining student records and providing student information for National Assessment Program (NAP) assessments.

Significant progress was also made towards the collection and reporting of nationally consistent student attendance data for both NEA and KPM reporting. This was the culmination of several years of collaboration between ACARA, jurisdictions and the non- government school sectors. This work resulted in the publication of the National Standards for Student Attendance Data Reporting on the ACARA website in December 2012, following national agreement.

My School

ACARA is also responsible for the national data collection on individual schools housed on the My School website. My School reporting addresses Education Ministers’ strategy to establish fair, public, comparable national reporting on individual school performance and the requirement under the NEA to report on performance of individual schools to support school evaluation, accountability, resource allocation and policy development.

Developed by ACARA and first launched in January 2010, the My School website introduced a new level of transparency and accountability to schooling in Australia by providing extensive information on approximately 9,500 schools. The website includes a profile of each school and data on enrolment, attendance, staff numbers and senior secondary outcomes as well as summary data on student performance in the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) tests for Years 3, 5, 7 and 9. These data are provided, directly or indirectly, by jurisdictions, non-government school authorities and individual schools.

The My School website introduced the Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage (ICSEA), developed specifically for the purpose of identifying schools serving similar student populations. This enables students’ results on NAPLAN tests to be understood in a fair and meaningful way, and allows schools seeking to improve their students’ performance to learn from other schools with statistically similar populations.

An enhanced version of the website, My School 2.0, released in 2011, provided additional data on schools’ recurrent income and capital expenditure and depicted students’ gains in literacy and numeracy between NAPLAN tests.

The third version of My School was launched on 24 February 2012. The updated site provided:
• an additional year of information for each school, with four years of performance data now available
• richer information on students’ literacy and numeracy achievement gains as they progress through school
• enhanced information about Vocational Education and Training (VET) in schools.

National Assessment Program reporting

As well as reporting NAPLAN results for each school on the My School website, ACARA is responsible for national reporting to the Australian public on the outcomes of the National Assessment Program. The NAPLAN National Report 2012 is published, along with previous reports for 2008–2011, on the ACARA National Assessment Program website. The report provides analyses of NAPLAN results including breakdowns by state and territory, sex, language background, Indigenous status, geolocation and parental education and occupation. 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.

The NAP – Science Literacy public report and the technical report for the NAP sample assessment in Science Literacy conducted in 2012 are also available on the reports page of the ACARA National Assessment Program website.


¹ The National Report on Schooling in Australia, i.e. this report

² ACARA’s role in developing the Australian Curriculum and administering the National Assessment Program is outlined in Part 2.6.