National Report on Schooling in Australia 2009

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 increased 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 and the Schools Assistance Act 2008 for 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, using a set of specified indicators.
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

  • 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 June 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.
Various national working groups within the sectors of education (early childhood, schooling, vocational education and training (VET)) have been given the task to implement a unique student identifier across all education and training sectors. This work will continue in 2010–2011.
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 Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act (1997) and 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 the National initiatives – Promoting world-class curriculum and assessment section of this report.
In terms of data collection and reporting, the functions of ACARA 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 will publish the National Report on Schooling in Australia from 2009 (this report) onwards. The report informs the Australian people 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.
ACARA is responsible for the development, for Ministerial approval, of national Key Performance Measures for education and the periodic review of the Key Performance Measurement Framework. A major review of this framework, to reflect the Melbourne Declaration and to incorporate COAG targets and indicators for education, will be conducted in 2010. The revised framework, the Measurement Framework for Schooling in Australia, will be published on the ACARA website.
ACARA will report to the Australian public on the outcomes of the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) for 2009 and beyond. The NAPLAN Summary Report 2009 and NAPLAN National Report 2009 are published on the ACARA National Assessment Program website. These reports provide analyses of results including breakdowns by state and territory, gender and language background. Further information about NAPLAN for parents and schools and students is also available on this website. This includes information on NAPLAN tests and on the individual student reports provided to all students who participate in the NAPLAN tests. From 2010, NAPLAN results for each school will also be reported on the My School website.

The My School website

ACARA is also responsible for a national data collection on individual schools to support school evaluation, accountability, resource allocation and policy development. Ministers have agreed to a range of indicators that measure capacity, context and performance that will be published on each school through the My School website.
In mid-2009, ACARA established a project team to work on the national schools data collection and to develop a web-based site for school-level reporting. This project became the My School website, to be launched in early 2010.
During the development of the website in 2009, expert panels were established to provide advice, and focus groups were convened to collect feedback from the public on the proposed website. Data were collected from jurisdictions, school systems and individual schools to provide information on approximately 9,500 schools across Australia.
The My School report on each school will include a description of the school (supplied by the school or jurisdiction), student numbers, staffing numbers, attendance rates, NAPLAN performance data, senior secondary outcomes and an index reflecting the socio-educational advantage of students to allow comparisons of school performance to be made between schools with students from statistically similar backgrounds.