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Overpopulated schools? Fewer overseas school students as COVID-19 hits

Australian Bureau of Statistics

The annual growth rate of students enrolled in schools across Australia was the lowest since 2008, according to data released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

Steven Nicholas, Director of Education and Training Statistics at the ABS, said that while 4,030,717 students were enrolled in school in 2021, 23,743 more than 2020, the growth rate of 0.6 per cent was the lowest in more than a decade.

“This is not unexpected given the large decrease (a net loss of 88,000 people) in net overseas migration experienced in 2020-21, the first net overseas migration loss since 1946. Full-Fee Paying Overseas Students fell by almost a quarter in 2021 (5,480 fewer students), Mr Nicholas said.

In 2021, government school enrolments experienced a fall of 0.2 per cent (6,388 fewer students) and non-government school enrolments increased 2.2 per cent (30,131 more students).

Primary school student enrolments across the country dipped slightly, with 836 fewer students enrolled compared with 2020 (a change of -0.04 per cent). Secondary school student enrolments increased by 24,579 students (a change of 1.4 per cent).

The Apparent Retention Rate, the estimated proportion of secondary students staying at school until Year 12, was 83.1 per cent, 0.5 percentage points lower than 2020. Like previous years, the 2021 Apparent Retention Rate was higher for females (87.6 per cent) than for males (78.7 per cent).

“For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students the Apparent Retention Rate was 59.0 per cent, up 10.3 percentage points in the last decade,” Mr Nicholas said.

In 2021, there were 9,581 schools in Australia, a net increase of 39 schools.

Across all schools the average student to teacher ratio was 13.3 students to one teacher. Independent schools had a lower student to teacher ratio (11.8) than government and Catholic schools (13.6 students to one teacher).

Australia hit 4m students for first time in history in 2020

The number of students enrolled in schools across Australia reached 4 million for the first time (4,006,974) in 2020 according to new data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

Steven Nicholas, Director of Education and Training Statistics at the ABS said: “In 2020, there was an increase of 58,163 students (1.5 per cent) enrolled in school, which meant enrolments had surpassed the 4 million mark for the first time.

“The last milestone was met back in 1983, when for the first time more than 3 million students were enrolled in school,” he said.

Government schools held the greatest share of enrolments (65.6 per cent), followed by Catholic schools (19.4 per cent) and independent schools (15.0 per cent). These numbers have remained relatively steady over the last decade. In 2010, 65.6 per cent of students were enrolled in government schools while Catholic schools had a slightly larger share (20.3 percent in 2010) and independent schools slightly smaller (14.0 per cent in 2010).

The Apparent Retention Rate, the estimated proportion of secondary students staying at school until Year 12 was 83.6 per cent, which was close to the rate in 2019 (84.0 per cent). In comparison the Apparent Retention Rate was 78.0 per cent back in 2010. As in previous years, the 2020 Apparent Retention Rate was higher for females (88.0 per cent) than for males (79.3 per cent).

“For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students the Apparent Retention Rate increased between 2010 and 2020, from 47.2 per cent to 59.6 per cent,” said Mr Nicholas.

In 2020, there were 9,542 schools in Australia and across all schools the average student to teacher ratio was 13.5 students to one teacher.  Independent schools had a lower student to teacher ratio (11.8) while Catholic schools (13.7) and government schools (13.9) were higher than the national average.

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