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Age group 6 to 11 years

Academic achievement

Academic achievement is one of the central aspects of schooling and, increasingly, a criterion for measuring school and system effectiveness. Academic achievement and improvement, appropriate to each student’s capabilities, is also essential for young people’s lifetime wellbeing. However, academic achievement is not the only desirable outcome from high school, and students who may not be achieving academically may be excelling in other areas.

Overview and areas of concern

For children aged 6 to 11 years, academic progress each year is critical. At the same time, primary school should support increasing independence and self-management, connectedness to school and community, and physical and emotional wellbeing.1

Data overview

WA has shown improvement in the proportion of students achieving at or above the national minimum standard in Year 3 and Year 5 in reading and numeracy over the last three years.

Proportion of students achieving at or above minimum standard in reading and numeracy, WA, 2014 to 2017

Source: Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, compiled from NAPLAN National Reports from 2014 to 2017

In 2017, 20.5 per cent of WA students received an educational adjustment due to disability.

Areas of concern

While the proportion of Year 3 and Year 5 students achieving the minimum standard in reading and numeracy has increased, Aboriginal students are at a very high risk of not reaching the minimum standard in comparison to non‑Aboriginal students.

Proportion of Year 5 children below the national minimum standard for reading and numeracy, WA, 2017

Source: Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority 2017, NAPLAN Achievement in Reading, Writing, Language Conventions and Numeracy: National Report for 2017

Endnotes

  1. Lamb S et al 2015, Educational opportunity in Australia 2015: Who succeeds and who misses out, Centre for International Research on Education Systems, Victoria University for the Mitchell Institute.
Measure: Academic achievement

Since 2008, all students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 are tested annually using a common assessment tool under the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN). This tool is administered by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA).

The NAPLAN national minimum standard is “the agreed minimum acceptable standard of knowledge and skills without which a student will have difficulty making sufficient progress at school”.1 ACARA notes that students who are performing at the national minimum standard may also require additional assistance to enable them to achieve their potential.2

While NAPLAN minimum standards have limitations (refer the Grattan Institute research paper, Widening gaps: What NAPLAN tells us about student progress, for a discussion), standardised testing of academic achievement is important to identify needs within the student population and for continuous improvement of the schools system more generally.3

The 2018 NAPLAN results were released prior to this publication, however it was not possible to incorporate this data in the required timeframe. It is noted that WA students had an improvement in grammar and punctuation results, although there was little change in other measures. The 2018 data will be included in this publication in future updates.  

Proportion of students achieving at, or above, the NAPLAN minimum standard for reading

From 2008 to 2017, the proportion of Year 3 students achieving at or above the national minimum standard for reading increased from 89.4 per cent to 93.9 per cent respectively. However, this is still below the average for all of Australia of 94.9 per cent.4

There was an equivalent improvement from 2008 to 2017 in reading scores across all Year 5 students (89.1% in 2008 to 93% in 2017).

Year 3 and Year 5 students achieving at or above the national minimum standard in reading, in per cent, by selected characteristics, WA, 2008 to 2017

Year

All

Male

Female

Aboriginal

LBOTE

Year 3

2008

89.4

87.0

91.9

57.3

88.0

2013

94.3

92.9

95.7

75.2

92.7

2014

91.8

90.1

93.5

63.1

90.1

2015

93.0

91.1

95.1

66.6

92.0

2016

93.8

92.0

95.7

71.3

92.9

2017

93.9

92.1

95.7

75.0

92.6

Year 5

2008

89.1

87.1

91.1

51.8

86.1

2013

96.0

95.0

97.0

79.0

94.5

2014

91.2

89.4

93.1

59.3

88.5

2015

91.9

90.1

93.8

63.4

90.4

2016

91.4

89.4

93.4

56.5

89.2

2017

93.0

91.3

94.9

65.5

91.6

Source: Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, compiled from NAPLAN National Reports from 2008 to 2017

Proportion of Year 3 students achieving at or above national minimum standard in reading by selected characteristics, WA, 2008 to 2017

Source: Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, compiled from NAPLAN National Reports from 2008 to 2017

The proportion of children with a language background other than English (LBOTE) achieving at or above the national minimum standard for reading in 2017 was only slightly below non-LBOTE children (92.6% versus. 94.6%). A slightly higher proportion of female students achieved at or above the minimum standard than male students across all years.

The proportion of Aboriginal children in Year 3 achieving at or above the national minimum standard for reading in 2017 was 75 per cent, which represented a substantial increase on previous years. However, this was still well below the result for non-Aboriginal students of 95.4 per cent. It was also below the result for Aboriginal students Australia-wide of 81.6 per cent.

The 2017 results show significant differences across geographic locations in the proportion of Year 3 and Year 5 students achieving at or above the minimum national standard in reading. A significantly smaller proportion of Year 3 students achieved at or above the national minimum standard in very remote (72.5%) and remote (88.1%) areas compared to students in the metropolitan area (95.1%), inner regional (93.5%) and outer regional (92.1%) areas.

Year 3 and Year 5 students achieving at or above the national minimum standard in reading, in per cent, by Aboriginal status and remoteness area, WA, 2017

Remotenesss area

All students

Aboriginal

Non-Aboriginal

Year 3

Metropolitan

95.1

83.7

95.7

Inner regional

93.5

78.2

94.7

Outer regional

92.1

79.4

94.3

Remote

88.1

69.0

95.2

Very remote

72.5

54.4

93.5

Year 5

Metropolitan

94.9

78.1

95.6

Inner regional

92.6

76.8

93.8

Outer regional

90.1

67.1

93.8

Remote

84.9

60.3

94.8

Very remote

60.4

38.5

93.4

Source: Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority 2017, NAPLAN Achievement in Reading, Writing, Language Conventions and Numeracy: National Report for 2017

When results are split further by Aboriginal status, it becomes evident that geolocation appears to have little effect on non-Aboriginal students, while for Aboriginal students, the reduction in achievement levels is very pronounced.

Of significant concern is that only 38.5 per cent of Year 5 Aboriginal students in very remote areas achieved at or above the national minimum standard in reading.

Year 3 and Year 5 NAPLAN reading achievement by Aboriginal status and remoteness area, WA, 2017

Source: Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority 2017, NAPLAN Achievement in Reading, Writing, Language Conventions and Numeracy: National Report for 2017

Proportion of students achieving at, or above, the NAPLAN minimum standard for numeracy

For numeracy, the proportion of Year 5 students achieving at or above the national minimum standard increased from 91.1 per cent to 95 per cent between 2008 and 2017. This is consistent with the 2017 average for all of Australia of 95.4 per cent.5 Over the same time period, the achievement of WA Year 3 students increased, but not significantly.

The proportion of WA Aboriginal Year 5 students achieving at or above the national minimum standard for numeracy increased by 10 percentage points between 2008 and 2017 (from 61.6% to 71.3%), although this result has fluctuated considerably over this period. Similar to the results for reading, 2017 achievement levels in numeracy were particularly low for Aboriginal students in very remote locations (55.1% for Year 3 and 45.6% for Year 5).6

Year 3 and Year 5 students achieving at or above the national minimum standard in numeracy, in per cent, by Aboriginal status and remoteness area, WA, 2017

Remoteness area

All students

Aboriginal

Non-Aboriginal

Year 3

Metropolitan

96.1

85.9

96.6

Inner regional

95.1

82.9

95.9

Outer regional

93.8

81.0

96.0

Remote

90.5

72.8

97.1

Very remote

74.5

55.1

96.9

Year 5

Metropolitan

96.5

83.4

97.0

Inner regional

95.3

82.2

96.2

Outer regional

92.3

72.5

95.4

Remote

87.6

66.4

96.3

Very remote

65.4

45.6

95.2

Source: Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority 2017, NAPLAN Achievement in Reading, Writing, Language Conventions and Numeracy: National Report for 2017

In summary, there remains a significant number of Year 3 and Year 5 WA students, and particularly Aboriginal students, who do not meet the national minimum standards for reading or numeracy.

Proportion of Year 5 students below the national minimum standard for reading and numeracy, WA, 2017

Source: Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority 2017, NAPLAN Achievement in Reading, Writing, Language Conventions and Numeracy: National Report for 2017

There are multiple factors that influence student achievement levels. These include socio-economic status, parental expectations, parents’ own educational status, school advantage and regional differences. For example, it has been found that bright students in disadvantaged schools make significantly less progress than similarly capable students in high advantaged schools.7 Other research has found that children living in the most advantaged areas will on average achieve more than double the score in national proficiency tests in reading, writing and numeracy than those living in the most disadvantaged areas.8

Endnotes

  1. Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority 2016, National Assessment Program Literacy and Numeracy. Achievement in Reading, Writing, Language Conventions and Numeracy. National Report for 2016, Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, p. v.
  2. Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority 2016, How to interpret – Standards.
  3. Cassells R et al 2017, Educate Australia Fair?: Education Inequality in Australia, Focus on the States Series, Issue No. 5, Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre, p. 37.
  4. Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority 2017, National Assessment Program Literacy and Numeracy Achievement in Reading, Writing, Language Conventions and Numeracy National Report for 2017, ACARA.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Goss P and Sonnemann J 2016, Widening gaps: What NAPLAN tells us about student progress, Grattan Institute.
  8. Cassells R et al 2017, Educate Australia Fair?: Education Inequality in Australia, Focus on the States Series, Issue No. 5, Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre, p. 37.
Measure: Help with school work

Students require different levels and types of support to assist them with their learning and to enable their ongoing engagement with education. Teachers who provide help for learning are valued by students as it enables improved access to the curriculum, reduced anxiety and facilitates experiences of success.

Further, family processes and practices are strongly related to students’ academic, social, emotional and behavioural outcomes. Studies have shown that when families are interested in their child’s education and engaged with their school, student outcomes are improved.1,2

Help in the classroom

In the Commissioner’s 2016 School and Learning Consultation,just over one-third of Year 3 to Year 6 students reported that they ‘always’ get the help they need to do their school work. One-half answered ‘sometimes’ and three per cent of students said ‘not at all’. The remainder – 11 per cent – answered that they do not need help.

Girls were somewhat more likely than boys to say that they get help ‘always’ or ‘sometimes’ (90.4% versus 80.7%). Boys on the other hand were more likely to report that they do not get help ‘at all’ (4.3% versus 1.6%) and significantly more likely to say that they do not need help (15.0% versus 8.0%).

Proportion of Year 3 to Year 6 WA students saying they get the help they need to do their school work always, sometimes, not at all or they don't need help, by selected characteristics, in per cent

Male

Female

Metropolitan

Regional

Non-Aboriginal

Aboriginal

All

Always

34.4

37.5

34.5

38.7

37.2

26.0

36.2

Sometimes

46.3

52.9

49.5

51.1

48.9

63.0

50.1

Not at all

4.3

1.6

2.6

2.9

2.7

2.7

2.7

I don't need help

15.0

8.0

13.4

7.3

11.2

8.2

11.0

Source: Commissioner for Children and Young People WA 2018, School and Learning Consultation: Technical Report

Proportion of Year 3 to Year 6 WA students saying they get the help they need to do their school work, by selected characteristics

Source: Commissioner for Children and Young People WA 2018, School and Learning Consultation: Technical Report

Aboriginal students were less likely than non-Aboriginal students to report that they ‘always’ get the help they need with only one in four Aboriginal students saying this (26.0% compared to 37.2%). Most Aboriginal students answered that they get help ‘sometimes’ (63.0%).

National School Opinion Survey

In the 2016 National School Opinion Survey,4 84 per cent of participating Year 5 and Year 6 students in government schools either agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “My teachers provide me with useful feedback about my school work”. Ten per cent neither agreed nor disagreed with this statement, while five per cent disagreed or strongly disagreed.

Taking into account the different research methodologies and questions used between the NSOS and the School and Learning Consultation, the responses are relatively consistent and highlight that most students are getting the help they need at school however a small proportion of students feel as if they are not receiving the support they need for learning.

Parental engagement in children’s learning

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) collects data on informal learning by children in the home. This survey shows that WA one-parent families are slightly less likely (79.4%) to assist their children (aged three to eight years) with homework or other educational activities than dual-parent families (85.8%).5

Specifically with regard to Aboriginal students, in the Longitudinal Study of Indigenous Children (LSIC), most parents (79.2% of parents with children who received homework) were checking their Year 2 or Year 3 children’s homework at least a few times a week.6

Students in the 2016 School and Learning Consultation were asked a range of questions about their family’s involvement with school. Nearly all Year 3 to Year 6 students reported that someone in their family asks about their school work either ‘often’ (54.7%) or ‘sometimes’ (41.9%). Around three per cent of students said that no-one in their family asks about their school work.7

When asked about help with homework, one-third of Year 3 to Year 6 students said that their family provides help with homework ‘often’ (33.3%), while almost one-half answered ‘sometimes’ (45.6%). Around five per cent of respondents said they do not get any help from their family. The remaining students (16.3%) answered that they either don’t get homework or don’t need help.8

Endnotes

  1. Emerson L et al 2012, Parental engagement in learning and schooling: Lessons from research, Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth.
  2. Desforges C and Abouchaar A 2003, The Impact of Parental Involvement, Parental Support and Family Education on Pupil Achievement and Adjustment: A Literature Review, Research Report No 433, Department for Education and Skills UK.
  3. The Commissioner for Children and Young People’s School and Learning Consultation was conducted from July to November 2016. The purpose of the Consultation was to seek the views of Year 3 to Year 12 students enrolled in government, Catholic and independent schools across WA on the positive and negative factors that influence their engagement in education. In total, 1,812 students across 98 schools participated in the survey and 1,174 students participated in the group discussion between July and November 2016. Schools from all nine geographic regions of WA were involved in the consultation. For more information refer: Commissioner for Children and Young People 2018, School and Learning Consultation: Technical Report, Commissioner for Children and Young People WA.
  4. Results from the National School Opinion Survey 2016, custom report prepared by WA Department of Education for Commissioner for Children and Young People WA. All WA government schools are required to administer parent, student and staff National School Opinion Surveys (NSOS) at least every two years, commencing in 2014. The Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) was responsible for the development and implementation of the NSOS. The WA Department of Education and individual schools are also able to add additional questions to the survey. In WA, the first complete (although non-mandatory) implementation of the survey was conducted in government schools in 2016. The next survey will be conducted in 2018. The data should be interpreted with caution as the survey is relatively new and there is a consequent lack of an agreed baseline for results. 
  5. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2018, Childhood Education and Care, Australia, June 2017, cat No. 4402.0, Table 20: Parental Involvement in Informal Learning – Western Australia.
  6. Department of Social Services 2015, Footprints in Time: The Longitudinal Study of Indigenous Children—Report from Wave 5, Department of Social Services, p. 37.
  7. Commissioner for Children and Young People 2018, School and Learning Consultation: Technical Report, Commissioner for Children and Young People WA, p. 90.
  8. Ibid.
Measure: Help with other issues

Schooling does not occur in isolation for children and young people. They bring with them the impact of their circumstances, shaped by economic, environmental and social factors. Emotional concerns have the potential to impact student thinking, learning, behaviours and relationships. Emotional support facilitates learning and social and emotional development, particularly if provided when children or young people are facing challenges.1 Support may be informal, through quality interpersonal relationships or through formal systems, such as school psychologists.  

Research into resilience highlights the importance of having at least one stable, caring and supportive relationship between a child and the important adults in his or her life. Aside from family, these relationships can include neighbours, providers of early care and education and teachers.2

Limited data exists on the number or proportion of students who receive support to respond to emotional or other non-school work issues at school.

In the School and Learning Consultation, 60 per cent of Year 3 to Year 6 students reported that their teachers care ‘a lot’ about them. No statistically significant differences were measured between male and female students, students in different geographic areas or between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students.

National School Opinion Survey

In the 2016 National School Opinion Survey, 70 per cent of participating Year 5 to Year 6 students in government schools either agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “I can talk to my teachers about my concerns”. Seventeen per cent neither agreed nor disagreed with this statement, while 11 per cent disagreed or strongly disagreed.

National School Opinion Survey, 2016: Proportion of Year 5 and Year 6 WA government school students saying they can talk to teachers about their concerns

Source: National School Opinion Survey 2016, custom report prepared by WA Department of Education for the Commissioner for Children and Young People WA (unpublished)

References

  1. National Scientific Council on the Developing Child 2015, Supportive Relationships and Active Skill-Building Strengthen the Foundations of Resilience: Working Paper 13, Center for Child Development, Harvard University.
  2. Ibid.
Measure: Adults' expectations

Research suggests that teachers’ expectations of their students do not merely forecast student outcomes, but that they can influence outcomes, that is, low (or high) expectations can modify student behaviour.1 In the 2016 School and Learning Consultation, participating students identified that teachers who support and encourage them to do their best and talk about their aspirations, increase students’ motivation to engage.2

National School Opinion Survey

In the 2016 National School Opinion Survey,3 95 per cent of participating students either agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “My teachers expect me to do my best”. Three per cent neither agreed nor disagreed with this statement, while two per cent disagreed or strongly disagreed.

Parental expectations

Research shows that there is a strong relationship between parental aspirations and expectations and the child’s actual academic outcomes.4 There is now evidence suggesting that parental expectations for children’s academic achievement predict educational outcomes more than other measures of parental involvement, such as attending school events.5

In the School and Learning Consultation, high expectations from family members were generally seen as a positive influence for school and learning, however students were careful to temper comments with provisos such that expectations must be related to the student’s ability and interest, and facilitated by support from family members.6

Limited data exists on the expectations of parents for WA children.

Endnotes

  1. Gershson S and Papageorge N 2018, The power of teacher expectations: how racial bias hinders student attainment, Education Next, winter 2018.
  2. Commissioner for Children and Young People 2018, School and Learning Consultation: Technical Report, Commissioner for Children and Young People WA, Perth, p. 77.
  3. Results from the National School Opinion Survey 2016, custom report prepared by WA Department of Education for Commissioner for Children and Young People WA. All WA government schools are required to administer parent, student and staff National School Opinion Surveys (NSOS) at least every two years, commencing in 2014. The Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) was responsible for the development and implementation of the NSOS. The WA Department of Education and individual schools are also able to add additional questions to the survey. In WA, the first complete (although non-mandatory) implementation of the survey was conducted in government schools in 2016. The next survey will be conducted in 2018. The data should be interpreted with caution as the survey is relatively new and there is a consequent lack of an agreed baseline for results. 
  4. Emerson L et al 2012, Parental engagement in learning and schooling: Lessons from research, Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth.
  5. Child Trends Databank 2015, Parental Expectations for their Children’s Educational Attainment: Indicators of Child and Youth Well-being.
  6. Commissioner for Children and Young People 2018, School and Learning Consultation: Technical Report, Commissioner for Children and Young People WA, p. 104.
Measure: Opportunities to learn useful skills

Students’ perceptions of the relevance and value of education influences their engagement in school, learning and learning behaviours. Given these perceptions are partly framed by the curriculum and their learning experiences, listening to student insights into curriculum content are essential considerations for enhancing engagement with school and learning.

The School and Learning Consultation did not specifically ask children aged 6 to 11 years whether what they were learning was seen as useful.

National School Opinion Survey

In the 2016 National School Opinion Survey,1 81 per cent of participating Year 5 to Year 6 students in government schools either agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “My school gives me opportunities to do interesting things”. Eleven per cent neither agreed nor disagreed with this statement, while seven per cent disagreed or strongly disagreed.

This data item has only limited relevance for this measure as ‘interesting things’ could be interpreted very differently by different children and these ‘things’ may or may not develop useful skills and knowledge.

Limited data exists on the opinions of children aged 6 to 11 years regarding whether they have opportunities to learn and develop useful skills and knowledge.

Endnotes

  1. Results from the National School Opinion Survey 2016, custom report prepared by WA Department of Education for Commissioner for Children and Young People WA. All WA government schools are required to administer parent, student and staff National School Opinion Surveys (NSOS) at least every two years, commencing in 2014. The Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) was responsible for the development and implementation of the NSOS. The WA Department of Education and individual schools are also able to add additional questions to the survey. In WA, the first complete (although non-mandatory) implementation of the survey was conducted in government schools in 2016. The next survey will be conducted in 2018. The data should be interpreted with caution as the survey is relatively new and there is a consequent lack of an agreed baseline for results.   
Children in care

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) examined the academic performance of children in care across Australia, by linking the data from the Child Protection National Minimum Data Set (CP NMDS) and the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN). Among the study population, National Minimum Standard achievement rates varied across the five assessment domains (reading, writing, spelling, grammar and punctuation, and numeracy). Rate ranges were 74–82 per cent for Year 3 students and 67–83 per cent for Year 5 students.1 This data was not disaggregated by state and WA results are therefore not available.

The WA Department of Communities report that only 66.1 per cent of respondent children in care were meeting the NAPLAN minimum standards in 2016. Aboriginal children are achieving this standard at a lower rate than non-Aboriginal children (55.6% versus 76%).2

These achievement levels are significantly below the average levels for other students in Australia, who are not in out-of-home care. However, as AIHW note, the academic achievement of children in care is likely to be affected by complex personal histories and multiple aspects of disadvantage (including poverty, maltreatment, family dysfunction and instability in care and schooling).3 Nevertheless, when removing a child from their family and placing them into care it is critical that their lifetime outcomes are improved as a result, and educational achievement is a key component of this.

CREATE Foundation conducted a survey of Australian children in care in 2013 which found that 29.7 per cent of students living in out‑of‑home care would like more help with their school work and 24.7 per cent would like more help with their homework. Of those receiving assistance with their homework, 32.2 per cent were receiving that assistance from their carer and 20 per cent from a teacher’s aide.4 This survey was not conducted in WA and the data is not available by age group.

Other Australian research suggests that, support from carers and their caseworkers were the relationships that most strongly predicted school engagement for children in care.5 This research also found that children in care reported lower aspirations for themselves and saw their parents as having lower aspirations for them.6

Children in care experience high vulnerability and educational risk and there must be a continued focus on improving their wellbeing.

Endnotes

  1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2015. Educational outcomes for children in care: Linking 2013 child protection and NAPLAN data, Cat. No. CWS 54, AIHW, p. 7.
  2. WA Department for Child Protection and Family Support 2016, Outcomes framework for children in out-of-home care in Western Australia: 2015-2016 Baseline Indicator Report, Department for Child Protection and Family Support.
  3. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2015. Educational outcomes for children in care: Linking 2013 child protection and NAPLAN data, Cat. No. CWS 54, AIHW.
  4. McDowall JJ 2013, Experiencing out-of-home care in Australia: The views of children and young people (CREATE Report Card 2013), CREATE Foundation, Sydney, p. 62. Note: The initial response rate to this survey was low (53.6%) therefore the data was supplemented with other data held by CREATE Foundation. While the final number of participants (1,069) was considered a reasonable sample size, there were insufficient respondents to allow for categorical variables such as sex, age, culture and placement type.
  5. Tilbury C et al 2014, Making a connection: School engagement of young people in care, Child & Family Social Work, Vol 19, pp. 455-466.
  6. Ibid, p. 463.
Children with disability

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities requires that children with disability shall be given the assistance required to participate effectively in education and training and to be prepared for employment conducive to the child’s individual development.1

It is also a national requirement under the Disability Standards for Education 2005 that students with disability can access and participate in education on the same basis as other students. A key aspect of the standards is that education providers must make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to ensure that a student with disability has comparable opportunities and choices with those offered to students without disability.2

Reasonable adjustments may include changes to the way that teaching and learning is provided, changes to the classroom or school environment, the way that students’ progress and achievements are assessed and reported to parents, the provision of personal care and planning to meet individual needs, as well as professional learning for teachers and support staff.

The Nationally Consistent Collection of Data on School Students with Disability in Education provides a detailed snapshot of students receiving an adjustment for disability across Australia.This collection is still in the early stages of implementation and the data cannot be compared across states, however the data for WA shows that in 2017, one in five WA students received an adjustment for disability.

Proportion of WA students receiving an adjustment for disability, in per cent, 2016 and 2017

Category of disability

2016

2017

Cognitive

10.1

11.8

Physical

4.5

5.0

Sensory

0.8

0.8

Social-emotional

2.2

2.9

All categories of disability

17.6

20.5

Source: Nationally Consistent Collection of Data on School Students with Disability in Education Council, 2016 and 2017 - data on students in Australian schools receiving adjustments for disability.

This data is not disaggregated by age, geographic location or Aboriginal status.

While the Nationally Consistent Collection of Data on School Students with Disability in Education provides information on the number of children receiving adjustments for disability, it does not report on the educational outcomes or experiences of children with disability.  

The Senate Inquiry into the Education system for children with disability found that there were low or, in some cases, no expectations of students with disabilities, that is, educators and other students often fail to recognise students with disabilities as capable of learning to their full potential.4

Similar to children without disability, parental expectations of children with disability have been shown to have a significant, yet sometimes detrimental, influence on children’s academic outcomes. This is partly due to the disability ‘label’ which has a range of negative implications, particularly on children’s self-concept which influences social and academic outcomes.5

Measuring educational outcomes for children and young people with disability and/or long term health issues is a significant challenge.6 Experts recommend that when using standardised testing (such as NAPLAN), an accommodated or alternative assessment is available for children and young people with special educational needs.7 This is not currently available within NAPLAN, and while NAPLAN is a standardised process for all students to complete, evidence suggests that children and young people with disability often do not participate.8

For those students who are participating in the NAPLAN assessments, ACARA does not disaggregate the results to report specifically on the results of children with disability. There is therefore limited ability to measure whether current policies and practices are supporting the educational progress of students with disability. 

Further data and research on the educational outcomes and experiences of WA children and young people with disability is needed.

Endnotes

  1. Article 23, United Nations 1989, Convention on the Rights of the Child, United Nations Human Rights, Office of the High Commissioner.
  2. Department of Education and Training, Disability Standards for Education 2005 Fact Sheet, Australian Government.
  3. Nationally Consistent Collection of Data on School Students with Disability in Education Council, 2016 emergent data on students in Australian schools receiving adjustments for disability.
  4. Education and Employment References Committee, 2016, Access to real learning: the impact of policy, funding and culture on students with disability, Commonwealth of Australia.
  5. McCoy S et al 2016, The role of parental expectations in understanding social and academic well-being among children with disabilities in Ireland, European Journal of Special Needs Education, Vol 31, No 4, 535-552, DOI: 10.1080/08856257.2016.1199607.
  6. Mitchell D 2010, Education that fits: Review of international trends in the education of students with special educational needs, July 2010, University of Canterbury.
  7. Douglas G et al 2012, Measuring Educational Engagement, Progress and Outcomes for Children with Special Educational Needs: A Review, Department of Disability, Inclusion and Special Needs (DISN), School of Education, University of Birmingham.
  8. The Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY) 2013, Inclusive Education for Students with Disability: A review of the best evidence in relation to theory and practice, ARACY, p. 29.

Policy implications

Supporting student engagement and academic achievement is important. There must be an ongoing commitment to improving the achievement of students at or below the national minimum standard. Policy and practice must focus on addressing the complex barriers that impede our most vulnerable children throughout their school years.1

Schools can employ a number of approaches to support children’s academic achievement and engagement in school. To encourage attendance and improve educational outcomes for all children and young people, schools need to ensure a welcoming, supportive and inclusive environment for students and their families. Targeted teaching that is tailored to each student’s capability and level is required to reduce the significant achievement gap that exists between high achieving and low achieving students. This will ensure high achieving students are stretched and low achieving students are supported.2

Students’ motivation and engagement improves when teachers and staff foster a school and classroom environment which supports learning and emotional development. For more information, refer to the Commissioner for Children and Young People School and Learning Consultation: Technical Report.

Teachers and schools serving disadvantaged communities need sufficient resources to implement initiatives to help them build capacity. On the ground initiatives which support disadvantaged communities can include: attracting high-performing teachers and principals, instigating mentoring programs for teachers, employing a teacher with expertise in Aboriginal student learning outcomes, and increased monitoring of school performance.3

Parental engagement is also a key part of promoting and improving children’s learning capabilities and wellbeing. Refer to the Commissioner’s resource: How can you help your child to be engaged in school and learning? for more information for parents, carers and family. 

To improve the academic achievement and participation of Aboriginal children, it is essential to engage their parents and caregivers as educators in the first five years of life and create a strong relationship between home and school based on common understandings and shared knowledge. This involves ensuring parents and caregivers are well informed and have an opportunity to be active participants in their child’s education.For further information on education for Aboriginal children and young people refer to the Commissioner’s Policy brief on Aboriginal children and young people and education.

For students in out-of-home care, raising educational aspirations is critical. Research suggests that for children in care having a specific end-goal of education in mind can assist students to feel a sense of purpose and connection with their school environment. This will provide students with a reason to invest time and effort in learning and achieving, and foster engagement.5

Data gaps

Robust data on the academic achievement of children with disability is needed; without this it is difficult to assess whether children with disability are being provided with consistent and equitable access to education and support and to allow comparisons with children without disability.

Endnotes

  1. Cassells R et al 2017, Educate Australia Fair?: Education Inequality in Australia, Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre, Focus on the States Series, Issue No. 5.
  2. Goss P and Sonnemann J 2016, Widening gaps: What NAPLAN tells us about student progress, Grattan Institute.
  3. Centre for International Research on Education Systems 2015, Low SES School Communities National Partnership: Evaluation of staffing, management and accountability initiatives, Victoria University, pp. 8-11.
  4. Zubrick SR et al 2006, The Western Australian Aboriginal Child Health Survey: Improving the Educational Experiences of Aboriginal Children and Young People, Curtin University of Technology and Telethon Institute for Child Health Research.
  5. Tilbury C et al 2014, Making a connection: school engagement of young people in care, Child & Family Social Work, Vol 19, pp. 455-466.
Further resources

For more information on educational achievement refer to the following resources: