Providing public education

Providing every student with a pathway to a successful future

Providing every student with a pathway to a successful future

During the year, we supported schools to achieve positive learning outcomes for students. We set expectations that all students:

  • be provided with high quality development and learning experiences
  • have opportunities and support to create the building blocks for their future success
  • are supported in ways that have a positive impact on their mental health and emotional wellbeing.

Student achievement and attendance

The Western Australian Certificate of Education (WACE) achievement rate of full‑time Year 12 students (one of our key performance indicators) was 80.7% in 2022 (81.1% in 2021). This was our third highest rate (and equal with 2019) since the WACE requirements changed in 2016. The WACE achievement rate of Aboriginal full‑time Year 12 students was 41.5% in 2022 (42.7% in 2021).

To achieve a WACE, students must demonstrate a minimum standard of literacy (reading and writing) and numeracy. These standards were achieved by 85.6% of Year 12 full‑time students (85.4% in 2021). For Year 12 Aboriginal full‑time students, 50.5% demonstrated the literacy and numeracy standard (50.5% in 2021).

Details of Year 12 student achievement and responses to the Year 12 student intentions and satisfaction survey are in Appendix 3.

In 2022, public school students received 1,609 School Curriculum and Standards Authority awards (1,592 in 2020). Jessica Doan from Perth Modern School won the Beazley Medal: WACE, and Ashton Fowler from Harrisdale Senior High School won the Beazley Medal: Vocational Education and Training (VET).

The 2022 Rob Riley Memorial Prizes for the top Year 12 Aboriginal students from public schools were awarded to Archer Key from Duncraig Senior High School (Australian Tertiary Admission Rank, ATAR) and Isla Smith from Comet Bay College (Vocational Education and Training, VET).

In 2023, we assessed almost 25,000 Pre‑primary students in the On‑entry Assessment Program, giving teachers important information about the foundation literacy and numeracy knowledge and skills of their students in the first year of full‑time school. Following a number of years of relatively stable results, the 2023 average results for public schools were marginally lower than all 2022 assessments. It is noted that COVID‑19 impacted the preschool experiences of this cohort.

We commenced the implementation of the Phonics Initiative to support the development of student literacy skills from an early age, ensuring targeted intervention where required. From 2023, principals are required to confirm by mid‑year that Year 1 students at their school have undergone a phonics assessment, which identifies their progress against the Department’s expected proficiency.

More than 92,000 Western Australian public school students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 were assessed in aspects of literacy and numeracy as part of the 2022 National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN).

In the lead‑up to the NAPLAN assessment window and during the testing, Western Australia was heavily impacted by COVID‑19. It was anticipated that the ongoing disruptions relating to COVID‑19 would have some impact on the NAPLAN results. Participation rates were a little lower across all year levels and domains, with a more pronounced drop in the secondary years.

The Department’s NAPLAN key effectiveness indicators relate to the percentage of students achieving proficiency in Reading and Numeracy. Proficiency indicates students are on track to meet the curriculum expectations for the year level and assessment area.

The 2022 percentages of students achieving proficiency were relatively high. In comparison with 2021, proficiency improved by more than 2 percentage points in Year 7 Reading, improved marginally in Years 3 and 5 Reading and decreased marginally in Year 9 Reading and across all years in Numeracy. Three of the 8 NAPLAN key effectiveness indicator targets, Years 3, 5 and 7 Reading, were achieved.

For further information on students achieving proficiency, refer to Key performance indicators.

Highest ever mean scores were achieved in 2022 for 6 of the 20 assessments: Reading in Years 3 and 5, Writing in Year 9, and Spelling in Years 3, 5 and 7. Improvements are noted for Writing in the means across all year levels.

For 2022 NAPLAN results, refer to Key performance indicators and Appendix 2.

From 2023, changes to NAPLAN came into effect, including bringing forward the testing from May to March. New NAPLAN scales and a new time series will begin from 2023, noting that NAPLAN results reported on the new scales will not be comparable with results from 2008 to 2022. Proficiency standards with 4 levels of achievement for each year group (Exceeding, Strong, Developing and Needs additional support) came into effect, replacing the previous 10‑band structure. Future annual reporting will reflect these changes.

The 2022 Semester 1 attendance rate was 84.4%, down from 88.4% in 2021. The attendance rate was affected by a peak in the number of COVID‑19 cases following the opening of the Western Australian border and continuing public health advice that children with cold and flu‑like symptoms should not attend school.

The attendance rate for Aboriginal students was 64.6%, down from the rate of 71.3% in 2021. For details of attendance rates, refer to Appendix 3.

Restoring attendance to levels prior to COVID‑19 continued to be our priority, recognising that students who are not attending school regularly are more likely to be at risk than those who do. In 2022, a number of focus schools were identified as requiring additional support to restore attendance, with these schools remaining a priority in working toward this goal. A range of initiatives have been implemented across each of our 8 education regions and the schools within them. This has enabled local place‑based approaches determined by analysis of individual school attendance data and engagement with the local school communities.

We continued to work in partnership with schools, families and communities, as well as other agencies, to implement the Every day matters: 10‑point plan to improve attendance. The plan is aligned with 3 pillars:

  • community‑led action
  • support for schools, families and communities
  • system action and accountability.

The plan resulted in Community action to improve attendance: A guide for schools to co‑design with communities and a co‑design resource hub to support schools in applying the guide. The resource hub also enables community‑led attendance action groups to increase their understanding of authentic co‑design. The guide and resource hub are being piloted with identified schools in 2023. Participants within each school and community will provide feedback on the guide and the resource hub to maximise its effectiveness and usability.

We continued to work with other agencies and organisations to locate students whose whereabouts were unknown and reduce the number not participating in education or approved options. As at 30 June 2023, the whereabouts of 851 students of compulsory school age were unknown (868 in June 2022).

Providing public education (2)

Providing support and pathways that meet students' needs

We are committed to creating culturally responsive classrooms that build on the strengths of Aboriginal students, engage them in learning and enable them to thrive academically and socially.

The Aboriginal cultural standards framework continued to drive our work to strengthen the wellbeing, engagement and achievement of Aboriginal students and to build strong partnerships between families and schools. In 2022–23, we delivered 72 professional learning workshops to 3,853 principals, teachers, Aboriginal and Islander education officers, and graduate school psychologists, to support the creation of culturally responsive schools. Professional learning about culturally responsive pedagogies was completed online by 353 staff in Semester 1, 2023. We also delivered workshops to external stakeholders.

We continued to work in partnership with Aboriginal Elders and senior community members to strengthen the cultural responsiveness of the organisation. In 2022–23, we continued to engage senior staff in truth‑telling events and professional learning to support the development of our vision for reconciliation.

Our reconciliation statement and accompanying implementation plan is being developed to deliver on our commitment to building and supporting cultural responsiveness and to commit to the enactment of reconciliation.

In 2022, the Director General hosted ‘Education Conversations’, which included a series of conversations with Aboriginal families across our 8 education regions. The forums aimed to provide a culturally safe space for Aboriginal parents and community members to share their views on public education and provide advice on public school directions for Aboriginal students. Each education region continued the Aboriginal school community engagement forums in 2023. The sharing of knowledge with local communities has provided an opportunity for schools to include community voices in school decision‑making and continue to build mutually respectful relationships with Aboriginal families.

In 2022, there were 24 Aboriginal languages being taught in 92 Western Australian public schools (68 in 2021). Within these schools, 12,795 students in Kindergarten to Year 12 studied an Aboriginal language (9,617 in 2021).

In 2022, we implemented the co‑designed Culturally Responsive School Leadership program for principals, which was developed in partnership with Danjoo Koorliny Elders and community leaders, and the Centre for Social Impact. The program was completed by 14 principals in June 2023.

In 2023, there were 56 KindiLink programs operating in our schools. The play‑and‑learn sessions were designed for Aboriginal children and their parents, and were also available to non‑Aboriginal children at some sites. KindiLink supports children’s learning before starting school, forges positive partnerships between home and school, and builds the confidence and capability of parents as their children’s first educators.

In 2022, the Follow the Dream program, in partnership with the Polly Farmer Foundation, was delivered to 2,240 Aboriginal secondary students (1,947 in 2021) across 101 public schools throughout Western Australia. WACE was achieved by 176 of the 263 Year 12 students in the program in 2022.

The Clontarf Foundation academies operated in 40 schools in Semester 1, 2023, supporting male Aboriginal students through school and into post‑school destinations.

In Semester 1, 2023, a range of programs designed to strengthen the wellbeing and engagement of Aboriginal girls and young women in Years 7 to 12 were delivered in 49 public schools. A further 9 schools were in discussion about implementing an engagement program.

The state government’s Aboriginal Empowerment Strategy 2021–2029 continues to guide our approach to whole‑of‑government priority areas including implementation of the National Agreement on Closing the Gap (the National Agreement) and native title agreement making. Our progress against Closing the Gap targets and outcomes are built around the priority reform areas of the National Agreement and continue to guide progress in building a culturally responsive public education system.

We are establishing a system‑level Aboriginal Advisory Body to strengthen our relationship and shared decision‑making with Aboriginal people and deliver on key commitments under the National Agreement and the state government’s Aboriginal Empowerment Strategy 2021–2029. The Aboriginal Advisory Body will be an independent Aboriginal voice to the Department and the Minister.

Mr Ian Trust AO, Elder in Residence since 2017, provided strategic advice to the Minister and senior staff on whole‑of‑government priorities and strengthening the cultural responsiveness of our agency. Mr Trust ceased service as an Elder with the Department at the end of 2022. We thank Mr Trust for his contribution and service as Elder in Residence.

Kevin O’Keefe OAM, Principal Advisor, Student Achievement, continued as a member of Corporate Executive, to provide advice and guidance drawn from his extensive experience in Aboriginal education in school and system contexts. Kevin is a recipient of the Medal of the Order of Australia for service to Indigenous education.

In 2023, 2,043 students (1,907 in 2022) in Years 5 and 6 were eligible to participate in courses through the Primary Extension and Challenge (PEAC) program.

Gifted and Talented Secondary Selective Entrance programs were delivered by 24 secondary schools in 2023 with 1,074 Year 7 offers of placement accepted in selective academic, arts and languages programs. The academic program was also available online for selected students in Western Australia’s rural and remote regions.

We received 4,848 applications (4,967 in 2022) for Year 7 secondary places commencing in 2024. We also received a further 1,554 applications (1,538 in 2022) from students applying for entry to Years 9, 10 and 11 in 2024.

We continued to fund the Purposeful Academic Classes for Excelling Students program. The program invites identified high performing senior secondary students to participate in specifically designed tutorial sessions that aim to maximise their academic achievement. In 2022, a total of 204 students participated in the program.

Across WA in 2022, our School of Isolated and Distance Education (SIDE) provided education to more than 3,600 Kindergarten to Year 12 students unable to access regular schools or specific subjects. It delivered more than 5,400 virtual lessons each month and provided over 320 web‑based courses.

SIDE‑enrolled students at 18 regional schools were supported by independent learning coordinators (ILCs) in 2022, with 18 schools funded for an ILC in 2023. These coordinators also worked closely with a team of 8 regional learning specialist teachers who supported Year 11 and 12 ATAR students across country WA.

As at the Semester 1, 2023 student census, we were providing boarding facilities to 448 students through 8 country residential colleges and 1 metropolitan residential college. Of these students, 113 were attending non‑government schools. For student numbers over the last 5 years at each residential college, refer to Appendix 1.

We supported WA families with the Boarding Away from Home Allowance (BAHA). In 2022, we supported:

  • 1,200 public and non‑government school students through the BAHA for Isolated Children at a cost of $1.6 million (1,334 at a cost of $2.0 million in 2021)
  • 294 students through the BAHA Agricultural College Special Subsidy at a cost of $378,706 (298 at a cost of $418,148 in 2021). This allowance supports boarders at Western Australian Colleges of Agriculture and Edmund Rice College.
  • 37 public school students with the BAHA Gifted and Talented payment at a cost of $44,550 (34 at a cost of $47,264 in 2021). This allowance supports students enrolled in the Department’s Gifted and Talented Secondary Selective Entrance programs in public schools and residing in our residential colleges.

We supported low‑income families with children at public and non‑government schools through the Secondary Assistance Scheme. In 2022, 27,735 students in Years 7 to 12 received support through the scheme (31,558 in 2021):

  • $6.5 million under the Education Program Allowance ($7.4 million in 2021)
  • $3.2 million under the Clothing Allowance ($3.6 million in 2021).

In June 2023, a review of senior secondary school pathways was launched in a bid to help all Western Australian students reach their full potential through their post‑school study, training, or employment pursuits. The Pathways to Post‑School Success review is being led by the Department in partnership with Catholic Education Western Australia and the Association of Independent Schools of Western Australia.

The review will explore whether current pathway options are effectively preparing students for the full range of further study, training, and work options available to them. A key outcome will be to investigate whether current certification and university entry requirements assist students to make the best study choices, as well as to identify the barriers to students being able to access equitable pathways. The review is scheduled to conclude in early 2024.

In February 2023, the state government announced it had appointed an expert panel to conduct an independent review of Western Australia’s public university sector. The review panel will report to the Minister and be provided with secretariat support from the Department. The review will explore whether structural change will deliver improved performance and financial sustainability for Western Australia’s public university sector. A final report outlining review findings and recommendations is expected in the second half of 2023.

In 2023, Intensive English Centres at 14 metropolitan public schools provided targeted programs to 1,149 primary and secondary newly arrived students for whom English is an additional language or dialect. Funding is provided for students to attend a centre for 12 months, with an additional year of funding available for humanitarian entrant students with a limited schooling background. In 2023, the centres received a base allocation of $6.1 million and a total of $10.6 million in per student funding.

Mainstream schools in 2023 had 39,457 English as an additional language or dialect (EALD) students. Of these, 15,547 were eligible for EALD funding allocation of $44.1 million through our student‑centred funding model, including 2,024 Aboriginal students. The most common language spoken by students other than English was identified as Aboriginal English, with 6,781 identified speakers.

As at 30 June 2023, 2,831 (90%) of the 3,146 children in the care of the Chief Executive Officer of the Department of Communities, and enrolled in our schools, had documented plans.

Our Schools of Special Educational Needs (Behaviour and Engagement, Disability, Medical and Mental Health, and Sensory) continued to provide a range of services, some of which were available to staff and students from non‑government schools.

In 2022, the School of Special Educational Needs: Behaviour and Engagement managed 752 cases of direct and indirect support for students with extreme, complex and challenging behaviours.

The School of Special Educational Needs: Disability provided support to 2,599 students with a diagnosed or imputed disability in 2022. This support was provided through a consulting teacher service to 348 schools across the disability specialist areas of autism, physical and intellectual disability, specific learning disorders, and augmentative and alternative communication. Professional learning was provided to 8,881 educators across the state to build their capacity to support students with disability.

The School of Special Educational Needs: Medical and Mental Health provided education support across more than 40 health settings for students whose medical or mental health prevented them from participating in their enrolled school program. In response to COVID‑19 restrictions in hospitals and health settings, a school‑wide blended learning approach was adopted from 3 March to 4 November 2022. Teaching and liaison support was provided to 4,651 public and non‑government school students and their enrolled schools in 2022.

Our School of Special Educational Needs: Sensory provided teaching and consultative support in 2022 to 2,395 public and non‑government school students, including early intervention for 123 children aged zero to 4 years old with hearing loss, vision impairment or both.

Our 5 metropolitan language development centres provided intensive language intervention programs in 2023 for 1,365 students in the early years of schooling with a diagnosed developmental language disorder. The centres, with additional funding, staff and resources, deliver our Statewide Speech and Language Outreach Service, providing support to early years teachers of young students who have speech and language difficulties and do not attend a centre.

Our Specialised Learning Programs are a targeted initiative developed to support the individual needs of students with autism spectrum disorder from Kindergarten to Year 12 in mainstream schools. By the end of 2022, 16 programs were established. On 12 May 2022, the state government announced a further $18.2 million investment over 5 years for expansion of the programs into 8 additional schools (2 in 2023, 4 in 2024 and 2 in 2025).

As at 30 June 2023, we were supporting 15,902 students through the student‑centred funding model individual disability allocation to public schools (14,783 in June 2022).

In 2022, we provided teaching and learning adjustments to 21.6% of public school Pre‑primary to Year 12 students with disability, as reported through the Nationally Consistent Collection of Data on School Students with Disability. The adjustments are intended to enable these students to participate in education on the same basis as their peers.

Providing public education (3)

Student wellbeing

In 2022, an average of 412.7 full‑time equivalent (FTE) school psychologists (376.7 FTE in 2021) supported schools:

  • to plan and implement effective, evidence‑based whole school approaches to mental health promotion
  • in prevention and early intervention to improve mental health for cohorts of students
  • to support individual students who are experiencing mental health difficulties.

The number of school psychologists increased in 2022, following a state government election commitment, with mental health and wellbeing as a priority area.

As part of our pastoral care for students in 2022, 689 schools accessed chaplaincy services through in‑school chaplaincy programs, school chaplaincy support and pastoral critical incident response services (674 in 2021).

School engagement is a powerful protective factor for student wellbeing, and meeting the needs of vulnerable students is a complex challenge for the public school system. We remain committed to addressing student mental health and wellbeing, and ensuring public schools are supported to advance the wellbeing of students. The Student Wellbeing and Care Taskforce, established in March 2022, worked toward setting clear expectations of the role of schools in supporting and addressing student mental health, as well as considering how support for schools to embed effective approaches to student wellbeing and care can be further strengthened.

With funding from the Mental Health Commission, we delivered Gatekeeper Suicide Prevention training to 1,035 public and non‑government school staff and other community members in 2022. The Teen Mental Health First Aid program was delivered to 3,711 public and non‑government school secondary students. Youth Mental Health First Aid training was provided to 702 public school staff and other community members who work with young people.

For the 2022 school year, 100% of schools were surveyed on protective behaviours education. All except 4 schools fully or partially implemented protective behaviours. The 4 schools were provided additional support and are meeting the requirements. All schools will continue to be supported to maintain full implementation of protective behaviours education.

On 6 September 2022, 38 students in Years 10 and 11, representing all 8 education regions, were appointed to form the inaugural Western Australian Student Council. Since then, the councillors have attended ministerial meetings, liaised with schools and students in their regions, attended student leadership activities, and provided feedback to the Department on various initiatives. In May 2023, the council recruited 10 students from Year 10 to replace the outgoing Year 11 students.

In June 2022, we launched the WA Schools Anti‑Vaping Toolkit which aims to educate students, parents and school staff about the health risks associated with vaping. The toolkit is part of our suite of online resources, made available to all schools, including information on e‑cigarettes and vaping, professional learning for staff, and a teaching and learning resource aligned to the Western Australian curriculum.

Early in 2023, we provided free period products to all Western Australian public schools with students in Years 7 to 12. As part of the initiative, students have access to a range of period products accessible via dispensers. The initiative aims to:

  • provide students with the confidence that there will always be sanitary items available at school
  • relieve students of the stigma, anxiety and discomfort that can be associated with menstrual hygiene management so they can focus on their studies
  • ease the cost of living for students’ families.

​​​​​​​Since the launch in late 2018 of Let’s take a stand together, the state government’s plan to address violence in schools, the numbers of students suspended and excluded have increased.

In 2022, 19,289 students (5.8% of total enrolments throughout the year) were suspended compared to 18,068 in 2021 (5.5%).

There were 104 students excluded in 2022. In 2021, 76 students were excluded, 72 in 2020 and 65 in 2019 compared to 24 in 2018 and 8 in each of 2017 and 2016.

The Alternative Learning Settings (ALS) program provides alternative facilities and targeted support programs to WA school students who have been excluded or are at high risk of being excluded for complex and challenging behaviours. The ALS program pilot operated from 2019 to 2021 with 4 sites. In 2022, the program was consolidated into the School of Alternative Learning Settings and expanded to 11 sites, with 12 sites operational at the beginning of 2023, across all 8 education regions. One hundred and seventy students participated in the ALS program in 2022.

In 2022–23, we reviewed our student exclusion process and associated resources, and commenced the work to streamline the process for schools, education regional offices and families.

The revised Student Behaviour in Public Schools policy and procedures were published for familiarisation in February 2023, prior to implementation in schools from Semester 2, 2023. Changes to the policy emphasise the importance of creating safe, orderly, inclusive, supportive, and culturally responsive environments to enable students to fulfil their learning potential. The revised policy recognises that this is a responsibility shared by all members of the public schooling system and each school community, and that positive student behaviour is essential to promote engagement in learning and maximise the impact of classroom teaching.

In 2022, more than 2,750 school staff completed training in de‑escalation and positive handling. This included 734 graduates who received mandatory training on how to de‑escalate and manage aggressive behaviour as part of their induction program. As this course requires physical contact between participants, COVID‑19 restrictions affected course delivery in the early part of 2022, resuming with usual delivery, including face‑to‑face, in August 2022.

In Semester 2, 2022, 5,255 participants attended the Classroom Management Strategies and Western Australian Positive Behaviour Support training programs. Training continued to be available online in Semester 1, 2022, with staff unable to conduct the programs after being deployed to support schools due to COVID‑19.

In 2022–23, a series of enhancements were implemented to strengthen the multi‑agency protocol for education options for young people charged with harmful sexual behaviours, established in 2017. We:

  • continued support for schools, education regional offices and central services
  • delivered training for senior officers and lead school psychologists
  • developed student support plans for identified students who have experienced or been affected by harmful sexual behaviours and their families
  • updated our risk assessment and management plan process and templates.

We gathered planning guidelines and resources and utilised Sexual Assault Resource Centre resources to develop and implement student support plans for situations of sexual assault or abuse in public and non‑government schools.