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 the opportunities and support needed to achieve the building blocks on which their future success will be built; and are supported in ways that have a positive impact on their mental health and emotional wellbeing.


Student achievement and attendance

The student attainment rate remained high, at 90.9% in 2019 (90.9% in 2018). The attainment rate for Aboriginal students remained relatively consistent at 69.8% (69.5% in 2018). These attainment rates are based on all Year 12 students as at Semester 2 student census. These were previously reported based on a subset of Year 12 students – those who were full-time and eligible for the Western Australian Certificate of Education (WACE).

The Year 12 WACE achievement rate (one of our key performance indicators) increased slightly in 2019 to 80.7%, from 80.5% in 2018. The WACE achievement rate of Aboriginal students declined to 46.7% in 2019, from 47.7% in 2018.

In order to achieve a WACE, students must demonstrate a minimum standard of literacy (reading and writing) and numeracy. These standards were achieved by 85.2% of Year 12 students (85.0% in 2018). For Year 12 Aboriginal students, 54.9% demonstrated the literacy and numeracy standard (54.3% in 2018).

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

In 2019, public school students received 1,647 School Curriculum and Standards Authority awards (1,815 in 2018).

The 2019 Rob Riley Memorial Prizes for the top Year 12 Aboriginal students from public schools were won by Maya Stasiuk from Perth Modern School (Australian Tertiary Admission Rank, ATAR) and Breanna Dorrington from Western Australia College of Agriculture – Narrogin (vocational education and training, VET).

In 2020, we assessed 25,016 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.

Almost 90,000 Western Australian public school students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 were assessed in aspects of literacy and numeracy as part of the 2019 National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN).

With the exception of Year 3 Writing, NAPLAN continued its transition from pen and paper to online assessments. Although connectivity issues caused disruption for a number of schools, the vast majority of students were able to complete the assessments online.

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 percentages of students achieving proficiency in 2019 were the highest ever recorded for three of the assessments – Year 5 Reading, Year 7 Reading and Year 7 Numeracy – and second highest on record for the remaining five proficiency results. See our Key performance indicators section for more information.

Our highest ever mean scores were achieved in 2019 for eight of the 20 assessments – Year 3 Reading, Numeracy, Writing, and Grammar and Punctuation; Year 5 Reading and Writing; Year 7 Numeracy; and Year 9 Writing.

There were substantial improvements in the mean scores and percentages achieving the national minimum standards for Writing across all year levels between 2018 and 2019. There were also improvements in the means for Year 7 Reading and Year 3 Grammar and Punctuation.

Females continued to substantially outperform males in all areas of literacy across all year levels.

Male students had marginally higher means in Numeracy across all year levels. However, slightly higher percentages of females were at or above the national minimum standards in Numeracy than males in all year levels.

While there have been several notable gains for Aboriginal students, the literacy and numeracy outcomes for many of these students continue to be of concern.

NAPLAN results tend to be lower as geographical remoteness increases.

Further NAPLAN results are in Key performance indicators and Appendix 2.

Education Ministers from all states and territories announced that NAPLAN would not occur in 2020 due to COVID-19 to assist school leaders, teachers and support staff to focus on the wellbeing of students and continuity of education.

COVID-19 had an impact on student attendance at public schools in Semester 1, 2020. Students attending school sites dropped to less than 15% in Week 9, Term 1 (30 March to 3 April) when parents were encouraged by the State Government to keep their children at home if they could access online or other resources for their child’s education to continue. Attendance gradually increased from the start of Term 2, culminating in almost pre-COVID-19 levels of school attendance from Week 4 of Term 2, when all children (except those medically referred to learn at home) were required to attend school on-site.

Prior to 2020, attendance had remained stable since 2013 at close to 91% with a slight decline in 2019 to 89.8% (90.7% in 2018). The slight decline in 2019 was mostly due to the early onset of the influenza season. In 2019, the rate was 74.3% for Aboriginal students, down from 75.3% in 2018. Details of attendance rates are in Appendix 3.

We are continuing a review of our approach to attendance, which was initiated by the Minister for Education and Training in response to the Public Accounts Committee’s 2018 report, Setting the stage for improvement: Department of Education’s management of student attendance. Based on this, we are:

  • developing a cross-agency approach to address the complex matter of low student attendance in remote and very disadvantaged communities
  • developing operational strategies to provide stronger and more targeted support for schools
  • updating our policy, procedures and guidance to improve schools’ local decision‑making to meet their legislated obligations.

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. At June 2020, the whereabouts of 1,012 students of compulsory school age were unknown (1,087 in June 2019).

Providing public education (2)

Providing support and pathways that meet the needs of students


The Aboriginal Cultural Standards Framework continued to drive the Department's work to strengthen the wellbeing, engagement and achievement of Aboriginal students and to build strong partnerships between families and schools. In 2019–20, we delivered 101 professional learning workshops to 4,506 principals, teachers, and Aboriginal and Islander education officers to support culturally responsive schools.

We commenced the On Country Teacher Education Pilot Program, developed with and delivered by Curtin University, to support Aboriginal staff working in support roles in our schools to complete a Bachelor of Education (Primary Education). In 2020, 28 staff began the course to become qualified teachers, studying part-time while continuing to work in their existing roles.

In 2020, KindiLink operated in 48 public schools and one Catholic school. 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 home‑school partnerships, and builds the confidence and capability of families.

In 2020, 20 public and three non-government schools were participating in the Kimberley Schools Project (KSP). These schools were supported to intensify and accelerate children’s learning through targeted teaching practices in Kindergarten to Year 2. Extending support to Years 3 to 6 (and lower secondary students where enrolled) is underway on a school by school basis in either or both literacy and numeracy. Schools can also participate in the project’s leadership model and implement the KSP KindiLink program. Strategies that focus on improving regular attendance and community engagement will be supported from Semester 2, 2020.

In 2019, Follow the Dream: Partnerships for Success supported 1,210 Aboriginal secondary students (1,204 in 2018) across 82 public schools throughout Western Australia. One hundred and forty-six (86%) of the 169 Year 12 students in the program in 2019 achieved the WACE.

The Clontarf Foundation Academies continued in 26 schools in 2020, supporting male Aboriginal students through school and into post-school destinations. A new five‑year agreement, commencing in 2020, was signed with Clontarf Foundation for the continued provision of the academies.

We provided funding in 2019 to Glass Jar Australia, SHINE Inspire Achieve Belong, Wirrpanda Foundation, and Role Models and Leaders Australia to deliver programs to support the engagement of Aboriginal girls in education, and their transitions through school and into further study and work.

Emeritus Professor Colleen Hayward AM and Mr Ian Trust (our Elders in Residence), provided advice to the Minister for Education and Training and senior staff on matters relating to the learning and wellbeing of Aboriginal children and young people.

Kevin O’Keefe (Principal Advisor, Aboriginal Education Teaching and Learning) continued as a member of Corporate Executive, to provide advice and guidance drawn from his extensive experience in the education sector.


Building on strength in uncertain times: In this together. A message for Aboriginal families and all school communities.

This video information is available as a text transcript.

In 2020, 1,793 students (1,755 in 2019) in Years 5 and 6 were eligible to participate in courses through the Primary Extension and Challenge (PEAC) program.

Selective Gifted and Talented programs were delivered by 20 secondary schools in 2020. We offered 1,266 Year 7 places (1,157 places were offered for 2019) in selective academic, languages and arts programs. The academic program was also available online for selected students in Western Australia’s rural and remote regions.

We received 4,647 applications in 2020 for Year 7 secondary places commencing in 2021, an increase of 2.4% from 2019. We also received a further 1,629 applications (1,563 in 2019) from students applying for entry to Years 9, 10 and 11 in 2021.

Our School of Isolated and Distance Education (SIDE) provided education to more than 1,900 Kindergarten to Year 12 students across Western Australia in 2019 unable to access regular schools or specific subjects. It delivered more than 4,500 virtual lessons each month and provided nearly 250 web-based courses.

We continued to provide support to students and teachers in regional and rural schools with independent learning coordinators in 10 regional schools working with a team of eight curriculum specialist teachers. In 2019, the team visited 40 schools, provided face-to-face tuition to students in 26 ATAR courses, and developed online revision resources in 26 ATAR courses.

As at the Semester 1, 2020 student census, we were providing boarding facilities to 487 students through eight country‑based residential colleges and one metropolitan‑based residential college. Sixty-seven of these students were attending non-government schools. See Appendix 1 for student numbers at each residential college.

Through the Boarding Away from Home Allowance for Isolated Children, we supported 1,356 public and non-government school students in 2019 at a total cost of just over $2.4 million (1,357 students at just over $2.6 million in 2018). We also supported 283 public and non-government school students (294 in 2018) boarding at Western Australian Colleges of Agriculture and Edmund Rice College through the Agriculture Colleges Special Subsidy Boarding Away from Home Allowance, amounting to $491,630 ($543,979 in 2018).

Through the Secondary Assistance Scheme, in 2019 we supported 30,494 public and non-government school students in Years 7 to 12 from low income families to pay contributions and charges, and purchase school uniforms (29,500 in 2018). Payments of more than $7.0 million (more than $6.8 million in 2018) were made under the Education Program Allowance and just over $3.4 million (just over $3.3 million in 2018) under the Clothing Allowance.

Intensive English Centres at 14 metropolitan public schools in 2020 provided targeted programs to 1,098 primary and secondary 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.

Mainstream schools in 2020 had 32,937 English as an Additional Language or Dialect (EALD) students. Of these, 12,516 were eligible for additional funding. Changes from 2020 to the student-centred funding model provided EALD funding to 1,329 Aboriginal students, available for their first three years of schooling.

As at 30 June 2020, 2,973 (91%) of the 3,252 children in the care of the Chief Executive Officer of the Department of Communities and enrolled in our schools had documented plans.

Four hundred and eighty-three students undertook the NAPLAN reading tests while in care in both 2017 and 2019; and 470 undertook the NAPLAN numeracy tests. Between 2017 and 2019 the percentages of these children who were at or above the national minimum standard improved in reading for one of the three cohorts (Year 7 to Year 9) and in numeracy for one of the three cohorts (also Year 7 to Year 9). See Table A16 for further information.

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 2019, the School of Special Educational Needs: Behaviour and Engagement managed 691 cases of intensive support for students with extreme, complex and challenging behaviour support needs at our 13 engagement centres. A further 34 students were enrolled at the Midland Learning Academy which supports severely disengaged students.

The School of Special Educational Needs: Disability supported 6,412 students in 2019. This support was provided through a consulting teacher service to schools across four specialist areas: autism, assistive technologies, disabilities and learning difficulties.

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. Support was provided to 5,961 students in 2019.

Our School of Special Educational Needs: Sensory provided teaching and consultative support in 2019 to 2,552 students from Kindergarten to Year 12 in both public and non-government schools, and early intervention for 124 children aged zero to four years old with hearing loss and/or vision impairment.

Our five metropolitan language development centres provided intensive language intervention programs in 2020 for 1,391 students in the early years of schooling with a diagnosed language disorder. The centres, through our Statewide Speech and Language Outreach Service, also delivered support to teachers of young students across the State who have speech and language difficulties and do not attend a centre.

We provided support in 2020 for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) through:

  • Specialised Learning Programs operating in 16 schools
  • the Early Intensive Intervention Program at five education support centres, which equips students with ASD in Kindergarten and Pre-primary to transition to Year 1 at their local school.

Our consulting teachers with specialist skills in supporting students with ASD assisted 528 students in 514 schools in 2019. Professional learning was also provided to 4,276 school staff in 2019 to develop the capacity of schools to support students with ASD. This included support to 20 regional schools through the Regional Autism Collaborative Model.

At the end of 2019, we were supporting 12,229 students through the student‑centred funding model individual disability allocation to schools.

In 2019, we provided teaching and learning adjustments to 20.1% 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

An average 355.7 full-time equivalent (FTE) school psychologists in 2019 (345.4 FTE in 2018) supported school staff with student behaviour, learning and disability, mental health and wellbeing, and emergency and critical incident management. School psychologists provided consultation, assessment, intervention and support for planning, with mental health and wellbeing a priority area.

In 2018 and 2019, as part of a State Government election commitment, 300 schools were provided with an additional 0.1 FTE Level 3 Classroom Teacher salary to oversee the delivery of mental health programs for students. By the end of 2019, 97% of these schools had undertaken Gatekeeper Suicide Prevention and Youth Mental Health First Aid professional learning.

Gatekeeper Suicide Prevention training was delivered to 579 public school staff in 2019 (including staff from the schools mentioned above) and the teen Mental Health First Aid program was delivered to 4,463 secondary students. Both programs were available to public and non-government schools. Youth Mental Health First Aid training was provided to more than 977 public school staff and other community members who work with young people.

As part of our pastoral care for students in 2019, 621 schools accessed chaplaincy services through in-school chaplaincy programs, school chaplaincy support and pastoral critical incident response services.

The Student Mobile Phones in Public Schools policy, which bans students from using their mobile phones during school hours with exceptions for health and educational purposes, took effect from the start of the 2020 school year. The policy aims to enhance student engagement and wellbeing, and protect the privacy of staff and students.

In 2020, a further eight schools joined the 10 schools already piloting the Western Australian Respectful Relationships Teaching Support Program. The program, a State Government election commitment to address our State’s high rates of family and domestic violence, is coordinated by the Department of Communities and delivered by Starick Services Inc. It provides teachers with evidence‑based skills and knowledge to implement a whole-school approach to deliver respectful relationships educational content.

For the 2019 school year, 100% of schools completed our protective behaviours education survey and all schools reported fully or partially implementing protective behaviours. The 8% of schools that indicated partial implementation were supported to identify barriers and implement full protective behaviours education.

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

In 2019, 16,149 students (5.0% of total enrolments throughout the year) were suspended compared to 14,243 in 2018 (4.5% of total enrolments throughout the year). The majority of public school students (95.0%) received no suspensions.

There were 65 students excluded in 2019 and 24 in 2018 compared to eight in each of 2017 and 2016.

In 2019, more than 3,450 school staff completed training in de-escalation and positive handling. This included 810 graduates who received mandatory training on how to de-escalate and manage aggressive behaviour as part of their induction program.

In 2019, 6,418 participants attended the Classroom Management Strategies and Positive Behaviour Support training programs.


Explore the story behind the artwork in our strategic directions for public education in Western Australia.

Meaningful pathways

Developing student skills through education for a successful life

The footprints and the lines represent the many meaningful pathways for students through education for a successful life.

They are all radiating or leading out from the lines and dots which represent the multilayered and multifaceted nature of these pathways.