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 student attainment rate improved from 90.9% in 2019 to 92.1% in 2020. The attainment rate for Aboriginal students also improved from 69.8% in 2019 to 70.8% in 2020. These attainment rates are based on all Year 12 students in the Semester 2 student census.

The Western Australian Certificate of Education (WACE) achievement rate of full‑time Year 12 students (one of our key performance indicators) increased in 2020 to 81.7%, from 80.7% in 2019. The WACE achievement rate of Aboriginal full-time Year 12 students declined slightly to 46.2% in 2020, from 46.7% in 2019.

In order to achieve a WACE, students must demonstrate a minimum standard of literacy (reading and writing) and numeracy. These standards were achieved by 85.7% of Year 12 full-time students (85.5% in 2019). For Year 12 Aboriginal full-time students, 53.8% demonstrated the literacy and numeracy standard (55.1% in 2019).

Details of Year 12 student achievement and responses to the Year 12 student intentions and satisfaction survey are in Appendix 2.

In 2020, public school students received 1,649 School Curriculum and Standards Authority awards (1,647 in 2019).

The 2020 Rob Riley Memorial Prizes for the top Year 12 Aboriginal students from public schools were won by Taylor MacKinnon from Mount Lawley Senior High School (Australian Tertiary Admission Rank, ATAR) and Violet Johns from Wanneroo Secondary College (Vocational Education and Training, VET).

In 2021, we assessed almost 26,000 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.

Just over 89,000 Western Australian public school students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 were assessed in aspects of literacy and numeracy as part of the 2021 National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN). Approximately 99% of our students who sat the tests completed them online, with the exception of Year 3 Writing.

The 2020 NAPLAN assessments were cancelled nationally due to COVID-19. Previous years’ NAPLAN results are reported in our annual reports. The 2021 NAPLAN results will be reported in the 2021–22 annual report.

COVID-19 had an impact on student attendance at public schools in 2020 and 2021.

In 2021, the State Government postponed the start of Term 1 by one week (with schools closed from 1 to 5 February) in the Perth, Peel and South-West regions.

In 2020, attendance was most severely disrupted from Week 7 to Week 10 of Term 1, following the declaration of a State of Emergency. Following State Government advice during this period, most students accumulated ‘reasonable cause’ absences and were unable to achieve the level required for regular attendance across the semester. Excluding these weeks, the attendance (adjusted) rate in 2020 was 90.1%.

Attendance has remained stable since 2013 at close to 91% with a slight decline in 2019 (89.8%), mostly due to the early onset of the influenza season.

The adjusted attendance rate was 73.1% in 2020 for Aboriginal students, down from 74.3% in 2019. Details of attendance rates are in Appendix 2.

We have completed the 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 have:

  • established a project team to support implementation of our new 10-point plan for improving attendance
  • revised the Student Attendance in Public Schools policy and procedures which, following a six-month familiarisation phase, is due to become effective from 19 July 2021.

In 2021, we established the roles of Directors of Education. This has seen a subtle but significant shift in the focus and responsibilities of the senior regional leaders. Directors of Education influence student attendance, achievement and progress through their work with principals. They are expected to know and understand the challenges in their regions and channel system support resources to where they are most needed.

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 2021, the whereabouts of 801 students of compulsory school age were unknown (1,012 in June 2020).

Providing public education (2)

Providing support and pathways that meet students' needs


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 2020–21, we delivered 63 professional learning workshops to 2,521 principals, teachers, Aboriginal and Islander education officers, and graduate school psychologists, to support the creation of culturally responsive schools. We also delivered workshops to external stakeholders.

We are working in partnership with senior Aboriginal community members to build cultural responsiveness at all levels of the organisation. In 2020, we began developing a reconciliation action plan (RAP) to support and advance our contribution to reconciliation.

In 2021, in partnership with Danjoo Koorliny (Walking Together) Elders and community leaders, and the Centre for Social Impact, we began designing a culturally responsive school leadership program.

In 2021, there were 55 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 home‑school partnerships, and builds the confidence and capability of parents as their children’s first educators.

In 2020, the Follow the Dream program, in partnership with the Polly Farmer Foundation, was delivered to 1,605 Aboriginal secondary students (1,210 in 2019) across 84 public schools throughout Western Australia. One hundred and eighty (82%) of the 219 Year 12 students in the program in 2020 achieved a WACE.

The Clontarf Foundation academies operated in 31 schools in Semester 1, 2021, supporting male Aboriginal students through school and into post-school destinations.

We provided funding in 2020 to Glass Jar Australia, Role Models and Leaders Australia, SHINE Inspire Achieve Belong, Stars Foundation and the Wirrpanda Foundation to deliver programs to strengthen the engagement of female Aboriginal students in education, and their transitions through school and into further study and work.

Emeritus Professor Colleen Hayward AM and Mr Ian Trust AO, our Elders in Residence since 2017, provided strategic advice to the Minister for Education and Training and our staff on whole‑of‑government priorities and strengthening the cultural responsiveness of our agency.

Kevin O’Keefe, Principal Advisor, Student Support and Aboriginal Education Services, 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 2021, 1,818 students (1,793 in 2020) 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 22 secondary schools in 2021 with 1,096 Year 7 offers of placement accepted in selective academic, languages and arts programs. The academic program was also available online for select students in Western Australia’s rural and remote regions.

We received 4,847 applications in 2021 for Year 7 secondary places commencing in 2022, an increase of 4.3% from 2020. We also received a further 1,679 applications (1,629 in 2020) from students applying for entry to Years 9, 10 and 11 in 2022.

We supported students in Years 11 and 12 to access work placements in state and local government agencies through the Government Agency Work Placement Initiative. Students can use these placements to contribute to their Western Australian Certificate of Education and vocational education and training qualifications.

Our School of Isolated and Distance Education (SIDE) provided education to more than 2,800 Kindergarten to Year 12 students across WA in 2020 unable to access regular schools or specific subjects. It delivered more than 4,100 virtual lessons each month and provided nearly 250 web-based courses.

We continued to provide assistance to students and teachers in regional and rural schools. SIDE-enrolled students at 10 regional schools were supported by independent learning coordinators. These coordinators also worked closely with a team of eight regional learning specialist teachers who supported Year 11 and 12 students across country WA enrolled in 26 ATAR courses. In 2020, the team visited 40 schools, providing face-to-face tuition along with online revision resources.

As at the Semester 1, 2021 student census, we were providing boarding facilities to 479 students through eight country‑based residential colleges and one metropolitan‑based residential college. Seventy-five of these students were attending non-government schools. Refer to Appendix 1 for student numbers at each residential college.

We supported WA families with the Boarding Away from Home Allowance (BAHA). In 2020, we supported:

  • 1,281 public and non-government school students through the BAHA for Isolated Children at a cost of over $2.0 million (1,356 at a cost of just over $2.4 million in 2019)
  • 287 students through the BAHA Agricultural College Special Subsidy at a cost of $439,043 (283 at a cost of $491,630 in 2019). This allowance supports boarders at Western Australian Colleges of Agriculture and Edmund Rice College.

We supported low income families with children at public and non-government schools through the Secondary Assistance Scheme. In 2020:

  • we extended the closing date for applying, to support families affected by COVID‑19
  • 32,774 students in Years 7 to 12 received support through the scheme (30,494 in 2019):
    • $7.6 million under the Education Program Allowance ($7.0 million in 2019)
    • $3.7 million under the Clothing Allowance ($3.4 million in 2019).

Intensive English Centres at 14 metropolitan public schools in 2021 provided targeted programs to 785 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. In 2021, 748 students received this funding. This is a reduction from last year (1,098 students) due to border closures as a result of COVID-19.

Mainstream schools in 2021 had 34,153 English as an additional language or dialect (EALD) students. Of these, 13,623 were eligible for the EALD funding allocation including 1,810 Aboriginal students.

As at 30 June 2021, 2,904 (95%) of the 3,056 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 2020, the School of Special Educational Needs: Behaviour and Engagement managed 786 cases of intensive support for students with extreme, complex and challenging behaviours. This included 27 students enrolled at the Midland Learning Academy which supports severely disengaged students, and students at our 14 engagement centres.

The School of Special Educational Needs: Disability provided services and support to 5,338 students in 2020. This support was provided through a consulting teacher service to schools across four specialist areas: autism, assistive technology, disability and specific learning disorders.

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. Teaching and liaison support was provided to 5,513 public and non-government school students and their enrolled schools in 2020. Professional learning was also provided to 427 school staff to build their capacity to support students with health needs across 47 public and non-government schools.

Our School of Special Educational Needs: Sensory provided teaching and consultative support in 2020 to 2,544 public and non-government school students, and early intervention for 144 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 2021 for 1,366 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.

As at 30 June 2021, we were supporting 14,074 students through the student‑centred funding model individual disability allocation to public schools.

In 2020, we provided teaching and learning adjustments to 19.9% 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 363.0 full-time equivalent (FTE) school psychologists in 2020 (355.7 FTE in 2019) supported school staff with:

  • student behaviour
  • learning and disability
  • mental health and wellbeing
  • emergency and critical incident management.

Mental health and wellbeing was a priority area for school psychologists who provided consultation, assessment, intervention and planning support.

Gatekeeper Suicide Prevention Training was delivered by the Mental Health Commission to 559 public school staff in 2020, and the national teen Mental Health First Aid program was delivered to 2,150 secondary students. Both programs were available to public and non-government schools. Youth Mental Health First Aid training was provided to 556 public school staff and other community members who work with young people.

As part of our pastoral care for students in 2020, 654 schools accessed chaplaincy services through in-school chaplaincy programs, school chaplaincy support and pastoral critical incident response services.

In Term 4 2020, a further 12 schools joined the 18 schools already piloting the Western Australian Respectful Relationships Teaching Support Program. The program, a previous election commitment of the State Government 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 2020 school year, 100% of schools indicated that protective behaviours education was being fully implemented. Schools will continue to be supported to ensure full implementation during 2021 and beyond.

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 2020, 15,943 students (4.9% of total enrolments throughout the year) were suspended compared to 16,149 in 2019 (5.0% of total enrolments throughout the year). The reduction in the number and percentage of students suspended in 2020, despite a larger overall student population, is likely due to COVID-19 disruption to the school year. The majority of public school students (95.1%) received no suspensions.

There were 72 students excluded in 2020 and 65 in 2019 compared to 24 in 2018 and eight in each of 2017 and 2016.

In 2020, more than 2,700 school staff completed training in de-escalation and positive handling. This included 861 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 impacted on course delivery.

In 2020, 5,446 participants attended the Classroom Management Strategies and Positive Behaviour Support training programs. Participant numbers were impacted by COVID‑19 restrictions on face‑to‑face workshops.


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.