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 81.1% in 2021 (81.7% in 2020). This was our second highest rate since the WACE requirements changed in 2016. The WACE achievement rate of Aboriginal full-time Year 12 students was 42.7% in 2021 (46.2% in 2020).

To achieve a WACE, students must demonstrate a minimum standard of literacy (reading and writing) and numeracy. These standards were achieved by 85.4% of Year 12 full-time students (85.7% in 2020). For Year 12 Aboriginal full-time students, 50.5% demonstrated the literacy and numeracy standard (53.8% in 2020).

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

In 2021, public school students received 1,592 School Curriculum and Standards Authority awards (1,649 in 2020). Lawrence Nheu from Perth Modern School won the Beazley Medal: WACE, and Charlotte Crossen from the WA College of Agriculture Cunderdin won the Beazley Medal: Vocational Education and Training (VET).

The 2021 Rob Riley Memorial Prizes for the top Year 12 Aboriginal students from public schools were won by Caleb Langan from Comet Bay College (Australian Tertiary Admission Rank, ATAR) and Myka Richards‑Matters from Rossmoyne Senior High School (Vocational Education and Training, VET).

In 2022, 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. Results have remained relatively stable since 2013.

Nearly 93,000 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).

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 2021, though still relatively high historically, were generally a little lower than the percentages achieved in 2019. Two of the 8 NAPLAN key effectiveness indicator targets were achieved, Year 5 Reading and Year 9 Numeracy. The proficiency rate of 71.3% for Year 5 Reading was the highest ever, up from 70.2% in 2019. The proficiency rates for Year 5 Numeracy and Year 9 Numeracy were the second highest ever recorded.

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

Highest ever mean scores were achieved in 2021 for 7 of the 20 assessments: Reading in Years 3 and 5, Writing in Years 3, 5 and 9, and Spelling in Years 5 and 7. Improvements are noted for Writing in the means across all year levels and for the percentage of students at or above the national minimum standard in Year 9.

NAPLAN results for 2021 are in Key performance indicators and Appendix 2.

The Australian Early Development Census, completed nationally every 3 years, provides a measure of children’s development across 5 domains in their first year of full-time schooling, Pre-primary in Western Australia. The latest collection took place in Term 2, 2021, with results released nationally in April 2022.

The percentage of children who began school developmentally on track on all 5 domains decreased slightly between 2018 and 2021, from 58.0% to 57.5% (55.3% in 2015). School staff use the results to inform their planning for the early years.

The 2021 Semester 1 attendance rate was 88.4%, down from the adjusted (excluding Weeks 7 to 10, Term 1) rate of 90.1% in 2020. The attendance rate continued to be affected by the response of families to COVID-19 cases, and public health and safety measures. This included public health advice that children with cold and flu like symptoms should not attend school, isolation requirements for those with COVID-19 and their close contacts, and lockdowns in the Perth and Peel regions in Week 11, Term 2 and in the Perth, Peel and South West regions in Week 1, Term 1.

The attendance rate for Aboriginal students was 71.3%, down from the adjusted rate of 73.1% in 2020. Details of attendance rates are in Appendix 3.

The revised Student Attendance in Public Schools policy and procedures became effective in July 2021. Changes to the policy emphasise the importance of:

  • student attendance approaches relevant to the individual school context
  • early intervention and support to restore attendance
  • developing a positive attendance culture and promoting student attendance
  • providing engaging environments to support student learning
  • building shared responsibility for attendance between schools, students, parents and the broader community
  • engaging in community-initiated approaches to enhance student attendance
  • a culturally responsive approach to student attendance through explicit links to the Aboriginal cultural standards framework.

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.  

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 2022, the whereabouts of 868 students of compulsory school age were unknown (801 in June 2021).

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 2021–22, we delivered 72 professional learning workshops to 3,002 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 continued to work in partnership with Aboriginal Elders and senior community members to strengthen the cultural responsiveness of the organisation. In 2021, we continued to engage senior staff in truth‑telling events and professional learning to support the development of our vision for reconciliation. 

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

In 2021, in partnership with the Danjoo Koorliny (Walking Together) panel of Elders and community leaders, and the Centre for Social Impact, we co‑designed a culturally responsive school leadership program for principals. 

In 2022, 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 2021, the Follow the Dream program, in partnership with the Polly Farmer Foundation, was delivered to 1,947 Aboriginal secondary students (1,605 in 2020) across 93 public schools throughout Western Australia. One hundred and fifty-eight of the 224 Year 12 students in the program in 2021 achieved a WACE.

The Clontarf Foundation academies operated in 40 schools in Semester 1, 2022, supporting male Aboriginal students through school and into post‑school destinations. 

In Semester 2, 2021 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 42 public schools.

For 2022, we established a panel of service providers to deliver engagement programs for Aboriginal girls and young women. The successful respondents to the panel arrangement were:

  • Aurora Education Foundation 
  • Glass Jar Australia
  • Koya Aboriginal Corporation
  • SHINE Inspire Achieve Belong
  • Stars Foundation 
  • Stephen Michael Foundation
  • Waalitj (previously Wirrpanda) Foundation.

In Semester 1, 2022, 21 of the 47 public schools providing an engagement program for Aboriginal girls and young women did so through the panel arrangement. The remaining 26 programs were provided at no cost to the schools.

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 senior staff on whole-of-government priorities and strengthening the cultural responsiveness of our agency. Emeritus Professor Hayward retired from this position in 2022. We thank Emeritus Professor Hayward for her contribution and service as Elder in Residence.

Kevin O’Keefe, 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. On 13 June 2022, Kevin was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for service to Indigenous education.

In August 2021, the Western Australian Government released the Aboriginal Empowerment Strategy and its Closing the Gap Jurisdictional Implementation Plan. Building the agency’s cultural responsiveness will progress our commitments under the implementation plan.

Key initiatives such as those outlined above will drive progress towards the Closing the Gap socio‑economic targets and remain priorities for the Department. We are the lead, co-lead or supporting agency for 6 of the 17 socio-economic targets under the implementation plan. Progress is reported to the Productivity Commission and published on its Closing the Gap Information Repository.

In 2022, 1,907 students (1,818 in 2021) 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 2022 with 1,066 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 4,967 applications (4,847 in 2021) for Year 7 secondary places commencing in 2023. We also received a further 1,538 applications from students applying for entry to Years 9, 10 and 11 in 2023.

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 2021, a total of 273 students participated in the program.

Across WA in 2021, our School of Isolated and Distance Education (SIDE) provided education to more than 2,700 Kindergarten to Year 12 students unable to access regular schools or specific subjects. It delivered more than 5,000 virtual lessons each month and provided nearly 320 web-based courses.

SIDE‑enrolled students at 10 regional schools were supported by independent learning coordinators (ILCs) in 2021, with 18 schools funded for an ILC in 2022. 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, 2022 student census, we were providing boarding facilities to 464 students through 8 country residential colleges and 1 metropolitan residential college. Of these students, 101 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 2021, we supported:

  • 1,334 public and non-government school students through the BAHA for Isolated Children at a cost of $2.0 million (1,281 at a cost of $2.1 million in 2020)
  • 298 students through the BAHA Agricultural College Special Subsidy at a cost of $418,148 (287 at a cost of $439,043 in 2020). This allowance supports boarders at Western Australian Colleges of Agriculture and Edmund Rice College.
  • 34 public school students with the BAHA Gifted and Talented payment at a cost of $47,264 (31 at a cost of $46,569 in 2020). 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 2021:

  • 31,558 students in Years 7 to 12 received support through the scheme (32,774 in 2020):
    • $7.4 million under the Education Program Allowance ($7.6 million in 2020)
    • $3.6 million under the Clothing Allowance ($3.7 million in 2020).

In 2022, Intensive English Centres (IECs) at 14 metropolitan public schools provided targeted programs to 533 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 2022, 525 students received this additional funding. 

There has been a reduction in IEC enrolments since 2020 (1,098 students in 2020 and 525 in 2022), due to international border closures as a result of COVID-19. In 2021 and 2022, additional funding of $1.5 million and $2.4 million respectively was provided to support schools affected by lower IEC enrolments.

Mainstream schools in 2022 had 36,718 English as an additional language or dialect (EALD) students. Of these, 13,815 were eligible for EALD funding allocation through our student-centred funding model, including 1,897 Aboriginal students. The most common language spoken by students other than English was identified as Aboriginal English, with 6,439 identified speakers.

As at 30 June 2022, 2,783 (90%) of the 3,084 children in the care of the Chief Executive Officer of the Department of Communities, and enrolled in our schools, had documented plans.

Five hundred and fifty-six students undertook the NAPLAN reading tests while in care in both 2019 and 2021, and 526 undertook the NAPLAN numeracy tests. Between 2019 and 2021 the percentages of these children who were at or above the national minimum standard improved in numeracy for the Year 7 to Year 9 cohort. For percentages of students achieving at or above the minimum standards for reading and numeracy while in care, refer to Table A16.

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 2021, the School of Special Educational Needs: Behaviour and Engagement managed 812 cases of intensive support for students with extreme, complex and challenging behaviours.

The School of Special Educational Needs: Disability provided services and support to 5,222 students in 2021. This support was provided through a consulting teacher service to schools across 4 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 5,356 public and non-government school students and their enrolled schools in 2021. Professional learning was also provided to 441 school staff to build their capacity to support students with health needs across 53 public and non-government schools.

Our School of Special Educational Needs: Sensory provided teaching and consultative support in 2021 to 2,532 public and non-government school students, and early intervention for 146 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 2022 for 1,327 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 2022, we were supporting 14,783 students through the student-centred funding model individual disability allocation to public schools.

In 2021, we provided teaching and learning adjustments to 20.5% 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 376.7 full-time equivalent (FTE) school psychologists in 2021 (363.0 FTE in 2020) 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.

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

With funding from the Mental Health Commission, we delivered Gatekeeper Suicide Prevention Training to 995 public and non-government school staff and other community members in 2021. The teen Mental Health First Aid program was delivered to 3,431 public and non-government school secondary students. Youth Mental Health First Aid training was provided to 1,041 public school staff and other community members who work with young people.

For the 2021 school year, 100% of schools were surveyed on protective behaviours education. All schools fully or partially implemented protective behaviours. Four schools were provided additional support to meet the requirements.

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 2021, 18,068 students (5.5% of total enrolments throughout the year) were suspended compared to 15,943 in 2020 (4.9%).

There were 76 students excluded in 2021, 72 students 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. The ALS program pilot commenced in 2019 with 4 sites. In 2021, 97 students participated in the ALS program. The state government’s 2021 election commitment to establish 8 additional ALS sites across all education regions by 2023 resulted in the establishment of the School of Alternative Learning Settings in 2022.

In 2021, more than 3,700 school staff completed training in de-escalation and positive handling. This included 672 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 2021, 6,397 participants attended the Classroom Management Strategies and Western Australian Positive Behaviour Support training programs. Training continued to be available online, due to COVID-19 restrictions on face-to-face workshops.