Notes on the data: Education

Full-time participation in secondary school education at age 16, 2021


Policy context:  Education increases opportunities for choice of occupation and for income and job security, and equips people with the skills and ability to control many aspects of their lives - key factors that influence wellbeing throughout the life course. Young people completing Year 12 are more likely to make a successful initial transition to further education, training and work than early leavers. There is greater risk of poor transitions or mixed outcomes for those who have disabilities, lower levels of literacy or numeracy, or come from a family with a lower socioeconomic status [1]. Participation in schooling is also a major protective factor across a range of risk factors, including substance misuse, unemployment and homelessness.

A majority (85.3%) of the population aged 16 years at the time of the 2021 Census were reported as being in full-time secondary education; this was an increase from 79.1% at the 2016 Census [2]. The intention of this variable is to show the extent of variation in participation geographically and between population groups.

As data covering all sectors (government, non-government, Catholic and independent) are not available at the small area level from State and Territory education authorities, the data used in this analysis are from the 2021 Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Population Census. As such they are not official estimates of participation at age 16 in full-time secondary education. However, they are useful in showing the extent of variations between areas, by socioeconomic status and by remoteness.


  1. Dale R. Early school leaving - lessons from research for policy makers. (Report on behalf of the Network of Experts in Social Sciences and Education (NESSE)). Paris, France: European Commission; 2010.
  2. 2021 data from PHIDU workbooks, data release November 2022, available from; 2016 data from PHIDU workbooks, data release December 2017, available from the Data archive at


  • The extent to which those who have left school at this age to enter the labour force is not accounted for in these data - see Learning or Earning at ages 15 to 24;
  • The numerator excludes the small proportion of the population aged 16 whose participation in secondary school education, or full-time/part-time status, was not stated: however, these records are included in the denominator; and
  • Percentages may be more than 100% due to the ABS’ randomisation of both the numerator and denominator for confidentiality purposes.

Geography:  Data available by Population Health Area, Local Government Area, Primary Health Network, Quintile of socioeconomic disadvantage of area and Quintiles within PHNs, and Remoteness Area


Numerator:  16 year olds in full-time secondary school education


Denominator:  Population aged 16 years


Detail of analysis:  Percent


Source:  Compiled by PHIDU based on the ABS Census of Population and Housing, August 2021.


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