High school graduate numbers fall to record low in WA schools
NEARLY one in 10 students — or 8.9 per cent of 25,954 eligible Year 12s — left high school last year with nothing to show in the way of credentials for their secondary education.
The percentage of students leaving Year 12 with a Western Australian Certificate of Education (WACE) dropped to 91.1 per cent last year, the worst on record and down slightly from 91.9 per cent in 2016.
In 2011, 97.4 per cent of Year 12 students left school with a WACE but new, more rigorous standards were introduced in 2016 in an effort to raise the status of the qualification nationally.
The more rigorous requirement led to an even more dramatic backward slide for indigenous students, with WACE rates plummeting from 93.1 per cent in 2012 to 69.4 per cent last year.
The majority of those students are failing because they do not possess the minimum acceptable reading, writing and maths skills of a Year 9 student.
Students must achieve a minimum number of “C grades” and complete Certificate II or higher if not enrolled in four or more ATAR courses. The Online Literacy and Numeracy Assessment (OLNA) was also brought in to ensure students could demonstrate a minimum reading, writing and maths standard.
School Curriculum and Standards executive director Allan Blagaich said the decline in WACE was unsurprising given the higher standards.
“Improving the standards of students graduating Year 12 mean they are better prepared for whatever pathway they choose to take when leaving school — that’s not a concern, that’s a good thing,” he said.
“Not all students aspire to achieve a WACE — while it is desirable, it is not a requirement to graduate secondary schooling. Students without a WACE can still follow a range of pathways after graduation, including enrolling in TAFE or training, gaining employment and enrolling in an enabling course at university.”
In public schools, the number of students leaving Year 12 with an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) related WACE — required for university — dropped from 5419 in 2016 to 5400 last year.
The number of public school students obtaining a WACE by completing a VET (Vocational Education and Training) Certificate II or higher, sometimes seen as an easier path, jumped from 10,434 to 10,889 — more than double the number that pursue an ATAR.
The secondary graduation rate in public schools — the percentage of Year 8 that goes on to achieve a WACE, rose from 63.1 per cent in 2016 to 65.5 per cent last year.