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Data Collections Compliance Certificate

The Compliance Certificate collection helps to provide a level of assurance that school sectors are applying Australian education policies.

Approved Authorities answer questions to confirm that a school has met its obligations under the Australia Education Act 2013. For example, 'Did your school implement the Australian Curriculum as required in your state or territory?'

Answers to Compliance Certificate questions help to shape future education policy.

Section 77 of the Australian Education Act 2013 (the Act) sets out the ongoing policy requirements for all approved authorities to comply with in order to receive Australian Government funding.

The specific requirements are detailed in sections 42 to 60 of the Australian Education Regulation 2013(the Regulation). These conditions are that an approved authority for a school must:

  • implement the Australian Curriculum
  • participate in the national assessment program (NAPLAN and sample based national and international assessments)
  • provide information - e.g. for the school's census, national reporting and My School
  • provide readily understandable student reports to the parents or carers of each child, and
  • make information publicly available about the school within six months of the end of a school year.

The compliance certificate declaration must be completed and declared by an approved authority representative by no later than 5:00pm on Friday, 24 September 2021.

This year's certificate is about confirming compliance with requirements during the 2020 school year only. It does not apply to the current 2021 school year, or 2019, or any earlier year.

You are required to answer the 4 following questions for the 2020 school year:

  1. Did your school/s implement the Australian Curriculum (teach, assess and report on student achievement using the content and standards in the curriculum) or another curriculum recognised as comparable by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) (included in ACARA’s Recognition Register), as required in your state or territory?
  2. Did your school/s collect and report information on the sex of the student, Indigenous status of the student, socioeconomic background (parental education and occupation) and language background of all students?
  3. Did your school/s provide parents and carers of students in years 1 to 10 with reports on student achievement for each subject using A to E or an equivalent scale?
  4. For the previous school year, did your schools participate in the NAP?
  1. The addition of a new question. 
  2. An update of the 2021 compliance certificate reporting guide.
  3. The adoption of a risk-based approach to undertaking the compliance certificate declaration process.

Unlike the compliance certificate collection processes in previous years when all AAs were required to undertake the compliance certificate declaration process, the process has changed this year. The department has adopted a risk-based approach to undertaking the compliance certificate declaration process, consistent with the departments Schools Funding Assurance Framework, and a recent Australian National Audit Office review.

What does the risk-based approach mean for my schools?

The risk-based approach means that AAs are randomly selected to complete a compliance certificate declaration. However, given the annual selection of a large random sample of about a third of all AAs, it is expected that each AA will be required to respond to the compliance certificate questions at some point.

Last year, the Hon Dan Tehan MP, the then Minister for Education, issued a Statement of Intent to signal the Australian Government's approach to assessing AAs' compliance with conditions under the Act and the Regulation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Statement of Intent applied to the 2020 calendar year.

Examples of conditions in the Act and the Regulation that were referred to in the Statement of Intent that the Australian Government recognised may be difficult to meet by AAs included: 

  • Implementation of the national curriculum, National Assessment Program Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) and assessment of students against national standards (s77 of the Act, and Division 3 of Part 5 of the Regulation).
    • Note: On 20 March 2020, the then Education Council announced that state and territory Education Ministers had met and decided that NAPLAN not proceed in 2020.
  • Provision of school education-related information and data to the Department and ACARA (s77 of the Act, and Division 3 of Part 5 of the Regulation).
  • In terms of A to E Reporting, the Department’s Statement of Intent Factsheet (30 July 2020) noted that AAs were advised on 12 May 2020 that if they could not meet the requirements of A to E reporting for 2020, they could report on student progress and achievement without the usual requirement to report on A-E or equivalent five-point scale for each subject studied.
    • Authorities were required to notify the Department if they intended to opt-in to the alternative arrangements.

Following the submission of the compliance certificate declarations by AAs for the 2020 school year, the Department will take into account the responses provided to the compliance certificate questions, as well as information provided in support of the responses, in the context of the Statement of Intent and other decisions made by the Australian Government and by the then Education Council.

Question: For the previous school year, did your school/s implement the Australian Curriculum (teach, assess and report on student achievement using the content and standards in the curriculum) or another curriculum recognised as comparable by the ACARA (included in ACARA’s Recognition Register), as required in your state or territory?

Where will I find a copy of the Australian Curriculum?

Review the current Australian Curriculum at

What curriculum or learning content should our schools be implementing? 

The Australian Curriculum for Foundation to Year 10 was introduced across all states and territories in 2011.

All government and non-government schools must implement content consistent with the learning areas of the Australian Curriculum including English, Mathematics, Science, Humanities and Social Sciences, the Arts, Technologies, and Health and Physical Education. The relevant state or territory education authority determines how the content is delivered, including the timing of implementation

For a further breakdown of the structure of the Australian Curriculum, visit the Australian Curriculum website and view Australian Curriculum F-10 Overview and Structure.

Our school/s deliver an alternative curriculum - is that okay? 

Yes. Alternative curriculum frameworks intended for implementation, or currently being implemented by schools must be recognised and approved by the ACARA. They must be included in the Recognition Register on the ACARA website (section 42 of the Regulation).

The ACARA assesses well-established curriculum frameworks as alternative means of delivering the Australian Curriculum.

Further information about the Recognition Register and implementation timelines for states and territories is available, review the Alternative Curriculum Recognition Register.

Why do I need to report against Achievement Standards? Our school/s already provides readily understandable reports to parents/carers?

An Achievement Standard accompanies each learning content area in the Australian Curriculum. The Achievement Standard refers to the quality of learning (the depth of understanding, extent of knowledge and sophistication of skill) demonstrated by students within a given subject. 

The Achievement Standards are important as they provide a nationally consistent reference point for all teachers when assessing and reporting student outcomes and progress. Achievement Standards are accompanied by a national common set of annotated student work samples compiled by ACARA. These work samples assist teachers to make judgments about student progress toward the Achievement Standard.

Further background about the use of Achievement Standards

Teachers may use Achievement Standards:

  • at the beginning of a learning period to find out what skills and knowledge an individual students bring to a new topic, to select the most appropriate content to teach
  • at the end of the learning period to assess student learning and development
  • at the end of a reporting period to determine what each student has learnt concerning the Australian

According to jurisdictional and system policies and schedules, the Australian Curriculum can be used flexibly by schools to develop programs that meet the educational needs of their students and that extend and challenge students. Schools implement the Australian Curriculum in ways that value teachers’ professional knowledge, reflect local contexts and consider individual students’ family, cultural and community backgrounds.

Question: For the previous school year, did your schools collect and report information on the sex, Indigenous status, socioeconomic background (parental education and occupation) and language background of all students?

Why is information on student background characteristics collected?

Accurate and comparable student information assists teachers, principals, parents, and governments understand different patterns of disadvantage, share best practices and innovation in teaching and learning, and direct additional resources to where they are most needed.

The availability of information that allows reporting of student performance data by student background characteristics, particularly by Indigenous status and socioeconomic background, is essential to ensuring that schooling promotes the social inclusion of all students and reduces the effect of factors associated with educational disadvantage.

Nationally consistent and comparable data are also essential to improving the quality and accuracy of monitoring and reporting progress towards achieving national goals and targets.

All Australian governments (state and territory governments and the Australian Government) have committed to raising the educational attainment of all Australian students and reducing the effect on their performance of sources of disadvantage, such as socioeconomic background, Indigenous status, language background, refugee or humanitarian status, and geographic location. In particular, Indigenous students and students from low socioeconomic backgrounds are under-represented among high achievers and over-represented among low achievers.

What information do we need to collect and report?

For each student, you need to collect information on:

  • the sex of the student
  • the Indigenous status of the student
  • the ‘main language other than English spoken at home’ of the student
  • the ‘main language other than English spoken at home’ of both parents
  • the student’s country of birth
  • the highest level of schooling completed by each parent
  • the highest educational qualification completed by each parent
  • the occupation group of both parents.

Procedures and forms are fully detailed in the ACARA Data Standards Manual: Data Standards Manual: Student Background Characteristics

Should we read the ACARA data standards manual?

Yes. To ensure a nationally consistent collection of data on schools and education outcomes, specific performance measures relating to the information outlined in Sections 53 to 58A of the Regulation must be provided.

Why is information collected on parents’ education and occupation?

On the advice of measurement experts, the Australian Government, and state and territory education ministers decided that in reporting student outcomes across Australia, the best indicator of the influence of a student’s socio-educational background is their parents’ educational background and occupation. This information can be gathered in a systematic, comprehensive way by the school when a student enrols by parental consent.

Do we collect this information for all students?

Yes. Reporting student outcomes data, disaggregated by the agreed student background characteristics, is a standard component of national performance reporting requirements and applies to all schools.

Does student background information have to be collected and or provided to testing agents for students exempt from testing?

Yes. Information about the percentage of ‘assessed students’ is publicly reported. ‘Assessed students’ comprise students who sat the tests and students who were exempted. As the percentages of ‘assessed students’ are reported by the identified student background characteristics (sex, Indigenous status, socioeconomic background, and language background), information about the background characteristics of exempt students is needed to compile the test results.

How do schools collect this information?

Schools’ student background characteristics can be collected from students’ parents/guardians on enrolment forms. Pro forma examples for collecting student background data on enrolment forms are included in the ACARA Data Standards Manual.

Any schools or school systems that have not integrated the data collection requirements in their enrolment process will need to collect student background information from students’ parents using the question modules specified in the Data Standards Manual.

Once the information has been obtained from parents using the method set out in the Data Standards Manual, it does not require updating unless schools require so for their purposes, or there is a requirement under privacy legislation applicable to the state/territory or sector is updated.

Your school needs to ensure that the collected data is as complete and accurate as possible, is coded correctly, entered on the school’s administrative computer system, and can be accessed or retrieved to link to student performance data. Processes need to be in place for providing the student background information in the format required by the test administration authority (for Year 3, 5, 7 and 9 literacy and numeracy tests) or an assessment contractor (for Year 4, 6, 8 and Year 10 students participating in sample-based national or international assessments).

Your school should provide the background information collected on each student to the test administration authority delivering the sample-based assessment at your school. They will then link this information to the student’s test paper.

Where can we get more help?

The ACARA Data Standards Manual provides complete details, including the names and contact details of people who can help in your school sector.

Question: For the previous school year, did your schools provide parents and carers of students in years 1 to 10 with reports on student achievement for each subject using A to E or an equivalent scale?

What has changed in this year’s compliance certificate question 3?

For AAs whose schools do not deliver education to students in years 1-10, you can now select ‘do not deliver’ for question 3. This applies to those AAs who only deliver education to years 11 and 12.

What are the requirements for providing the student reports to parents?

The requirements for student reporting are set out in section 59 of the Regulation.

School accountability is the responsibility of the state and territories and individual schools. However, under section 59 of the Regulation, an AA for a school must provide a report on achievement for students from years 1 to 10. The student’s achievement must be reported as A, B, C, D or E (or on an equivalent five-point scale) for each subject studied, clearly defined against specific learning standards or contain information that the Minister determines equivalent, in providing an accurate and objective assessment of the student's progress and achievement.

What about students with disabilities?

Parents/carers/guardians of children with disability should continue to receive a report of their child’s progress against their individual learning program reports (or equivalent). These reports are not required to include A to E achievement levels.

If you have provided individual learning program reports to parents of students with disability, and the required A-E student reports in all other cases, then you can answer ‘yes’ to this question.

Do reports have to be exclusively labelled as A, B, C, D, and E?

There is no requirement to assign A to E grades in a particular way, such as on a normal distribution (i.e., a ‘bell curve’). For example, all students in a cohort could be given the same grade if they all meet the same requirements for the appropriate learning standard. Reports can be labelled using an equivalent five-point scale or approved variation. For example, a scale of ‘Outstanding’, ‘High’, ‘Sound’, ‘Basic’, ‘Limited’ meets the requirements but must include a description of what is expected at each level.

Individual schools/systems may determine how grades are both defined and allocated. Schools also have the additional flexibility to use interim categories (for example, ‘B+’), or more than five categories (for example, International Baccalaureate schools use a seven-point scale). A five-point scale is the minimum requirement.

A student report can also include any additional information that a school may wish to provide.

Is a student report template available?

The Department does not provide student report templates. However, common school report card templates are used in state and territory government school systems, some Catholic school systems, and  some independent school systems.

Question: For the previous school year, did your schools participate in the NAP?

Why has question 4 been added this year?

In previous years, each State and Territory AA have been required to declare their participation in the NAP. For consistency purposes, the department is now asking non-government schools to report their participation in the NAP. This question refers to the requirements under section 77(2)(c) of the Act and Section 43 of the Regulations.

If your school/s is exempt from participating in NAP, please select ‘exempt’ for question 4 and provide further details about your response.

What is the NAP?

The NAP measures how governments, education authorities, schools and the community can determine whether or not young Australians are meeting important educational outcomes. The NAPLAN is an annual assessment for students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9. NAPLAN is a nationwide measure through which parents, teachers, schools, education authorities, governments and the broader community can determine whether or not young Australians are developing the literacy and numeracy skills that provide the critical foundation for other learning and their productive and rewarding participation in the community.

NAPLAN was cancelled in 2020. How do I declare my school’s participation?

In March 2020, the Education Ministers decided to cancel NAPLAN for the school year 2020 due to COVID-19. If your school did not participate in NAP sample assessments in 2020, you will need to declare your participation as ‘no’. If your school/s participated in sample assessments in preparation for the 2020 testing, declare ‘yes’.

If your school was required to declare ‘no’ on your 2020 school year declaration, you will be prompted to provide a reason for not participating in the NAP for 2020. If your reason relates to the Education Ministers announcement in March 2020 to cancel NAPLAN, please demonstrate your reasons to reflect the cancellation of NAPLAN for 2020. This will ensure the department can appropriately assess your response to question 4.