NSW public school student retention rates by statistical areas: 2017 to 2021

This factsheet was originally published 18 March 2022.


This factsheet provides an overview of student apparent retention rates (ARR) at NSW government schools.

The term ‘apparent’ is used because the measurement is based on the total number of students in each year level compared to the number in an earlier year, rather than by tracking the retention of individual students.

All apparent retention rates in this factsheet are for full-time public schools’ students.

Care should be taken in the interpretation of apparent retention rates, which can exceed 100%, because the method of calculation does not take into account a range of factors such as migration, interstate movements of students, transfers to and from non-government schools, part-time schooling, students repeating a year of schooling, or students pursuing other education and training pathways.

For the first time in 2020, support students enrolled in NSW government mainstream schools were reported to the Australian Bureau of Statistics by their underlying grade of enrolment. This is more consistent with national counting rules. Prior to 2020, these students were reported as “ungraded”. Only students in Schools for Specific Purposes (SSPs) are now reported as “ungraded”.

This results in a rolling break in time-series for apparent retention rates because enrolments increased in 2020 due to the revised counting rule. For example, the Year 7 to 12 ARR for 2021 was calculated using the Year 7 2016 cohort count (excluding all ungraded students), and Year 12 2021 cohort count (including ungraded students in mainstream schools). 2025 will be the first year when ARR for Year 7 to 12 uses the same counting rules for both Year 7 and Year 12 data.

The tables in this factsheet present 2020 retention rates with both previous and revised counting rules and 2021 retention rates with revised counting rules. 2021 rates are not directly comparable with previous years.

For more information


  • Educational data
  • Statistical

Business Unit:

  • Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation
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