Department of Family and Community Services
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1.1 Completion rates, Year 12

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The proportion of the estimated potential Year 12 student population who achieve a NSW HSC Award.

Current position

In 2011, 71 percent of girls in NSW completed Year 12, compared with 73 percent of boys.

Gender gap

  • Girls have lower school completion rates than boys by 2 percentage points.
The direction of change over time

Completion rates for both sexes remained constant between 2002 and 2010. In 2011, girls’ completion rates changed little from 72 percent in 2010, whereas boys’ increased significantly from 63 to 73.

Between 2002 and 2010 the gender gap remained steady with an average 10 percentage point gap in favour of girls. In 2011, for the first time in the past decade, boys surpassed girls with a 2 percentage point lead. This contrasts with the rest of Australia where girls are still ahead of boys by 7 percentage points (73 percent of girls compared to 66 percent of boys complete Year 12).


School completion rates in the years leading up to 2011 have been higher for female than male students in all socio-economic groups (see Figure 3.1).

The new 2011 gender gap, with boys completing more than girls, is most notable in the lower socio-economic deciles but can also be seen in the medium socio-economic deciles. In the three lowest socio-economic deciles 70 percent of boys completed Year 12 or equivalent compared to 66 percent of girls, whose completion rates fell slightly.

One possible explanation relates to the drop in young men commencing an apprenticeship or traineeship. In 2009 (two years earlier), there was a sharp decrease (14 percent) in the number of young men (15 to 24-year-olds) commencing an apprenticeship or traineeship.1 This decrease was greatest amongst 15 and 16-year-old boys and the commencement rate for these two groups has not recovered. 15 and 16-year-old boys are the ones who commenced senior high school in 2009 and would have made up the bulk of those who completed Year 12 in 2011.

Another possible factor is changes to rules about leaving school. From 2010 all students in NSW have been required to complete Year 10. After Year 10 and until they turn 17, students must be: in school, registered for home schooling, in approved education or training, in fulltime paid employment or a combination of work, education and/or training.

Completion rates are estimated by calculating the number of students who meet the requirements of a Year 12 certificate expressed as a percentage of the potential year 12 population. The potential year 12 population is an estimate of a single year age group which could have attended year 12 that year, calculated as the estimated resident population aged 15–19 divided by five.

Note that this indicator needs to be considered alongside Indicator 3.1, which shows that more boys than girls enter vocational education and training.

Year collected: 2011 and previous years.
Data source: Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision (2013), Report on Government Services 2013, Productivity Commission (Australian Government).
More information is available at

Figure 3.1 Completion rates to Year 12 by socio-economic status, NSW, 2007-11

Fig 3.10

Note: Low socio-economic status (SES) is defined here as the average of the three lowest deciles and high socio-economic status is the average of the three highest deciles. The ABS Postal Area Index of Relative Socioeconomic Disadvantage has been used to calculate SES on the basis of student home addresses.
Population: The estimated potential population of NSW students.
Source: Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision (2013), Report on Government Services 2013, Productivity Commission (Australian Government).