This report covers the academic performance of children in care, by linking the data from the Child Protection National Minimum Data Set (CP NMDS) and the National Assessment Program-Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN). Privacy was protected during the linkage process through the use of de-identified data and data separation principles. The study population included children involved in 2013 NAPLAN testing for Years 3, 5, 7 or 9, who were in care at the time of testing (see Box 2.1). The report is based on data for around 3,500 children that 6 states and territories (NSW, Vic, WA, Tas, ACT and NT) provided.


The national minimum standard (NMS) achievement rate indicates the proportion of students achieving at or above the NMS. Students whose NAPLAN results were below the NMS have not achieved the learning outcomes expected for their year level, and are considered at risk of being unable to progress satisfactorily at school without targeted intervention. Key findings include:

  • Among the study population, NMS achievement rates varied across the 5 assessment domains (reading, writing, spelling, grammar and punctuation, and numeracy). Rate ranges were 74-82% for Year 3 students, 67-83% for Year 5, 56-75% for Year 7, and 44-69% for Year 9.
  • A higher proportion of the study population were at or above the NMS than below the NMS (except for Year 9 writing). Across the year levels and assessment domains, 13-36% achieved at the NMS, while 26-65% achieved above the NMS.
  • The study population had lower NMS achievement rates than all students in Australia (13-39 percentage points lower across assessment domains and year levels).

In interpreting the findings presented here it is important to note that the academic achievement of children in care is likely to be affected by complex personal histories and multiple aspects of disadvantage (including poverty, maltreatment, family dysfunction and instability in care and schooling), and recognise that children often have low educational performance when entering child protection services. As well, at the time of testing, around one-third of the study population had been in their current care situation (that is order or living arrangement) for less than 1 year.

Next steps

The findings of this report provide further evidence that children in care are an academically disadvantaged group. This reinforces the importance of continuing to monitor the academic progress of these children, to facilitate regular reporting of key national indicators under the National Framework for Protecting Australia's Children 2009-2020, the National Standards for Out- of-Home Care and the Report on Government Services. Continued national reporting will require regular linkage of child protection and NAPLAN data, supported by ongoing collaboration between the AIHW and relevant state and territory departments/agencies. Further work will be required to enable the inclusion of data for all states and territories and all school sectors.

Online reporting of the National Framework and National Standards indicators on the AIHW website will complement this report; this is expected to be available in December 2015.