How to Use My School to Rank Schools in Brisbane
The My School website, found at myschool.edu.au, is a much visited site that can be a great tool for parents and educators alike. However, using this website to find and effectively compare or rank schools depends on first knowing what the site is and how to use it, what it can tell us and also what its limitations are.
What is My School?
My School is a website provided by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), which is an independent authority. The site is designed to give parents information about all schools in Australia, and ACARA works closely with the Australian Government, states and territories, and all sectors of school education to collect the information published on the site.
My School provides information on around 10,000 schools across Australia, from all sectors. This information includes six key areas of information about each school in Australia:
> School profile
This includes 200-word school comment that gives details of the school, such as its ethos, programmes and achievements. There is also a link to the school’s website (where applicable), and key information about the school such as its type, year range, student enrolments and attendance rates, and staff numbers.
> School finances
This section is to help users see the school’s resources available to support their students’ education, as well as its capital expenditure.
NAPLAN stands for the National Assessment Program – literacy and numeracy (NAPLAN). Students take NAPLAN tests in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9, and this section of the site shows extensive information about the performance of schools on those tests. There is a graph showing the results and participation for each test year. Selections can be made so you can see the results in comparison with similar schools or with the national average of all schools in Australia. Further information is also displayed in tables in numbers and in bands.
> VET in schools
This page reports Vocational Education and Training (VET) measures. It shows the number of enrolments and qualifications completed for students undertaking VET programmes.
> Local schools
This shows a list of 20 schools that are geographically the closest to your selected school.
> Student attendance
This shows the student attendance rate and level by year and semester for that school.
To see a full introduction to the My School website, you can watch this short video:
How to use My School
To use the My School website, you can search the site for a school using the search box at the top of every page or by selecting the tab ‘Find a school’. You can then search for a school by simply entering the school name, suburb or postcode. You can also select just schools from one sector if you have a preference for finding government or non-government schools.
Once you have opened the page for a school, you can navigate between the six key areas of information on that school by using the side bar menu.
Comparing or ranking schools
To use the website to compare or rank schools, you can do this in several ways.
On the Local schools page, you can see a map and a list of the 20 geographically closest schools. (You can re-order this list by clicking on each of the column titles.) From this list, you can click on any of the schools you wish to view, to open their page and see their details. This allows you to see the full details of a school, including the number of enrolments and staff, the finances and other factors, as well as NAPLAN results and other details, in order to allow you to make a fuller comparison of the schools.
You can also use the website to see how a school is ranked against other schools or all schools based on NAPLAN results. On the graph, you will see an indication of the results of your selected school. You can select ‘All schools’ to see how this compares with the national average. You can also select ‘Schools with similar students’, which will show a comparison with 60 other schools from around Australia that have students from similar socio-economic backgrounds, helping to make the comparison more fair and meaningful.
What can My School tell us?
The My School website can tell us important information. It can help educators to identify strengths and weaknesses and it can identify the progression of schools over time, as well as greater trends in the school system as a whole, such as national standards.
For parents, My School can also tell us SOME of the information that we might find useful in considering what school to choose for our children, such as the size of the school, the school’s finances and how the students have fared on the national literacy and numeracy tests.
My School can also tell us the level of the school based on the Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage (ICSEA), so you can see where the students on average fall in terms of their socio-economic advantage compared with the national mean. The mean level is 1,000, and the levels range from 500, which would indicate high disadvantage, to 1300 indicating high advantage. Taking into account this level means that you can compare schools of a similar level or not unfairly compare schools with very different ICSEA levels, making comparisons much more fair and meaningful than looking at any figure in isolation, such as NAPLAN results.
To find out more about ICSEA, you can watch this short video:
What are the limitations of My School?
The main limitation of My School is that the information on the site alone is not enough on which to base a major decision such as what school to choose for your child. The information may be a useful resource to us, but clearly it would be foolish to make such an important choice without visiting a school, talking to the principal and teachers, finding out about the P&C and so many other considerations.
We also need to be mindful of the serious limitations of focusing on NAPLAN results for ranking schools.
If you are in the process of choosing a school, this guide on How Do I Tell Which is a Good School in Brisbane? is a great resource for families.