Student enrolment numbers determine the levels of funding and income received and the type and amount of resourcing required. A cursory glance is all that is required to know a school’s current enrolment numbers. However, it is the detail, not the specific number that can be most important.
Our schools are representative of our society. As beliefs, values and circumstances change, so will the makeup of our schools’ enrolments. It is the trends and the forecasts that are the more important view.
The building blocks of a school’s enrolment numbers are criteria, such as by Campus, Year Level, Gender, Ethnicity and Postcode. It is important for the School’s Executive and Board to understand these components and to understand where enrolment numbers have been and the forecasted future enrolments, in order to prepare the school for adopting to the changes in the mix and number of enrolments that will ultimately occur.
Cole analysed the enrolment numbers of 175 non-government schools from 2008 to 2017. When comparing this year’s enrolments to last year, 78 of the 175 schools – or 44% – of schools reported either a growth in, or the same level of enrolments as the previous year. However, when the 2017 enrolment numbers were measured against the highest enrolment number in the period of 2008 to 2017, we found 125 of the 175 – 71% – had experienced a decline in enrolments. That is, their highest recorded enrolments were behind them.
Schools face many challenges, one of which is the loss of enrolments through graduation each year, with no guarantee that enrolment numbers entering Reception and other key year levels will offset this loss. The percentage of the total enrolments affected by graduation is significant, therefore for many schools, strategies are required in order to maintain enrolments numbers. Strategies such as Early Learning Centres and alliances with Preschool centres in the area as feeder organisations can assist in a flow of students into Reception classes replacing the graduating students. However, more is most likely needed. Having marketing strategies and allocating resources to these strategies can be important on an on-going basis.
Information about any topic allows us the power and opportunity to make better decisions. Information such as understanding your school’s key intake years and the year levels, other than Year 12, which are the greatest risk of losing enrolments. You may wish to consider the following for an Enrolment Report:
- Current year enrolments by year level actual versus budget (by campus if applicable)
- Expected additional enrolments for the current year
- Expected enrolment losses for the current year
- Known new enrolment numbers by year level for the following year
- Report on waiting lists, if relevant
How often the numbers are reviewed and to the level of detail they are reviewed and action taken where necessary is going to be a matter for the Executive and the Board.
Where students are leaving the school for any reason other than graduation, the school may wish to consider conducting formal exit interviews with the parents and students to assist in identifying any issues that need to be addressed or for identifying trends. A number of schools have experienced a run of lost enrolments due to a number of families leaving in a short time period. Where a group of families leave, other families have followed. Where periods of lost enrolments occur, the momentum is very difficult to stop.
By receiving regular information, any changes in the enrolment levels of the current year and / or for the following year can be more quickly identified and action taken. With families planning to leave, meetings with the families can be set up to discuss the reasons for their decision and in some cases through discussion and negotiation, families can be persuaded to stay. It is less effort and cost to negotiate a family to stay than to find a replacement family. Depending on the structure of a school’s Board, it may wish to consider have a sub-Committee of the Board focusing on enrolments.
For many schools, an active approach to on-going enrolment numbers will be beneficial. Embedding enrolment information in the reporting processes of both the School’s Executive and Board will maintain focus on a key aspect of school operations. The best outcome will be only a cursory glance is required. However, if there is a problem developing in regards to enrolments, a reporting regime will identify any problems early, making those problems easier to deal with.