The number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students staying on to Year 12 has exceeded 50 per cent for the first time, in 2012, according to figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

ABS Director of the National Centre for Education and Training Statistics, Alan Herning, said the Schools, Australia 2012publication had good news for Indigenous students with 51.1 per cent of staying on to Year 12 up from 48.7 per cent in 2011 and 38 per cent in 2002.

“The data shows that nationally, for the first time over half of Indigenous students stayed on to Year 12," Mr Herning said.

“South Australia recorded the highest Indigenous retention rate with nearly 70 per cent staying on to Year 12, whilst Northern Territory has the lowest at 32 per cent,” he said.

The total number of students in Australian Schools exceeded 3.5 million, with 2.3 million of those attending Government schools, compared with 700,000 at Catholic schools and 500,000 at independent schools.

Non-government school numbers continue to grow at a much higher rate than government schools. In the last ten years, Catholic and Independent schools have seen a 12 per cent and 31 per cent increase in student numbers respectively. This compares with just 2.6 per cent increase in government school students.

“The data shows that 65 per cent of Australian students still attend Government schools, however the number of students attending Non-government schools is growing at a much faster rate,” Mr Herning said.

Between 2011 and 2012 the number of students attending Non-government schools has grown fastest in the Northern Territory where there has been a rise of 2.6 per cent. Since 2002, Queensland has grown the fastest with an increase of 39.1 per cent in the number of students attending Non-government schools.

In 2012 the percentage of male teaching staff were almost double in secondary than in primary, comprising 19 per cent of primary teaching staff and 40 per cent of secondary teaching staff.

Across Australia, the student-to-teacher ratios were lowest in Independent schools and highest in Catholic schools.