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Covid cops the blame as nation's high school completion rates plunge

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The number of students completing year 12 in Australia has plummeted to its lowest level in years, while the cost of childcare has risen across most states and territories.

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The Productivity Commission released its annual childcare and education services report on Thursday, revealing an average of 110,000 fewer year 12s completed high school in 2021 as Covid-19 disrupted face-to-face learning.

Year 12 completions on average dropped from 1.9 million in 2020 to 1.79 million last year. The last time they fell below 1.8 million was in 2017.

Victoria had the largest decline, with 56,100 fewer year 12 students completing their final year in 2021 than the previous year, followed by NSW with 34,700 and WA with 18,700.

The cost of childcare rose across most jurisdictions rose last year, but governments also pumped more money into the sector as services were impacted by Covid-19.

The national average median weekly cost for 50 hours of centre-based childcare rose by $10 a week between 2020 and 2021, from $530 to $540.

Tasmania recorded the highest weekly price hike, rising by $24, followed by Queensland at $16 and South Australia at $15.

The national average for 50 hours of family day care services rose by $8 per week between 2020 and 2021, with Tasmania reporting a $31 per week rise, while the ACT reported a $26 price drop.

Meanwhile, Victoria and the Northern Territory reported the biggest increases in recurrent early childhood spending during the past two financial years, rising by $2321 and $1859 per child respectively.

The federal government’s recurrent early childcare spending rose by $1.4 million in that time.

Every jurisdiction except the Northern Territory reported an increase in serious incidents of injury, trauma or illness at childcare services during the past two financial years, with the biggest incident spike, 1719, in NSW.

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