The collection of data by government authorities has a complex history. In Australia, this began with the establishment of British government settlements as a way to account for fiscal viability and social prospects. As the colonies became self-governing entities, the collection of social and economic data increased in importance, and included school counts and the educational attainment of the population: Initially a measure of basic literacy achievement. The practice of gathering school data became a prominent activity in the accountability, governance and management of each state education system. However, the collection of school data in Australia has received minimal reporting and scrutiny in education research or the history of education departments. The aim of this article is to provide an appraisal of the complexities and deficiencies inherent in the collection of school data over time, and contemporary inconsistencies in education data management that may affect the way researchers use government data.