Home Hybrid Learning Early intervention crucial to boosting Year 12 completion rates – study

Early intervention crucial to boosting Year 12 completion rates – study


Early intervention crucial to boosting Year 12 completion rates – study

A recent study by Jobs and Skills Australia shows that while 90% of jobs over the next decade will need a post-school qualification, Year 12 completion rates are declining, particularly for young people experiencing disadvantage.

In response to this challenge, The Smith Family launched its Pathways, Engagement, and Transitions (PET) research survey – a longitudinal study of 2,000 young people between 2021-2023 – which included in-depth interviews with 29 of them.

The third study in the series, released in March, focused on the experiences of young people who were in Year 10 in 2020, particularly those who left school before completing Year 12.

The survey found responding to early warning signs and providing more personalised support, including with careers, can help more students in need finish Year 12 and have stronger post-school outcomes.

Key findings

  • 57% of students who had poor attendance (under 70%) in Year 9 left school before finishing Year 12. This is compared to just 19% of students who had high attendance (90%-100%).
  • 45% of students who achieved a D or E grade in Year 9 English left school early. This is compared to 21% of students who received an A, B, or C grade.
  • 39% of students who couldn’t recall receiving careers advice left school early, compared to 13% who could recall careers advice.

Head of Research and Advocacy at The Smith Family, Anne Hampshire, said the PET research shows achievement and attendance are among the strongest predictors for young people who are likely to leave school early, more so than demographic characteristics such as gender or where a young person lives. The PET research also shows many early school leavers intended to complete Year 12.

“Our findings show that 92% of students who started Year 11, but didn’t complete school, said they had intended to finish Year 12,” Hampshire said.

“This means there’s a tremendous opportunity to help more young people to realise that goal, through better use of data and more individualised assistance including for literacy and numeracy, better support with mental health, and quality careers support.”

Hampshire said careers support can help some young people see the value of completing Year 12, while for others it helps identify the opportunities available through an apprenticeship, and the steps to obtain one.

What the survey respondents said

“We had meetings with the careers counsellor at our school and they would ask us what course we wanted to go into or what job we wanted to do in the future and advise us…They also showed me the different pathways in case I didn’t get a high enough ATAR…That conversation helped set my mind at ease. It was very helpful.” – Ali*, Year 12 completer.

“I want to become a police officer. My careers counsellor gave me two options. Either I finish Year 12 and go to uni or get an apprenticeship qualification and go through recruitment and sign up. So that’s what I’m doing right now.” – George*, early school leaver

“The PET research confirms the importance of Year 12 completion. Three in four young people who completed Year 12 were in work and/or study in 2023, compared to only two in three of the young people who left school early. Young people also spoke about financial concerns as they moved through high school and beyond, with 44% of early school leavers and 34% of Year 12 completers worried often or all the time about paying for essentials. Some flagged they couldn’t keep up with schoolwork, especially during the COVID years, as they didn’t have access to a laptop, and some didn’t pursue post-school study or left study because of financial pressures. I couldn’t go to school because we were in lockdown and I couldn’t get the work done because my computer is really bad. I had to get workbooks, but I couldn’t do the workbooks because I didn’t have anyone helping me and it was just a lot and I just couldn’t do it. So, I pretty much just gave up that year and was like, this is pretty much a chunk of my life that I’m not going to get back and I will need to try again next year.” – Heather*, early school leaver

“I don’t really have any financial challenges at the moment, but if I did get into my nursing course, then yes, I would. The course is a couple of grand to get into, and I can’t afford that.” – Lily*, Year 12 completer

The PET survey also found a range of reasons contributing to young people leaving before completing Year 12, with half of those who left citing multiple factors. ‘Push’ factors, generally leading to more negative post-school outcomes, include:

  • Not liking school (32%)
  • Health or mental health issues (31%)
  • Not doing well or missing a lot of school (28%)
  • Having problems with students or teachers or being asked to leave (17%)
  • Being bullied at school (13%)

These students were more likely to be not in work or study post-school or to be in more unskilled roles, with limited opportunities for career progression.

Students who left early due to ‘pull’ factors had much better outcomes. Pull factors include:

  • Wanting to get a job/apprenticeship/traineeship (31%)
  • Wanting to do training or another course (16%)

For these young people, just under half were in more highly skilled roles that have better career outcomes.

“For students who feel ‘pushed’ out of school, the same factors that see them leave can follow them throughout their post-school transitions. If we want to see positive outcomes for all students, we must strengthen supports in school,” Hampshire said.

Based on the findings in this research, The Smith Family wants to see:

  • Continuous monitoring of warning signs throughout school to identify young people at elevated risk of early school leaving.
  • Providing students experiencing these challenges with more individualized support while at school to strengthen school engagement and completion.
  • Increased provision of individualized career advice and support throughout the secondary years, with a focus on delivering supports which help young people articulate their post-school plans and the steps required to achieve this plan.
  • Increased support and information to parents and carers regarding school completion and how they can support their children’s post-school pathways.
  • Increased provision of appropriate and accessible support in and outside of school for young people experiencing mental health issues.

“We have a tremendous opportunity now to make changes, through the National School Reform Agreement, to ensure that no young person is left behind,” Hampshire said.

“We need to get post-school transitions right, not just for this generation, but for generations to come. If more young people can find a pathway to post-school work or study, it’s not just good for them, but for their communities, the economy, and Australia as a whole.”

*All names used have been changed to protect privacy.

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