New research reveals impacts of leaving school early

New research reveals impacts of leaving school early

Like The Smith Family, we believe that education is one of the most powerful change agents. That’s why we’re proud to partner with the national children’s education charity to help young Australians create better futures for themselves.

The Smith Family has released its third Pathways, Engagement and Transitions (PET) Report to better understand the post-school pathways of young people experiencing disadvantage. This latest report focuses on students who were in Year 10 in 2020, particularly those who left school before completing Year 12.

Lower post-school engagement for early leavers

The report reinforces the relationship between finishing Year 12 and favourable post-school outcomes – and underlines the importance of career guidance throughout school.

The research reveals that only two in three (67%) early school leavers, compared to three in four (76%) Year 12 completers, were in work and/or study in 2023. The report also explores:

  • Who leaves school early – and why: Some students left for ‘pull factors’ (31% wanted a job/apprenticeship/traineeship), while others left because of ‘push factors’ (32% did not like school).
  • Lower post-school engagement for early leavers: 52% of young people who completed Year 12 were fully engaged (working and/or studying 35 hours a week or more). Yet only 38% of early school leavers were.
  • Young people’s experiences of work: Students who left school because they weren’t doing well or because of a health and/or mental health issue (i.e. push factors) were more likely to be in a low-skill job than students who left to get a job/apprenticeship/traineeship (i.e. pull factors).
  • How perceptions about leaving early relate to engagement: For young people not engaged in work or study in 2023, only 34% were happy about having left school early. And for young people who were fully engaged? 77% were happy about leaving early.

A collective response is needed

The PET project highlights several recommendations to improve school completion and enhance post-school outcomes for young people experiencing disadvantage. These are:

  • Continuous monitoring for early warning signs – such as attendance, achievement, mental health issues and bullying.
  • More individualised support while at school to strengthen engagement and completion.
  • More individualised career support to help young people articulate their post-school plans.
  • Increased support for parents and carers regarding how they can support their child’s post-school pathways.
  • More appropriate and accessible mental health support in and outside of school.

Importantly, many (92%) of the early school leavers surveyed had intended to complete Year 12 when they were surveyed in Year 11. Their aspirations illustrate a significant opportunity to support more young people to complete Year 12. That’s where a more effective – and collective – policy and program response comes in.

The new National School Reform Agreement between the states, territories and the Commonwealth represents a major opportunity to implement the report’s recommendations. Due to commence in 2025, this is Australia’s chance to contribute to higher levels of school completion and stronger post-school outcomes for all young Australians.

Read the full report -