1 in 4 young Australians leave school without completing Year


This is at a time when widespread economic changes and

fewer low skilled jobs put pressure on young people to be

better qualified for work in changing economy.

Not completing school is a major problem because those

young people who don’t complete Year 12 or equivalent have

lower incomes and higher rates of unemployment.

Attracting young people back to education and training can

significantly improve their chances of finding work and taking

on further study and training.


Approximately 21% of young women and 30% of young men

fail to complete Year 12 or equivalent by the time they are 19

years old. Completing school or VET is affected by whether a

student attends an urban, regional or remote school, whether

or not they come from socio-economically disadvantaged

backgrounds and whether or not they are Indigenous.

The rates of young people completing school are uneven

and some young people are more vulnerable than others,


• Indigenous young people whose school completion rate is

44% compared to 75% for their non Indigenous peers

• Young people in country Australia. 43% of young people

from rural and 56% from remote areas complete school

compared to 78% of students in major cities

• 61% of the most disadvantaged young people complete

school, compared to 89% of the most advantaged.


Many young people experience periods of not being in

education, employment or training (NEET) after they

leave school and before they make the transition to work.

However, those who are NEET for six months or more are

at increased risk of further unemployment and poorer

education outcomes once they reach their early 20s. Those

whose schooling has been disrupted by factors such as

homelessness, learning or behavioural difficulties, mental

illness or addiction are particularly vulnerable.


Adult and community education (ACE) has a successful record

of attracting young people back to learning. The young

people who enrol in ACE programs tend to be early school

leavers, unemployed, underemployed, or in low-paid or

insecure jobs.

ACE courses and programs suitable for young people include

Year 12 alternatives, study and job seeking skills, foundation

skills and vocational qualifications.

Young people who take part in ACE programs say they are

attracted by the quality of relationships between staff and

students; the flexible delivery modes and opportunities for

personal autonomy.

Those who associate education with negative school

experiences can feel anxious about the prospect of returning

to study. ACE is a welcome contrast for young people

disenchanted by mainstream education.

ACE environments are suitable for reluctant learners because

they are accessible, community-based, warm and welcoming,

relaxed and non-threatening – in other words, unlike the

schools that many students remember.

ACE provides an avenue through which young people can

re-engage in education, improve their confidence, skills and

future prospects.