Vocational education and training (VET) programs have featured in the Australian secondary school curriculum since the mid-1990s. Around this time, the Adelaide Declaration on National Goals for Schooling specifically recognised the provision of VET programs as a national goal. These programs were targeted at upper secondary students and originally aimed at increasing retention of less academically engaged youth in school and preparing students for employment and further training. However, about 20 years since the introduction of VET programs in schools, there is inconclusive evidence about the extent to which their aims and vision have been realised.
The Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation has conducted an investigation into the post-school education, training and employment pathways of NSW students who recently enrolled in at least one VET course as part of their senior secondary education. In this report, we investigate four research questions:
1. What are the characteristics of the secondary students who enrolled in VET and how do they compare to those of students who did not enrol?
2. Which characteristics independently predict secondary student enrolment in VET?
3. What are the post-school destinations of the secondary students who enrolled in VET and how do they compare to those of students who did not enrol?
4. Which features of VET delivery were associated with post-school destinations?
• We found that the characteristics of the secondary students who enrolled in VET were somewhat different to those of students who did not enrol. For example, there were substantial differences in Year 9 NAPLAN Numeracy and Reading scaled scores and student and school measures of socio-educational advantage.
• When we used a multivariable model to investigate the second research question, we found that most of the assessed characteristics independently predicted student enrolment in VET. That is, when we accounted for the relationships between the explanatory variables, we still
found independent relationships between most of the assessed characteristics and student enrolment in VET.
• When we compared secondary students who enrolled in VET to a group of students who had similar characteristics but did not enrol, we found that the students who did enrol were equally likely to much less likely to be not working or studying. These results provide evidence that the provision of VET as part of senior secondary education may help some students transition into work or study after they leave school.
• We found that differences in features of VET delivery (external provider versus VET at school, undertaking a work placement, and certificate level II versus III) were associated with different post-school destinations. For example, undertaking a work placement as part of a VET course decreased the likelihood that a student enrolled in VET would not go on to work or study.
Since 2010, the NSW secondary students’ post-school destinations survey has been collecting information about students’ main destinations in the year after completing Year 12 or leaving school. The survey seeks to provide critical information on education pathways, attainments and destinations of young people in NSW and inform policy making related to students’ post-school education, training and employment.
In 2018, 3,529 students who finished Year 12 and 4,470 students who left school before completing Year 12 (known as early school leavers) completed the survey. All Aboriginal and Torres Strait students, students who attended schools participating in the Connected Communities program and students who left school before the minimum leaving age were in scope for the survey. A sample of students who completed Year 12 or left school after the minimum leaving age were also in scope.
The 2017 post-school destinations and expectations annual report (PDF, 3.3MB) presents key findings from the 2017 survey of secondary students' post-school destinations. Over 6,995 young people shared their experiences with the research team. Surveys were completed by early school leavers and Year 12 completers across government and non-government schools. The report also presents the findings from a longitudinal follow-up with 2,704 students who responded to the survey in 2014 and 3,342 students who responded in 2016.
The 2017 post-school destinations technical report (PDF, 3.5MB) outlines the project background and overview, survey methodology, questionnaire design and data processing undertaken by the Social Research Council (SRC) to produce the annual report. It also includes materials used by SRC to undertake the project.
The post-school destinations report provides information about:
• post-school education pathways, attainments and destinations of young people in NSW
• factors that drive engagement, retention, education achievement and pathway choices for young people in NSW
• findings from longitudinal follow-ups with students who responded to surveys in 2014 and 2016, and Year 10 students in 2017.
Over 13,000 early school leavers and Year 12 completers across government and non-government schools completed surveys in 2017.
The NSW Department of Education and NSW Skills Board have collaborated on the annual survey since 2014.
Further education and training was the most common post-school destination
The majority of Year 12 completers (69.9%) and early school leavers (55.4%) were in some form of education and training six months after leaving school. However, the proportion of Year 12 completers entering some form of education and training has continued to decline since peaking in 2015, and the proportion of Year 12 completers and early school leavers entering VET also decreased in 2017.
Post-school destinations differ between Year 12 completers and early school leavers
The main post-school destination among Year 12 completers continued to be a Bachelor degree (50.1%), however Year 12 completers identifying as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander had lower rates of entering a Bachelor degree (23.9%) than other Year 12 completers. The main post-school destination for early school leavers continued to be an apprenticeship (30.0%).
Reasons for leaving school early varied
The most common self-reported reasons for leaving school early continue to relate to wanting to pursue employment and career opportunities, school ‘not being for them’ and not liking school or teachers. Less frequently cited reasons included not coping at school or failing subjects, finding school boring, wanting to study elsewhere, ill-health and being bullied.
This report presents key findings from the 2014 Survey of Secondary Students' Post-School Destinations. Surveys were completed by four cohorts across government and non-government schools: early school leavers; Year 12 completers; Year 10 students; and, teachers of year 10 students. The main aim of the survey was to monitor and examine trends in post-school education, training and employment destinations among secondary school students in NSW.
The following five fact sheets give a summary of the key findings from the NSW Secondary Students' Post-School Destinations and Expectations Research 2014.
Fact Sheet 1: Year 12 Completers
Fact Sheet 2: Early School Leavers
Fact Sheet 3: Career Aspirations of Secondary School Students
Fact Sheet 4: Effect of SES on Student Destinations
Fact Sheet 5: VET in Schools