2017 NSW Post-School Destinations and Experiences Survey

This report was originally published 21 December 2018.

Summary

The aim of the NSW Secondary Students’ Post-School Destinations Survey is to monitor and examine trends in, and correlates of, post-school education, training and employment destinations among secondary school students in NSW. Key findings of the 2017 NSW Secondary Students’ Post-School Destinations Survey are presented in this report.

The survey consisted of cross-sectional telephone interviews with students who completed Year 12 (n=3,529) or left school before completing Year 12 (referred to as early school leavers, n=3,466) in 2016. It also included a longitudinal survey consisting of follow-up interviews with cohorts who were first recruited in 2014 and 2016. These included Year 12 completers (n=899), early school leavers (n=821) and Year 10 students (n=984) who took part in the 2014 NSW Secondary Students’ Post-School Destinations Survey and who had completed further follow-up interviews in 2015 and 2016. It also included Year 12 completers (n=1,793) and early school leavers (n=1,549) who took part in the 2016 NSW Secondary Students’ Post-School Destinations Survey and completed follow-up interviews in 2017.

Main post-school destination

In 2017, 69.6 per cent of Year 12 completers and 55.4 per cent of early school leavers were in some form of education and training six months after leaving school.

The main post-school destination among Year 12 completers continued to be a Bachelor degree (50.1%). All other categories of education and training destinations were reported by less than one-in-ten Year 12 completers, with 6.0 per cent entering a Certificate IV, Diploma or Advanced Diploma, 3.4 per cent a Certificate I, II or III course, 5.8 per cent an apprenticeship and 4.3 per cent a traineeship. Most Year 12 completers who had not entered some form of education and training were working either full-time (8.5% of all Year 12 completers) or part-time (13.8%), while 4.6 per cent were looking for work and 3.4 per cent were not in the labour force, education or training.

The proportion of Year 12 completers entering some form of education and training has declined since 2015 and is at its lowest point in the time series. Significant decreases were seen in the proportion of Year 12 completers entering Certificate IV, Diploma or Advanced Diploma courses (down 2.9 percentage points since 2015). Smaller (although not statistically significant) decreases were also seen in the proportion entering Certificates I, II or III courses (down 1.4 percentage points) and in the percentage of Year 12 completers entering a Bachelor degree (down 3.1 percentage points). These recent decreases in entering a Bachelor degree are opposed to the small increases (although not statistically significant from year to year) in Year 12 completers entering a Bachelor degree in each of the surveys between 2010 and 2015.

Similar to previous years, the post-school destinations of early school leavers were substantially different from Year 12 completers in 2017. For early school leavers, the main post-school destination continued to be an apprenticeship (30.0%), while 7.3 per cent had entered a Certificate IV, Diploma or Advanced Diploma, 8.2 per cent had entered a Certificate I, II or III course and 8.1 per cent had entered a traineeship. Six months after leaving school, close to half of early school leavers (44.6%) were not participating in some form of education and training. Typically, these early school leavers were looking for work (14.2%) or were undertaking full-time (9.9%) or part-time (14.2%) employment. The rest (6.3%) were not in the labour force, education or training.

The proportion of early school leavers entering Certificate I, II or III courses continued to decline in 2017 (down 11.2 points since 2010), similarly the proportion of early school leavers entering Certificate IV+ courses also decreased in 2017 after peaking in 2015. While the proportion of early school leavers entering a Bachelor degree remained low in 2017 (1.8%), increases have been seen each year since 2014.

Not in the labour force, education or training

The main activities of Year 12 completers and early school leavers who were not in the labour force, education or training (NILFET) were also noticeably different. Consistent with previous years of the survey, the main activities of Year 12 completers related to recreation (50.7%), typically in the context of travelling or having a ‘gap’ year (19.7%). Indeed, one-in-five (20.6% of the Year 12 completer NILFET respondents) were enrolled in some form of education or training but had deferred it. The second most common main activity among Year 12 NILFET was undertaking some form of informal study or training (17.3%).

Early school leavers who were NILFET reported a diverse range of main activities. The most common activities included recreation (20.3%), typically framed as recreational activities (11.0%) or doing nothing (6.7%). Other common activities included being unable to work due to illness (20.1%) and looking after children or preparing for birth (18.2%). Looking after children or preparing for birth was particularly common among females, with one-in-three (35%) female early school leavers who were not in the labour force, education or training reporting this as their main activity in 2017.

Reasons for leaving school early

In 2017, the most common self-reported reasons for leaving school before completing Year 12 continue to relate to wanting to pursue employment and career opportunities, school ‘not being for them’ and not liking school or teachers. Not coping at school or failing subjects, finding school boring, wanting to study elsewhere, ill-health and being bullied were less frequently cited as reasons for leaving early.

Self-reported reasons for leaving school early were associated with different socio-demographic profiles. For example, males were more likely to report being disillusioned with school or employment or career related reasons while females were more likely to report leaving due to bullying or external factors or pressures.

Career expectations

Consistent with previous years in the time series, Year 12 completers and early school leavers’ expectations about their future career paths were reasonably well aligned with their post-school pathways six months after leaving school.

Over half of Year 12 completers (55.9%) expected to be working in a professional role by age 30, while one-sixth (17.7%) did not know what career they expected to have. Fewer than one-in-ten Year 12 completers expected to be working in each of the other occupation categories at age 30 (these categories included manager roles, technical or trade roles, community or personal service roles, clerical or administration roles, sales roles, machinery operators or driver roles, and labourer roles). Early school leavers, by comparison, most commonly expected to be working in a trade or technical role (36.4%) at age 30, followed by a professional role (17.1%) or community or personal service role (14.1%). One-fifth (19.9%) of early school leavers did not know what career they expected to have at age 30.

Destination in the years after leaving school

Post-school destinations appeared to be relatively stable in the longitudinal cohorts of Year 12 completers two years post-school. In both the 2014 and 2016 longitudinal cohorts, most Year 12 completers were still in some form of education or training in their second year out of school. Changes in overall post-school destination were, however, more evident in the 2014 Year 12 completer longitudinal cohort who are now in their fourth year post-school. Almost half (46.2%) of this cohort were participating in the same post-school destination as in 2014. The main changes seen in this cohort were a significant decrease in participation in Certificate IV, Diploma or Advanced Diploma courses and in those looking for work but an increase in participation in full-time employment. These changes possibly reflect the completion of these courses and movement into employment among some 2014 Year 12 completers.

In contrast, post-school destinations were less stable among early school leavers two and four years post-school. About half (46.3%) of the 2016 early school leaver cohort remained in the same post-school destination in 2017, while less than three in 10 of the 2014 early school leaver cohort were in the same post-school destination (28.1%) in their fourth year after leaving school. Among the 2014 early school leaver cohort there were decreases in undertaking Certificate I, II or III courses, traineeships and those looking for work, while over this time period there were increases in participation in Bachelor degrees and full-time employment. Like the 2014 Year 12 completers, these changes possibly reflect the completion of these courses and movement into employment.

The majority of the 2014 Year 10 student cohort had completed Year 12 (90.9%) by the end of 2016 while approximately one-in-ten had left school before finishing (8.7%). Post-school destinations among those who had finished Year 12 were consistent with the 2017 Year 12 completer cohort while the post-school destinations of those who had left before finishing school were broadly consistent with the 2017 early school leaver cohort.

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