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In SET 2009 it is possible to assess the overall level of completion of non-school qualifications. Data indicates that people with specific limitations or restrictions were more likely to drop out of courses than people without disability at all levels. The drop out rate for people with specific limitations or restrictions studying for certificated courses was particularly high (13% compared to 2% of those with no disability) (Graph 2).
Early school leavers
The number of years that a person is engaged in formal education is one of the best predictors of positive social and economic outcomes7. It is in the national interest to have a highly educated and skilled workforce, but getting to that stage presupposes children will remain in school long enough to gain the skills that enable them to participate in higher education.
There were over 2 million people aged 15-24 years, who were not attending school in 2009; 52% of these were males and 48% were females. However, for people with specific restrictions, significantly more females were not attending school than males (55% and 45% respectively).
Graph 3 shows the proportion of people aged 15-24yrs who were not attending school at the time of enumeration, by the age at which they left school. Most 15-24 year olds had left school between the ages of 16-17 years, regardless of whether they had disability or not.
Of people with profound/severe disability, 26% had left school at or before the age of 15 years, but a higher proportion of students with profound/severe disability also remained at school longer than 18 years compared to people without disability (36% and 26% respectively).
Those with specific restrictions were more than twice as likely to have left school earlier than those without disability. Of people with specific restrictions, 23% had left either at 15 years or under compared to only 11% of those without disability. The significance of this is that some of these students may have left school early even though they did not have the most severe forms of disability.
Reasons why left school early:
People who had not completed Year 12 were asked the main reason why they did not do so. The most reported reason given by people with specific restrictions for leaving school early (Graph 4), was that their own ill health or disability had prevented them from completing Year 12 (32%). However, the reason why most people with no disability did not complete Year 12 was that they got (or wanted) jobs or apprenticeships (38%). This was more than twice the proportion of 15-24 year olds with specific restriction who reported that they got (or wanted) jobs or apprenticeships (16%).
Difficulties with participation
People with specific limitations or restrictions aged 15-24 years who were currently not attending school were almost twice as likely to report that they had experienced difficulties while undertaking formal learning in the last 12 months compared to those with no disability (42% and 20% respectively). In addition, 24% also reported that they found it difficult to participate in non-formal courses, compared to 5% of those with no disability.
All people were asked if they had wanted to study for a formal qualification in the last 12 months but had not done so and to identify the reasons for why they did not participate. The three most common reasons stated by people aged 15-24 years who had specific restrictions and were not currently attending school were: financial reasons (33%), location or transport reasons (21%) and no time (20%).
What happened to early school leavers post-school?
Of people with specific limitations or restrictions who were not currently attending school in 2009, 55% were employed compared to 72% of those without disability (Graph 5). People with specific limitations or restrictions were more likely to be unemployed (14%) than those without disability (9%). They were also more likely not to be in the labour force (31%) than those without disability (19%).
Vocational Education and Training of 15-19 year olds
In Australian secondary schools, students are able to study Vocational Education and Training (VET) subjects such as hospitality, business and engineering as part of their school work. This enables them to obtain VET qualifications while still attending school, sometimes simultaneous to other school qualifications. For an explanation of the purposes and structure of VET training, please refer to Appendix 2.
The proportion of people aged 15-19 years studying in VET was higher for students with disability than for those without disability (Graph 6). In 2009 34% of 15-19 year olds with specific restrictions were studying VET. This compared to 19% of 15-19 year olds with no disability.
Level of highest qualification of 20-24 year olds
Young adults between the ages of 20-24 years often engage in formal studies after leaving school. People with specific limitations or restrictions were almost half as likely to be studying for a degree (14%) than people without disability (27%) (Graph 7). There was no significant difference in the proportion of people with specific limitations or restrictions studying for VET qualifications (18%) compared to those with no disability (15%).
Employment status before and after completing a first qualification (20-24yrs)
In 2009, 73% of people with specific limitations or restrictions were employed prior to their first qualification, the same proportion as people with no disability. Six months after completing a qualification, there was no significant difference between people with disability being employed (77%) compared to those with no disability (86%).
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