While the Government's 'Education Revolution' aims to drive productivity, empower individuals and overcome adversity, the latest data from the Brotherhood of St Laurence's Life Chances Study indicates that reduced family income remains a major barrier to social inclusion in education.

This latest release in the twenty-year study, which has tracked the experiences of one hundred and thirty-eight young people since birth, discusses the impact of socioeconomic disadvantage on their life chances.

  • Ninety-eight per cent of 18 year-olds surveyed in high-income families had completed VCE, and 86 per cent in medium-income families.
  • In contrast only 44 per cent of 18 year-olds in low-income families had done the same.
  • However, 15 per cent of young people from low-income families had completed other Year 12 qualifications, and 15 per cent were still at school planning to complete Year 12.
  • A quarter of young people from low-income families (26%) had left school early, but no 18 year-olds from high-income families had left school without finishing VCE.

Tony Nicholson, Executive Director of the Brotherhood of St Laurence commented:

'This study reinforces that family resources are strongly connected to school retention and academic achievement. Where families lack the necessary resources, extra support needs to be provided by schools, universities and other training organisations to achieve a socially inclusive outcome.

Government needs to ensure that young people are not deterred from school or further training by cost if they want to achieve the goals of the Education Revolution.'

Based upon the study, the Brotherhood makes the following recommendations to policymakers:

To improve Year 12 retention rates for students:

  • Actively engage less academic students in applied learning courses.
  • Support those on low incomes by addressing school costs such as textbooks and subject fees, and also with adequate family income support.
  • Promote a healthy balance between students' paid work and study.

To increase further education and training for young people:

  • Acknowledge that for some disadvantaged young people, fees for TAFE courses are already a barrier which a loan scheme is unlikely to overcome.
  • Monitor the impact of the proposed TAFE fee increases.
  • Ensure support services and career counselling for TAFE students are well resourced to promote course completion and appropriate pathways.

The new report 'Turning 18: pathways and plans' (by Janet Taylor and Nina Gee) is being launched on Wednesday 24 February at the Brotherhood of St Laurence in conjunction with a seminar 'Social Engagement and Life Chances: challenges for policy and practice'. This will focus on discussion with an audience of government policy makers, academics, educationalists and the community sector about how to improve the school experience for disadvantaged young people.

View the summary or the full report.

For more information please contact Johanna de Wever on (03) 9483 2487 or (0414) 559 719 or email jdewever@bsl.org.au

Source bsl.org.au