'I want to leave school after Year 10. Can I do that?'

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career question

‘I don't like school and want to leave after I finish Year 10. Can I legally do that, and what are my options after I leave? I’m not the academic type but I don't want to just be another high school dropout.’

Jack, 15, Melbourne

career answer

Leaving school is a big decision and it’s very important that you talk to someone before you make up your mind. I suggest that you think carefully about why you want to leave school. Is it that you don’t like your particular school and might do better elsewhere?

In terms of legal requirements, in Victoria you are legally required to be in education, training or employment if you are under 17 years old.

Staying at school doesn’t mean you have to do a traditional Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE). Other options include:

  • Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL)
  • Vocational Education and Training (VET)
  • School-Based Apprenticeships/Traineeships

The first thing to do is talk to your school careers advisor to find out if your school offers options other than VCE. Most schools now recognise that students learn differently and have a number of learning programs available. If your school doesn’t offer any other options, then I suggest you find out which schools in the area do (your careers advisor can help you with this).

Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL)

VCAL is recognised as a senior secondary qualification and is much more focused on hands-on learning. Students who do VCAL are more likely to go on to training at TAFE, get apprenticeships/traineeships or even get a job. The good thing about VCAL qualifications is that they are recognised by TAFEs and employers.

Vocational Education and Training (VET)

VET subjects cover a range of areas, including hospitality, dance, sport and recreation, trades and agriculture. Doing VET will count towards your ATAR and give you credit points for TAFE or university courses. If you do VET subjects you will also get a Nationally Accredited Certificate in VET.

School-Based Apprenticeships/Traineeships

The good news is you don’t have to leave school to do an apprenticeship or traineeship, but your school will need to approve your training plan. If you choose this option you will spend some time at school, some time with your employer and some time doing training with a registered training organisation (RTO).

More options

If you really don’t want to be in a school environment you can look at other training and education options. The Education and Training Reform Act 2006 guarantees you a place in TAFE institutions, the Centre for Adult Education (CAE), Adult Multicultural Education Services (AMES) or Learn Local organisations if you have not finished Year 12 or its equivalent. The Youth Connections Program can help you if you have left school, or are thinking of leaving school, to continue with your education and ultimately gain a Year 12 or equivalent-level education.

It’s always good to talk to people – your parents, the school careers coordinator, a teacher – about your options before you decide to leave school completely. It’s not an irreversible decision – after all, you can always go back – but it can be hard once you leave and it’s not a decision you want to take lightly.

Jo Messer

Jo Messer is a Career Development Specialist who has many years of experience in supporting and guiding students and graduates of some of Australia’s most respected universities, as well as mature-aged clients, across all facets of their career. She is a Professional Member of CDAA and an active member of NAGCAS. Whether you have a specific question about how to achieve your career goal or something more general, Jo is available to provide you with up-to-date advice.

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