In Australia, socioeconomic status remains a key factor in school completion. By age 19, only 61% of the most disadvantaged students have completed Year 12, compared with 89% of the most advantaged students. It is important that all young people are given the opportunity to complete Year 12, or an equivalent pathway, particularly students who are at risk of not completing school due to their socioeconomic disadvantage.
Using data from the NSW Tell Them From Me (TTFM) secondary school student survey, this Learning Curve explores the links between students’ engagement and experience of teaching practices in the middle of high school (Year 10) and their likelihood of completing Year 12 two years later.
Positive engagement and effective teaching increase all students’ chances of completing Year 12. When students develop positive relationships with teachers and are supported and challenged by teachers, they are more likely to complete school. Likewise, when students put effort in at school, see value in doing homework and believe school is important and useful for future success, they are also more likely to complete Year 12.
Engaging disadvantaged students increases their chances of completing school. When students from low-SES backgrounds report high levels of engagement and effective teaching practice in the middle of high school they are more likely to complete school than students from high-SES backgrounds who are not engaged in school.
Students from low-SES backgrounds are more likely to be disengaged in key predictors of school completion than students from high-SES backgrounds. In NSW, around half of all high-SES students in Year 10 report positive teacher relationships, positive attendance and value the outcomes of school, whereas only a quarter of low-SES students report a similar level of engagement.
This Learning Curve is accompanied by the resource, Supporting school completion: Resources for schools, teachers and parents/carers, which outlines practical strategies that may help facilitate high school completion and post-school transition. The resource includes four case studies from low-SES schools across metropolitan and regional NSW.
Some of the common themes that emerge from the four case studies are:
- Developing strong teacher-student relations in the years prior to students finishing high school is an important foundation for successful post-school transition
- Setting high expectations for all students fosters high aspirations and encourages students to work towards those aspirations
- Providing information and support to students and parents about post-school transition broadens their awareness of available options for post-school life
- Having dedicated resources within the school, through staff and/or ‘drop-in’ centres that students can draw on, improves students’ chances of making a successful transition.