Karen Lomas
May 19, 2019

What if my child says he wants to drop out in year 12?

Dropping Out of School in Year 12

It’s worrying if your child says that he or she wants to drop out of school. Even more concerning is if your child said this to you during year 12.

Many parents hope that their child will continue in compulsory education until the end of year 12, indeed this is strongly encouraged in Australia. Retention rates are high across all sectors of education, with state school retention to the end of year 12 at 80% and at independent schools at 88%.

Students complete year 12 with VCE/VET or VCAL qualifications that stand them in good stead to then progress to a paid apprenticeship, or other higher education qualifications. Understandably, parents see this as enormously beneficial for their children.

A lady rang me only a few days ago

A lady rang me only a few days ago and told me that her son had indeed expressed that he didn’t see the point in carrying on with year 12. She said that he was disengaged and unmotivated and that he wanted to drop out of his VCE classes and find himself an apprenticeship. She was understandably really worried.

When I hear from concerned parents I am keen to be sure that I find out all of the circumstances for their child and so my initial appointment is a bit of a fact-finding mission.

I go gently in order to establish trust and build rapport and I pay close attention to the young person’s body language, verbal cues and other clues as to how they are feeling.

I like to find out about their subjects; which they like and don’t like so much, and why. This can be really revealing and can help to identify underlying issues.

The student who had said to his mum that he wanted to drop out in year 12 and go find an apprenticeship, was fairly clear that this was what he felt was right for him and so I explored this with him. Often a child is influenced by anecdotes that seem convincing. Their friend might have just dropped out of year 12 and had somehow found employment straight away. It’s tempting to be caught up in a good news story of that kind, and it takes someone, and probably not their parent, to ask the probing questions and be “devil’s advocate”.

Personal Thoughts

As a parent, it would be so understandable to panic and react without careful thought when your child says they want to drop out of school, especially if it happens in year 11 or 12.

I understand this completely as I’m a parent of two girls, both of whom had times of low motivation during senior education. For your child, it might be peer pressure to leave school, bullying, struggles with VCE subjects or a particular teacher or task, or other factors that might not have been easy for your child to articulate.

Sometimes things can feel catastrophic when they’re really not. It can take an impartial person, a coach or mentor, to talk through the options or come up with a compromise.

There is a lot of talk about higher education pathways, and to be sure it is not catastrophic for a child to complete their education elsewhere than at the school they are presently attending. But change can  be disruptive and year 12 is a pretty short academic year. They’re likely only 17 years of age and may not yet be able to drive a car (have access to transportation). They might not have had a job before, or have any trade qualifications, so gaining employment could be tricky.

There are a number of factors to consider around dropping out of school in the senior years of compulsory education, particularly in year 12.

Contact me through my website form to talk to me about any concerns you may have about your secondary school age child. I can help them to navigate their study and training choices and career potential.




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