Education has benefits to individuals and society. A fundamental goal of education is to equip individuals to reach their potential as members of a just democratic society.

Young people who leave school early risk unemployment and social disadvantage. They’re likely to experience long periods out of work and when they are employed their jobs are likely be low-paid and low-skilled – often casual and part time.

Of those who leave school early, up to a third are unemployed in the following year and continue to have difficulties over the next six years.[1] Young people most at risk of current and future social and long-term economic disadvantage are those 15-19 year olds who are unemployed or not looking for work and are not in any form of education and training.  

Early intervention and prevention approaches to early school leaving requires additional resources and responsibilities, which cannot be simply added to existing teaching responsibilities. Youth workers are well placed to support young people to remain engaged in education.  There is a range of support mechanisms in schools where youth workers can partner to ensure young people’s social, emotional and educational needs are being met.

There have been major changes to education requirements for young people in the ACT with amendments to the Education Act from 1 January 2010. Previously, compulsory school age ending was 15 years of age. All young people are now required to remain in education until completing Year 10. Following this, they will have to participate full time (at least 25 hours per week) in education, training or employment until completing Year 12 (or equivalent) or reaching the age of 17, whichever comes first.

Students who have not turned 17 and who are looking to undertake work-related training or employment after Year 10 will need to seek an Approval Statement from ACT Department of Education and Training) DET to do so. This is required to ensure the training or employment meets the new legislative requirements and the Department’s guidelines. The changes will not affect students who left school in 2009, either at the end of Year 10 or aged 15; or who are planning to continue in education until Year 12.

More information can be obtained from the Department of Education (DET) website or by contacting DET on [email protected] or (02) 6205 2254.

Tips For Working with School Communities

This information is provided to help community organisations promote their programs by developing better links and partnerships with schools.

The first step is to work out what your service wants to achieve by working with schools and whether it can cope with the extra demands on the service that may result.  For example, if you’re aiming to encourage young people in your area to access your service, will your service be able to cater for the extra numbers (consider existing programs, volunteers, administration, resources)?

Some Tips for Working Within the School Community

  • All schools are different. Schools may have different interests, priorities and resources in respect to your service.
  • Get to know those closest to your service.
  • Decide what sort of support you can offer schools (ie. running groups, health promotion, alternative education, recreation) before approaching them to find out whether they would be interested in your service.
  • Schools are bound by policy, curriculum, reporting and learning outcomes. Find out about these and consider whether what you offer can support these in any way. If you can demonstrate support for these you’re more attractive to schools.
  • All high schools have a Pastoral Care Coordinator and a Youth Support Worker in School who could be your nominated contact person for that school. This may be your best contact point, particularly if you can address him or her by name.
  • It’s important to remember schools are busy places and teachers are stretched to fit everything into the school day.
  • Teachers generally plan their programs ahead. Term 4 is usually a good time to discuss opportunities for the following year.
  • Schools receive a great deal of information to distribute to families. Find out how each school prefers information to be presented, and keep it simple.
  • Schools are required to ensure visitors/volunteers working with students meet certain requirements. For example, appropriate accreditation/experience for the role, and possibly police checks. Find out what the requirements are for your involvement in the school.

Successful Links with Schools

Better links between schools and services result when:

    • Schools have evidence the service is a ‘student / young person safe’ environment.
    • Face-to-face discussions are held between school and service staff.
    • Service proposals are flexible and cater for school needs.
    • Teachers can see the benefits for their students.
    • The service link adds value to the school program, e.g. teacher training, resources and ongoing service-school links.
    • Any additional workload is rewarded by the benefits to the service and the school.
    • The service provides quality programs.
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