Supporting more young people to complete Year 12 will save billions

15 June 2017

The Counting the Costs of Lost Opportunity in Australian Education report released today by the Mitchell Institute, reveals the billions of dollars of costs to the nation resulting from the large numbers of young Australians not completing Year 12 and going on from school to work or further study.

The Smith Family’s CEO, Dr Lisa O’Brien said that the shock in this report is not that there are young Australians not completing Year 12.

“Sadly we know that already. What’s new is this report quantifies the actual cost to the individual and to the Australian community, and the cost is huge,” said Dr O’Brien.

“It is staggering to learn that the cost to the community of each early school leaver over their lifetime is nearly $1 million.

“This report provides an urgent prompt to invest in effective strategies– both in and outside the classroom – which help young Australians complete Year 12.

“It gives a strong rationale for available resources to be invested in proven programs to stem the flow of the “lost opportunity” referenced in the report.”

Research shows the gap in Year 12 completion rates is around 30% between young people from low and high socio-economic backgrounds. Currently, more than 1.1 million children and young people live in poverty in Australia.

“Too often, family hardships and struggles that affect a child’s home life don’t stop there. The Smith Family’s biggest concern as a charity is to prevent family disadvantage from flowing into children’s school life,” added Dr O’Brien.

“Supporting a disadvantaged child’s education, and helping them to complete Year 12, is one of the most effective ways to help them break the poverty cycle and improve their future employment, income, health and welfare prospects.”

Through the Learning for Life program, the charity supports 33,000 disadvantaged children across Australia, and works with their families and schools to help students reach Year 12 and move into work or further study.

“Seven out of ten young people supported through Learning for Life are completing Year 12, compared to six out of ten for similar young people not on our program,” Dr O’Brien said.

“This report shows that for each additional young person that we can support to complete Year 12, there are very large savings to the community.

Learning for Life is a highly-targeted long-term program which includes financial assistance, student and family support to overcome barriers to participation at school, and access to learning and mentoring programs that build confidence and motivation to keep young people engaged.

“Thousands of students have been supported to complete Year 12 through the program, and 84.2% of our former Learning for Life students are in work or study 12 months after leaving the program.”

As part of Learning for Life, there are tailored programs to help students make effective decisions about their futures and build skills to help them transition to careers. These are delivered to help young people stay motivated and engaged throughout their school years and beyond.

“Our iTrack online mentoring program, for example, sees volunteer mentors provide students with encouragement and advice about education and career options, and share their own study and workplace experience, while our Work Inspiration program provides insights into the world or work and equips students with ‘work ready’ skills and knowledge,” Dr O’Brien said.

“Through implementing high-quality, targeted and effective programs we can support many more young people to complete Year 12 and move into the workforce.

“This new report has calculated the cost to the community if we don’t act now. Through investing available resources in effective strategies we can turn this “lost opportunity” into a “golden opportunity”. It will mean a better future for our young people and a stronger more prosperous nation as a result.”

Read the full report: