Leaving School Early

Although there are many benefits to completing Year 12 or equivalent studies, some students feel ready to move on from school before the end of Year 12.

These feelings can be influenced by many factors, such as the challenges of school and homework, social life and home life and problems with friends. Some issues can make it hard for young people to make an informed decision about what they want to do, whether it’s staying at school, doing a Vocational Education and Training (VET) course, going to university or leaving school and trying to find a job.

You play an important role in supporting your child and discussing the best career options and choices for the future. If your child is planning to leave school early, the following information can help you talk about this decision with them:

What to do if your child wants to leave school early

It’s good to talk with your child about their options before they decide to leave school completely. Encourage them to meet with the careers coordinator at school, or any other teachers they relate to well.

Finishing Year 12 in a school environment may not be the best option for your child. There are options for completing Year 12 (either VCE or VCAL) in other settings, for example at a different school, at a VET provider or a Learn Local organisation.

In any case, young people under the age of 17 are legally required to be in education, training or employment.

Why stay at school?

You’re probably already telling your child that having a good education increases their chances of getting a better job in the future. Now we have some research that backs this up.

Research shows that many students who leave school without completing Year 12 earn less when they begin work, and are more likely to experience long periods of unemployment. They’re also less likely to return to study later in life.

On average, someone who doesn’t complete Year 12 will earn around half a million dollars less in their lifetime than someone who completes Year 12.

Research also indicates that people who have trouble finding secure employment by their mid-twenties continue to be disadvantaged, both financially and socially.

So, encourage your child to stay at school or start an alternative education or training option.

The legal school leaving age is 17

In Victoria, students cannot leave school until they are 17 years old.

The Education and Training Reform Act 2006 has been amended to include:

  • a requirement for all young people to participate in schooling (meaning in school or an approved equivalent) until they finish Year 10
  • a requirement for all young people who have completed Year 10 to participate full-time (defined as at least 25 hours per week) in education, training or employment, or a combination of these activities, until they are 17 years old.

For more information, see: New Participation Age Requirements – Frequently Asked Questions

Pathways and options at school

Your child has a range of options through senior school. Talk with them about all the available options, including the three senior secondary qualifications and Vocational Education and Training (VET) in Schools:

Students can do VET programs as part of their VCE or VCAL. These programs include VET in Schools, School Based Apprenticeships and Traineeships and pre-apprenticeships.

Other education and training options

School is the best place for most students to complete their education through a senior secondary certificate, usually VCE or VCAL. However, for some young people options other than school may be more suitable.

For information, see:

  • Learn Local education and training – information about more than 300 government-registered organisations that deliver initial training and nationally recognised vocational courses for all Victorians
  • Further Education and Training – information about education and training options available to the community including apprentices, trainees, students, teachers, trainers, businesses and employers
  • Centrelink – information about accessing education and training information and applying for payments online
  • Skills Gateway – one-stop shop for information about vocational training in Victoria.

Who can help?


Talk to Centrelink about the options that may be available to help your child, including income support and assistance for job seekers.

For more information, see: Centrelink

Other people you can talk to

There is a range of people you can speak to at your child’s school if your child wants to leave school early:

  • the careers coordinator
  • the Managed Individual Pathways coordinator
  • the year level coordinator
  • the student wellbeing coordinator
  • an assistant principal
  • other teachers in your child’s school.

People outside of your child's school you can speak to include:

  • relatives and family friends who your child feels comfortable talking to
  • youth workers in community settings
  • Vocational Education and Training (VET) providers and universities.