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10,000 children dropping out of school

A staggering 10,000 vulnerable children are dropping out of Victorian high schools, training and apprenticeships every year, triggering fears of a generation lost in a world of future unemployment.

For the first time, the Education Department has used identification numbers issued to students to track accurately how many children of compulsory school-age (under 17) are disappearing from the state's education and training system.

A government document obtained by The Age shows more than 10,000 students in years 9 to 11 disengage from the education and training systems every year. A further 6000 drop out within 12 months of transferring to the vocational education and training (VET) system.

The news comes as the federal government looks set to cut funding for Youth Connections, a program that helps young Australians remain engaged with education, work and training and as experts warn of a pending ''social disaster''.

A state government pilot program, Youth Partnerships, which tests and designs collaborative ways for services to support vulnerable youth will also come to an end next month.

Commissioner for Children and Young People Bernie Geary called on the Education Department to reveal details of the missing children so that they could receive help.

“There is evidence many thousands of young people have disappeared off the education radar. It is the responsibility of the Education Department to tell us where they are so we can resume contact with them.”

The nine-digit numbers, which are issued to every Victorian student and tied to their name, gender and date of birth, provide accurate data on a student's movement from school to school, and within VET providers.

Goldfields Local Learning and Employment Network executive officer Anne Brosnan recently told a federal parliamentary committee that analysis of the student identification numbers showed that 240 Bendigo students were not in schools, TAFEs or registered training organisations in May 2012.

Brotherhood of St Laurence executive director Tony Nicholson said the state government figures added to a picture of an "unfolding social disaster in Victoria". 

"There are large numbers of young people ill-equipped to be employed, and for whom their life chances are curtailed at a very early age."

A recent Brotherhood of St Laurence report found the unemployment rate for 15 to 24-year-olds is now 12.5 per cent, but 17.5 per cent in the Hume region in Victoria and 14.8 per cent in the north and west of metropolitan Melbourne. 

Shadow parliamentary secretary for education Colin Brooks slammed the state government for axing Youth Partnerships, which aims to improve engagement in training and education for vulnerable youths aged between 10 to 18.

“The Napthine government is failing young Victorians. Denis Napthine is culpable because he knows the size of this problem, of massive youth disengagement, yet he has chosen to do nothing.”

An Education Department spokesman said: “the department is currently working on new ways to measure student disengagement – which will include measuring student numbers. This work is still under way and is not yet finalised.”

He said outcomes from the three-year Youth Partnerships project would inform government policies and programs.

A spokeswoman for Education Minister Martin Dixon said the Coalition government was “committed to supporting vulnerable young people and getting disengaged students back into school.”

She said it had delivered a range of programs for vulnerable young people including 150 primary welfare officers for government primary schools, a $750,000 partnership with headspace to help schools improve support for vulnerable children and the Senior Secondary re-engagement program.

Victorian Youth Connections Network chairwoman Tracey Fenton said the federally funded program had transformed the lives of thousands of young people, with 93 per cent of disengaged participants moving into some form of employment, education or training within six months.

Victorian Council of Social Service chief executive Emma King warned of rising youth unemployment if programs for vulnerable young people were cut. She said students who dropped out of schools and training before year 12 found it incredibly difficult to find work.

Senator Scott Ryan, parliamentary secretary to the federal Education Minister, said future funding of the program was “the subject of consideration” in this week's budget.


  • There are a few issues that need to be looked at, firstly why are our children being handed over to christian charity organizations? That's an awful place to end up, even a life of crime would be less embarrassing.

    Secondly, Ari Onassis dropped out of school when he was 15, it isn't a curse, not everyone is suited to academic life.

    There need to be alternatives.

    More apprenticeships, more subsidies for employing the young. More work/train alternatives.

    Date and time
    May 12, 2014, 8:27AM
    • @ sarahjane, perhaps you should take a look at yourself and wonder why you have such a hatred for christian organisations? The organisations you speak so lowly of, are actually doing a world of good for these people, and have helped so many out of bad situations.

      I know that without such places for people to go, my family would be in a much worse place.

      Perhaps you should stop spreading hate, and start helping out.

      Date and time
      May 12, 2014, 9:59AM
    • More apprenticeships, more subsidies for employing the young. More work/train alternatives.

      Perhaps we should cut the minimum wage - if they would work for nothing, they would all have jobs. Also bring back the whips to provide motivation to improve productivity.

      Date and time
      May 12, 2014, 9:59AM
    • Unfortunately not enough apprenticeships to go around these days. Its pretty usual to get a couple of hundred people applying for a single apprenticeship position.

      HR Reality
      Date and time
      May 12, 2014, 10:00AM
    • I am certainly not suited to academic life. I can only easily learn what I can use productively. I'm probably better academically qualified than most people you will meet. I was still attending night classes at age 57 in support of my job.

      Date and time
      May 12, 2014, 10:33AM
    • The Christian charities should not be responsible for solving this jobs crisis - they should be for providing food, shelter and clothing for our poorest.It reminds me of the young disabled people who have no place to be treated and are thrown into nursing homes for the aged. Where are specific groups to deal with youth unemployment? Where is the government? Why did Gillard and Rudd not address this?

      Date and time
      May 12, 2014, 11:05AM
    • There's very few apprenticeship places due to privatisation and the exploitation of 457s.
      As for the Christian orgs, the schools would be far better equipped by employing proper counsellors rather than these chaplains and force feeding religion to students. these kids need nurturing before they fall through the gaps, not God.

      A country gal
      Date and time
      May 12, 2014, 11:12AM
    • wsdk
      yeah that is why we are having a royal commission into what these organisations got and continue to get up to.
      being brainwashed into believing the fairy tales of the christian church. heaven and hell a jesus christ and a god.
      homosexuality is bad.
      in the not too distant future ( the way things are going where religious groups cant stop the truth getting found out ) we will have ridden our society of religion and people will rightly regard anyone embracing a religion as a nut case that needs treatment. ie reprogramming from the cult they were in. nut cases.mentally unbalanced. not fit for society so should be institionalised.

      Date and time
      May 12, 2014, 12:21PM
    • @sarajane I respectfully disagree with you.

      I say "why are our children being handed over to Muslim charity organizations? That's an awful place to end up".

      Date and time
      May 12, 2014, 1:05PM
    • sarajane I didn't think it possible for me to respect you even less. I was wrong. I have done a lot of volunteering with different groups (Non religious). Do you have any idea how much work these religious groups (mostly Christian) do. Without them our society wouldn't function. Sarajane when was the last time you volunteered??????

      Date and time
      May 12, 2014, 2:54PM

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