Your child's options if they don't want to do Year 12

Student works in carpentry workshopWhile leaving school in Year 10 may have been common practice in the past, these days more and more students are opting to make the most of some of the alternative education options available. Schools have recognised the need for varied education options, introducing initiatives such as Vocational Education and Training (VET) subjects and school-based apprenticeships. If your child is considering their education options beyond Year 10, we answer some common questions.

At what age can my child leave school?

In New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria, the school leaving age is 17. This means that young people under the age of 17 are legally required to be in full-time education, training or employment. This can include completing their senior secondary studies at school, enrolling in a VET course at a Registered Training Organisation (RTO), starting an apprenticeship or traineeship, or working full time. It is compulsory for students to attend school until the end of Year 10 in all states.

What are the benefits of completing Year 12?

Even if your child doesn't want to go to uni, completing Year 12 has many benefits. Senior secondary certificate completion is fast becoming a standard requirement for many workplaces and even when it's not a formal requirement, employers may look more favourably on an applicant who has completed Year 12 compared to an early-leaver. With opportunities available to begin an apprenticeship or VET qualification while still at school, students can complete their secondary studies and begin work or further study simultaneously.

What are some of the other options offered in schools?

VET in Schools

The VET in Schools program allows students to earn credit towards a Vocational Education and Training (VET) qualification while completing their senior secondary schooling. VET courses are generally very hands-on and are available across a wide range of areas, including hospitality, business, children's services, agriculture and engineering. Students completing a VET subject at school may be awarded credit towards their senior secondary certificate. These subjects may be completed at school or through a local TAFE institute or VET provider.

School-based apprenticeships and traineeships

Students also have the opportunity to commence an apprenticeship or traineeship part time while at school. These programs combine paid work, training and secondary school studies. Students undertaking a school-based apprenticeship or traineeship work towards gaining a VET qualification and their senior secondary certificate, while also undertaking work experience within the industry.

What options are available in my state?

New South Wales

In addition to Board Developed Courses and VET courses, students in New South Wales have the opportunity to study Board Endorsed Courses to complete their HSC. Board Endorsed Courses are developed by schools, universities and TAFE institutes but do not contribute towards a student's ATAR or have HSC exams (all assessment is school-based).

See Understanding the school curriculum in New South Wales for more information.


Students in Queensland may choose to study subjects that contribute towards a selection rank rather than an Overall Position (OP). To be eligible for an OP, students must study 20 units of Authority subjects. Those students who do not study the required number of Authority subjects are instead awarded a selection rank. Rank students may choose to study Authority-registered subjects (which do not count towards an OP), VET courses or school-based apprenticeships and traineeships to gain credits towards their QCE. Authority-registered subjects include creative arts, prevocational mathematics, English communication and tourism. These subjects generally include substantial vocational and practical components.

Queensland students may also choose to enrol in a specialist trade college, which combine traditional academic classes with trade and technical training, allowing students to gain a VET qualification and their QCE.

See Understanding the school curriculum in Queensland for more information.


Victorian students have the option of studying the Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL). VCAL is a hands-on alternative to the VCE for students in Years 11 and 12, combining work-related experience, literacy and numeracy skills, industry-specific skills and personal development programs. VCAL students can complete work placements, VCE units and TAFE classes.

Like Queensland students, Victorian students have the opportunity to attend Technical Education Centres (TECs). These centres offer pre-apprenticeship training alongside formal academic study.

See Understanding the school curriculum in Victoria for more information.

What are the other alternatives?

If your child is unhappy with their current school, they may choose to complete their senior studies at a different school or through an alternative provider such as an RTO. Students who do not wish to finish Year 12 must either enrol in a tertiary course at an RTO, TAFE or university, or find full-time employment.

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