State’s Year 12 completion rates drop to lowest level in decade

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday

New data shows Year 12 completion rates in Western Australia’s secondary schools have hit their lowest level in 10 years, with fewer students in the state continuing to university.

The Productivity Commission released its latest education figures yesterday – also revealing showing WA teenagers were among the least educated in the country, with around one in every 10 teenagers, aged 15 to 19, at university in 2023, compared to one in every seven in Victoria and New South Wales.

According to Edith Cowan University School of Education Associate Professor Brad Gobby, the declining trend suggests a growth in young people exploring employment and training opportunities in the WA economy.

Associate Professor Gobby adds that, for many WA teenagers, leaving school early to focus on finding employment or going into a trade apprenticeship would be of more benefit than staying in school.

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And he suggests that worsening academic achievement and retention rates for the least wealthy students are yet to come.

“School systems should remain vigilant around retaining our most vulnerable students by providing an engaging curriculum they want to come to school for, and providing the resources and support they need to achieve at school,” Associate Professor Gobby says.

In many wealthy families, however, retention rates are increasing – a figure that creates a greater social divide in the community.

“For most students, completing high school provides the benefit of higher income over their lifetime in comparison to early school leavers.” he says.

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Half of all school leavers not engaged in study or work

The report shows only half of school leavers aged between 15 and 24 were fully engaged in either education or work – a significant drop from 2022 figures (78 per cent).

In 2013, when both the private and public-school sector had almost identical figures, four out of five full-time public-school students remained at high school until they graduated (82 per cent), with the figure remaining steady through to 2021. In 2022, the retention rate fell by five per cent to 76.7 per cent.

But since 2013, figures related to WA’s private school sector show retention rates have only increased since 2013.

Associate Professor Gobby says the fact that many students were reportedly not in any form of work or education post school “a significant cause for concern”.

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Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]