Youth transitions : re-entry into second chance education

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


School of Education


Faculty of Education and Arts

First Advisor

Jan Gray


The issue of school non-completion continues to be a matter of concern for policy makers and educators in Australia today. Despite the efforts of governments and school systems to make education more responsive to the needs and interests of young people, recent findings testify to a persistent number of early school leavers who were not fully engaged in learning or work. Though numerically small, they are considered to be a socially significant group who face potential risks of long-term unemployment and poverty because of their lack of educational attainment.

There is evidence to suggest that young people who are unable to fit in with the traditional school environment and are alienated from schooling for various reasons are able to effectively re-engage with learning through second chance education in Technical and Further Education (TAFE) colleges. This is based mainly on research undertaken in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.

This portfolio explored the educational experiences of a small group of school non-completers, aged 15 years to 19 years, in Western Australia, with a specific focus on two crucial stages of their transition; their premature exit from school and their re-engagement through second chance programmes in the TAFE environment. The portfolio developed a set of recommendations that spells out in a coherent way, what might be done, to make the transition out of school and the re-entry into TAFE an informed and empowering experience for young people.

In order to achieve this, the portfolio first examined the wider literature on the socio- economic, cultural and technological changes at the global level that constitute the terrain through which young people navigate their transitions. This provided the basis for a closer scrutiny of global impacts on local settings and their influence on young people's decisions about leaving and returning to education. More specifically, the vast body of literature on early school leaving and the small but significant studies on re-entry through second chance education were examined in order to provide a deep understanding of the context in which second chance education operates.

The conceptual framework that underpinned the portfolio drew on the notions of resistance and voiced research to critique existing explanations of early school leaving. Through the concept of agency, the potential of young people to actively shape their educational transitions amidst enabling and constraining structural forces was also explored. The inquiry section of the portfolio consisted of a series of inter-related, small -scale investigations aimed to identify the potential factors impacting on students' decisions to leave and the efficacy of TAFE in facilitating the re-engagement of early school leavers.

A set of principles and guidelines are provided to advance and sustain policy and practice for second chance education. Practical strategies for teaching and learning are provided, along with inclusive practices and support mechanisms for students and staff conducive to the development of a more effective approach to improving the quality of young people's educational transitional experiences.

LCSH Subject Headings

High school dropouts - Western Australia

Vocational education - Western Australia

Technical education - Western Australia

School-to-work transition - Western Australia

Access Note

Access to this thesis is restricted to current ECU staff and students. Email request to library@ecu.edu.au

Access to this thesis is restricted. Please see the Access Note below for access details.


Paper Location