Home AATIS Blog My child doesn’t want to go back to school, what are their options?


My child doesn’t want to go back to school, what are their options?

As the summer holidays comes to an end, it is common for kids to get the back-to-school blues. But what happens when your child refuses to go back to school?

We explore the many options available to help them stay in school. You can also explore Australian Apprenticeships as a pathway to helping them kick-start their career, if they are well-suited for them. Find out more about australian apprenticeships, their benefits, and the steps to finding one.

When can my child leave school?

The rules around when your child can legally leave full time education varies state-to-state, however generally speaking your child must be in formal education until the age of 16 - 18. Although, there are other options than attending secondary school. We recommend talking to your school- there are other options to attending secondary school.

If your child is still enjoying learning but not their school, there is always the option to change schools or complete their education in a different environment. Many TAFE’s and universities facilitate high schooling.

South Australia

In South Australia, you have to go to school from the age of 6 until you turn 16 years of age.

From the age of 16 to 17 teens can:

  • decide to stay in school until the end of year 12, including studying for SACE, IB or Steiner Education Course
  • do some kind of approved education full time (TAFE courses, enrol in a university degree, diploma or other course)
  • do approved training full time (for example an apprenticeship or traineeship)
  • do a combination of approved training and approved education

They have to do these things until you turn 17 years old or gain a qualification under one of the options we’ve outlined above.

Once they turn 17 or achieve a qualification under an approved learning program, you don’t have to continue with any kind of education or training, but it’s a good idea to because it will increase your chances of getting a job in the future.

In very special circumstances, they can get permission to leave school before Year 10.

You can find more information here.


In Victoria, children have to go to school from the age of 6 until you turn 17 years old.  This can include home schooling.

If they've completed Year 10 but haven’t turned 17 yet, they can:

  • Stay in school
  • Do approved education and training (including TAFE, a traineeship or apprenticeship)
  • Work full-time (at least 25 hours a week)
  • Do a combination of work and approved education and training

Whichever option they choose, they have to be working and/or studying for at least 25 hours a week. 

To do any of these things, they will need to get their parents and school to fill in this form.

The school doesn’t have to automatically let them leave and do these things. In making their decision, they will think about their wellbeing, their reasons for wanting to leave school, their best interests, and how likely they are to go and do what they’ve said they want to do.

In very special circumstances, they can get permission to leave school before you finish Year 10.

Western Australia

In Western Australia, the law says they have to stay in school until they finish Year 10, turn 18 or get to the end of the year they turn 17 and a half. This can be a little confusing, so if you’re not sure, you can get help here.

If they want to leave school after year 10, they have to work or study full time in another education or training option (like full-time TAFE, apprenticeship, work, or a combination of these things). They can start the apprenticeship or traineeship while they are studying part-time at school, as long as the parent/guardian tells the Minister of Education in writing. You can find out more about how to apply here.

Northern Territory

In the Northern Territory, the law says that children have to go to school from when they turn 6 until they finish Year 10 or turn 17 (whichever happens first).

  • If they have finished Year 10 but you haven’t turned 17 yet, then they have to do one of the following:
  • Do some sort of approved education or training, for example an apprenticeship or traineeship or a TAFE Course at Charles Darwin University or the Bachelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education;
  • if they’re over 15, work full-time (at least 25 hours a week)
  • if they’re over 15, work part-time and do some other form of education or training at the same time (with a total of at least 25 hrs/ week of doing both these things)

For more information and how to apply to do these things, check out this website from the NT Department of Education.

In very special circumstances, they can get permission from the Minister for Education to leave school before you finish year 10.

New South Wales

In New South Wales, children have to go to school from when they turn 6 until they finish Year 10 or turn 17. If they have finished Year 10 but you haven’t turned 17 yet, then they need to do one of the following things:

  • do some other form of education or training (like TAFE or an apprenticeship);  
  • do full time paid work (at least 25 hours a week); or
  • do a combination of work, education and training.

If they want to leave school before you finish Year 10 and do an apprenticeship, they have to get special permission. Click here for more information on getting permission.

If they don’t go to school between the age of 6 and 17, or don’t complete Year 10, parents can be fined! However, if they have a good reason for not attending school (for example, a medical condition) then it’s probably OK.

If they’re meant to be at school, a police officer or education officer with an ID card could approach them in a public place during school time to ask their name and address, the name of the school and take them either home or to school.

You can find more information here

Australia Capital Territory

In the ACT, children have to go to school from the age of 6 until you complete Year 10 or reach 17 years of age, whichever happens first.

If they have completed Year 10 but haven’t turned 17 yet, they can:

  • Stay in school until you turn 17
  • Leave school and do some other full-time education, training or employment until they’re 17 or complete a year 12 equivalent.

If they want to leave school under 17 to work, do work-related training or get an apprenticeship or traineeship, they have to get an Approval Statement from the ACT Department of Education and Training. Click here to find out how to apply for an Approval Statement.


In Queensland, children have to go to school from when they turn 6 until you turn 16 or they finish Year 10, whichever comes first.  

After that, although they don’t have to go to school, the law says that they must be “learning or earning” – that is, they must either stay in school or participate in another form of education, training or work for at least 25 hours a week. This “learning or earning” phase continues until:

  • two years have passed since they finish Year 10;  or
  • they turn 17; or
  • they have gained a certificate of achievement, senior statement, Certificate III or Certificate IV.

This might mean they:

  • go to college or a high school and complete your schooling;
  • enrol at TAFE;
  • undertake an apprenticeship or traineeship (these subjects can be used towards  QCE); or
  • do a training course at university or through a private provider; or
  • work full-time (for at least 25 hours a week).

Find more information click here


From 2020, all young people must participate in education or training until they complete Year 12, attain a Certificate III, or they turn 18 years of age, whichever occurs first.

After Year 10, a young person can choose any of the following education and training options, or a combination of these options if the provider/s allow:

  • Years 11 and 12 at any government or non-government school or college, or tertiary provider – this may include an Australian School-based Apprenticeship
  • a Vocational Education and Training (VET) qualification through any registered training organisation
  • an apprenticeship or traineeship with an employer.

Young people with full-time employment, or other specific circumstances, can apply for an exemption to allow them to leave education and training.

You can find more here.

How can I figure out the issue?

Try to speak to your child about what’s been happening. Try hearing them out and letting them speak without interruption, sometimes our comments may deter our children from talking truthfully.   

Meet with your child’s school to discuss what is going on. A few key contacts that may be useful to discuss these issues with are:

  • the year coordinator,
  • the deputy principal or principal,
  • the wellbeing staff or
  • the careers adviser.

Sometimes children don’t have an issue with schooling itself, there may be other issues involved such as:

  • The student is bored and not able to concentrate in class
  • The student doesn’t enjoy the traditional learning style
  • Issues with certain teachers can discourage students
  • Student may not see the point of completing their high schooling as they know what career they would like to pursue (finishing high school may not be a requirement in that career)
  • Issues outside of school (family, friends, self, etc.)

What are their other options outside of Secondary School?

In some cases, finishing secondary school might not be the right pathway for your child. However, there are other options that can lead your child into a successful career.

In some cases, when your child wishes to finish their secondary education, home schooling or distance education may be an option. To find out more information on this, check out your state or territory’s Education Department website for details.

Alternatively, your child might be ready to step into the workforce with an apprenticeship or traineeship.

Australian Apprenticeships offer opportunities to train, study and earn an income at a variety of Vocational Education and Training qualification levels in many occupations including traditional trades. They can be either full-time, part-time or school-based.

What is an Australian Apprenticeship?

The term ‘Australian Apprenticeships’ covers both apprenticeships and traineeships, which start when an employer creates a job and decides to use this way of employing and training staff.

Australian Apprenticeships are available to anyone of working age with eligibility to work in Australia. There aren't specific school levels, certificates or other qualifications needed to start one.

Australian Apprenticeships offer opportunities for you to train, study and earn an income at a variety of Vocational Education and Training qualification levels in many occupations including traditional trades and can be either full-time, part-time or school-based.

When you finish your Australian Apprenticeship, you will have a nationally recognised qualification that can take you anywhere in Australia and is held in high regard in many overseas countries as well.

Things to consider before undertaking an Australian Apprenticeship?

At AATIS, we often get asked if Australian Apprenticeships are too good to be true. We agree, they are an absolutely fantastic pathway into a career across many industries in Australia – however it is important to understand the work that goes into completing an Australian Apprenticeship.

Before your child leaves school to start their apprenticeship:

  • Consider enrolling them in a pre-apprenticeship course. This will give them a great insight as to what will be expected from them throughout their apprenticeship, including the mix of theory based and work-based learning require.

  • Gain an understanding of the literacy and numeracy skills required to undertake their desired apprenticeship. You can do this on the AAPathways website here. Each quiz is 10 questions long and should take approximately 10 minutes to complete. You can use a calculator to assist you. Each quiz was developed with the help of industry, TAFE, and the secondary school sector. They are not a formal assessment of your literacy and numeracy skills.

  • Help them to get a clear understanding of how long it will take to complete their Australian Apprenticeship. In many cases, apprenticeships can take up to four years to complete.

  • Research the industry and the job availabilities for the desired apprenticeship. To complete an Australian Apprenticeship, your child must be employed whilst undertaking study. You can find information on how to secure an Australian Apprenticeship here.

Benefits of an Australian Apprenticeship.

We understand that there is a lot of information to take in before leaving school. However, there are also many benefits that your child will experience if they do decide to undertake and Australian Apprenticeship:

  • Earn whilst they learn.
  • Develop industry skills and experience.
  • Hands on training in the workforce and in the classroom.
  • Gain a nationally recognised qualification.  
  • Meet other people in the industry.
  • Transferable skills.
  • It can be a pathway into further education.
  • It may develop their confidence in both their skills and their self.

Steps to an Australian Apprenticeship.

If you and your child agree that an Australian Apprenticeship is the right step for them, there are steps you can take to secure an apprenticeship. We break-down the steps to finding an apprenticeship which starts with researching industries and careers, to finding a job and signing up with a provider. 

This sounds like a good option, but I think my child should stay at school.

Australian School-based Apprenticeships (ASbA), also known as school-based apprenticeships and traineeships, are similar to any apprenticeship or traineeship but can be commenced part-time as part of your secondary schooling. You will earn a wage, train with an employer, and work towards an accredited qualification while undertaking your high school certificate.

Students who undertake an ASbA may find that they reconnect with their schooling experience due to the mix of traditional education and Vocational Education and Training.

Similar to all Australian Apprenticeships, ASbAs are a great way to learn a role, gain experience, and get a head start in your career. Depending on what you do as your ASbA you may be able to finish this and gain the qualification while you are still at school.

If your school does not offer ASbAs, look at other options such as Vocational Education and Training in School (VET in Schools) or school subjects that lead into the occupation you are interested in. This will help you prepare for an apprenticeship or traineeship once you leave school.

Some ASbAs may be ongoing post-school, but after you complete your apprenticeship or traineeship you will still be able to go to university, upskill to a higher level qualification or even start your own business.

There are a few things to do before starting an ASbA:

  • If the student is under 18 years, they need to talk to a parent or caregiver. The parent or caregiver will need to agree before you can start an ASbA (or any other apprenticeship or traineeship).
  • Talk to the school about whether they offer ASbAs. They will need to agree before starting the ASbA.
  • Choose an apprenticeship or traineeship that is approved as an ASbA in your state.
  • Find an employer who is willing to take on the student as an ASbA.
  • Once they have found an employer, an Australian Apprenticeship Support Network provider will need to do the sign up. They will talk to the employer, the school, and if they are under 18 to a parent or caregiver.

At AATIS, we know that every child is different and that finding the right pathway can be challenging. We hope that we have provided you some valuable insights into what an Australian Apprenticeship can mean for your child.

If you have any further questions about Australian Apprenticeship, you can contact us via our contact form here or by calling our free hotline on 1800 338 022.

If you have any concerns about your child’s wellbeing, you can find support through ReachOut Australia here. ReachOut also has a suite of resources and also offer personalised support.