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Beyond school: Final year school students' experiences of the transition to tertiary study or employment

Beyond school: Final year school students' experiences of the transition to tertiary study or employment
Sally Boyd and Anna Chalmers

This report details the findings from a 2-phase study investigating students' decision-making concerning tertiary study and other post-school destinations.

In phase 1 students from 5 schools, who intended to leave school at the end of 1999, completed a questionnaire concerning their work and study plans for 2000. In late 2000 in phase 2, follow-up interviews were undertaken with 321 students to ascertain their actual destinations; their satisfaction, with hindsight, with the information they had available; their plans for the future; and the motivations and perceptions underlying their career-decision making.

The most common pattern of both intentions and actual activities for these students was to leave school after Year 13 with an A or B Bursary to study for a degree at a university, while working part-time or casually. This study was undertaken as a stepping stone towards a professional or technical career.

In 1999, almost half of the students were unsure of their career aspirations. By 2000, approximately two-thirds had a firmer idea of where they were headed career-wise but the majority had also developed or changed their plans in some way. In 1999, more students intended to study for degree programmes at universities than actually did so in 2000.

"At risk" students are those "who have been identified by the school as being at risk of leaving school unprepared for the transition to the workplace or further education/training" (National Administration Guidelines  NAG, Ministry of Education, 2001).

The groups identified in this study as most "at risk" were students who left school after Year 11 or 12 (or under 17 years of age), or after Year 14; Mäori and Pacific students; and students from the lower decile schools. Students in these groups potentially required more information and assistance with transition decisions.

The information source most used by students to assist their transition decision-making was "Family members and relatives". However an analysis of the information sources students used showed that those that rated as the most useful in assisting transitions decisions were mostly "school-, tertiary-, or employment-based"; for example, the careers information service at their secondary school or contact with people in industries they intended to work in. "Family members and relatives" was the only "personal-based" information source which ranked in the top 10 "most useful" sources indicating that with hindsight, students had identified that some of the sources which they used, such as their peers and family friends, were not as useful as other sources.

For students who had attended the lower decile schools, the most frequently used information source was "The careers information and advice service at your school". For students who had attended the two higher decile schools, the most frequently used information source was "Family members and relatives".

At the follow-up point, the majority of students felt they had had sufficient information, advice, and preparation to help them decide what to do on leaving school. The main gap identified by students in the provision of information, advice, or preparation was "career planning"; for example, they would have liked the concept of career planning to be introduced at a younger age.

Adequate information, advice, and preparation was directly related to the ability of students in this study to make good decisions. Students who did not feel that they had had enough information, advice, or preparation were more likely to say that they would have made different decisions if they were able to have their last year of schooling again. Those who had firm plans before they left school were more likely to continue on to tertiary study.

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Research report
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Anna Chalmers