Post-compulsory schooling policy and the lives of young people in Australia.
Selves, social factors, school sites - and the tricky issue of 'school effects'.

Year: 2000

Author: YATES, L

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Schooling policy is heavily driven by data-base statistical evidence, of inputs and outputs of different schools and of results for different' social categories' of student. Good schools are seen as those with high retention rates and good year 12 results; the outcomes of 'girls' as a category are compared with those of 'boys' as a category, with a heavy focus on participation levels at different ages, and on final year results. This paper discusses some evidence from a qualitative, longitudinal project, based in four different school sites, and the more complicated perspective it throws on what different types of schools are doing and achieving in relation to different types of young people. The project was designed to allow close-up study of the experiences of young people from similar backgrounds who attend different schools, and young people of different backgrounds attending the same school. The students were interviewed twice a year over a six year period (1994-1999) through each year of their secondary schooling. The paper will discuss some general features of how the students in the project construct themselves, their schooling and their future at the end of their schooling, and will also discuss some specific cases to consider the processes over time that produced the students' lives and their sense of themselves at the end of that period. Policy issues that will bead dressed in relation to evidence from this project include: (1) the problem of focussing on competition between schools and 'effective' school practices, given that school and family history, and school reputation and context are important dimensions in how students take up their school experiences; (2) the deceptiveness of retention indicators, and some questions about the wisdom of policy initiatives which force extended schooling participation on students who would prefer to leave; and (3) the effects of recent gender reform policy in Australian schooling and some consideration from this project of gender agendas today.