The Years 11 and 12 Project: Educational Access and Quality in Rural Tasmania

Year: 2015

Author: Corbett, Michael, Gardner, Christine, Williamson, John

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In 2015, in response to historically low rates of secondary completion and tertiary participation, the state of Tasmania has launched a project to pilot the delivery of years 11 and 12 programming in rural high schools. Previous to this project these upper secondary courses were only available in colleges located in cities and in several regional towns. Thus, whether community educational aspirations reflect: i) access to reasonable postsecondary and tertiary options, ii) the negative individual dispositions to education sometimes associated with the term aspirations, or iii) some combination of i and ii, is a focus of this research. Under the established high school structure, the decision for rural youth to continue education beyond year 10 has typically involved either a long commute or some kind of boarding arrangement. This paper reports on the early stages of a longitudinal research project designed to evaluate the effectiveness of this initiative through its initial three-year roll-out. This presentation will report on an analysis of data from six pilot sites for the years 11 and 12 project in different parts of the state.
The research analyses data from site-based interviews with students, teachers, principals, parents, and community leaders to assess perceptions of educational quality, access, school culture and climate as well as social, peer and community impacts of the program. The research also documents and analyzes the social and demographic characteristics of young people and families who take up the “local option” rather than travelling to large colleges for years 11 and 12. The impact of this change on measured academic performance, perceptions of the quality of education, educational access and retention, youth peer networks, and on family and community life all feature in the analysis. The two fundamental questions that this research raises are whether or not, (i) the establishment of upper secondary educational options in more or less remote and typically small high schools is likely to improve educational outcomes in rural Tasmania and, (ii) the communities where these changes have occurred report a more positive view about education beyond the compulsory years.