We’re working for a just and inclusive education system that supports students to continue and complete their education and realise their potential.


Students in Australia perform reasonably well by international standards, however Indigenous students, those living in remote locations and students from the lowest socioeconomic backgrounds are well below the OECD average.

Many are at serious risk of disengaging from school and dropping out of education altogether.

This has lifelong consequences.

BSL supports the development of approaches that enable students of all ages experiencing disadvantage to successfully engage in education.

For example, we build participation in early childhood education by equipping parents in their capacity as first teachers and strengthening the home learning environment.

We support transitions to and through school by preventing and addressing disengagement. Additionally, BSL informs the development of high support flexible learning options and cutting-edge teaching techniques for highly vulnerable young people.

Our recent work in this area includes:

  • research into flexible learning options across Australia
  • exploring community attitudes to education in regional Victoria
  • research into middle years re-engagement
  • evaluating BSL programs such as the David Scott School for over 120 young people seeking to overcome disrupted education, and HIPPY

Find all recent publications on Education (2000–present)

Visit the BSL library for our prior research on Education (pre 2000)


The majority of young people do not attend university. They rely on vocational education and training (VET) to equip them with the skills and qualifications demanded by our contemporary and future labour market.

However, Australia’s publicly funded VET system faces key challenges. Aggressive marketisation has led to waste, reduced quality and undermined trust. Outcomes for equity groups have gone backwards.

The VET system is not developing the skilled workforce our nation needs, and there is a mismatch of employment opportunities and jobseekers.

BSL’s work informs significant ongoing VET reforms – nationally and in Victoria. Our research focuses on improving outcomes for learners and communities experiencing disadvantage while advocating for a quality vocational education system that is underpinned by public provision.

We explore the complementary roles of Adult Community Education and the community sector and provide evidence for changing the qualifications, curriculum and teaching approaches within the system.

Our research aims not only to better engage learners, but also to build capabilities and strengthen social and economic participation.

SPARC’s work in this area includes:

  • membership of key government advisory forums
  • development of submissions and policy proposals
  • research for the National Centre for Vocational Education Research into engagement issues for 15–19 year-olds involved in vocational training
  • research into vocationally oriented flexible learning options across Australia
  • evaluations of BSL programs such as the David Scott School delivering the Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning to over 120 young people seeking to overcome disrupted education

Find all recent publications on Training (2000–present)

Visit the BSL library for our prior research on Training (pre 2000)

Our policy positions for education and training

• Establish a network of TAFE-based vocational exploration and guidance hubs to assist young people and displaced workers navigate changing labour market opportunities.

• Foster a strong public vocational education system, which is distinct from and complementary to the competitive training market. This would be underpinned by a network of gateway institutions (TAFEs) to rebuild trust and quality, and drive regional social and economic development.

• Establish system-wide measures and targets to lift outcomes for people and communities experiencing disadvantage in school, further and higher education settings. Monitor and report on performance against these targets. Reform funding to enable enhanced supports for learners experiencing disadvantage.

• Remodel training around vocational streams, rather than narrow competencies, to prepare people for the jobs of the future and support progression in the labour market.

External publication

Clarke, K 2022, ' All things to all people ', Griffith Review 75: Learning Curves

Team presentations:

The missing piece: Anchoring VET in place for young people (PDF, 3 MB)
Authors: Shelley Mallett and Diane Brown
Date: July 2019
Location: University of Melbourne, Melbourne

Factors enabling engagement with VET for early school leavers (PDF, 309 KB)
Authors: George Myconos and Stephanie Yung
Date: July 2016
Location: National Vocational Education and Training Research ‘No Frills’ Conference, Central Queensland University, Rockhampton

Approaches to supporting young disadvantaged learners in VET (PDF, 1 MB)
Authors: George Myconos
Date: September 2015
Location: Australian Social Policy Conference, Sydney

Navigating VET: ‘at risk’ youth and re-engagement programs (PDF, 823 KB)
Authors: George Myconos
Date: July 2012
Locations: National Vocational Education and Training Research ‘No Frills’ Conference, Adelaide

Selected publications

By David Longley and Kira Clarke 2022

Despite being the most common form of employment-based training, Australian apprenticeships are not living up to their promise.

Read paper
By Marion Coddou and Joseph Borlagdan 2018

The Stage Two evaluation of the Developing Independence program in an Out-of-Home Care pilot

Read report
By George Myconos, Eric Dommers and Kira Clarke 2018

How can Australia’s vocational education and training (VET) sector meet the needs of disadvantaged young students?

Read report

Selected projects

What are some keys to helping young people to gain planning and independent living skills?

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A research project evaluating three new Education First Youth Foyers in Victoria

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This research examined the role of private registered training organisations in delivering training to young people who have left school early.

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Australia faces a pressing need for quality flexible learning programs to cater for the increasing number of young people who are disengaging from schooling at an early age.

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A project giving young people the freedom to take photographs that represent their experiences of education or employment

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The Brotherhood has developed a community education and support project for young people based at the High Street Centre in Frankston.

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Looking for services related to education and training?

Creating Futures for Youth empowers young people to pursue their career goals and build their capacity to work or undertake further learning.

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HIPPY – the Home Interaction Program for Parents and Youngsters – is a free two-year early-learning program that empowers parents and carers to be their children’s first teacher in their homes.

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Our David Scott School is a registered, independent school for disadvantaged young people. It opened its doors in early 2017 to Year 10, 11 and 12 students.

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Our Youth Transitions Support Pilot Program helps young refugees participate in the community through work, education and sport.

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Education First Youth Foyers are integrated learning and accommodation centres that develop the skills of young people at risk of homelessness.

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The Better Futures service is a new way of supporting young people who are making the transition from out-of-home care to independence.

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Transition to Work is a training and employment program for young people living in Melbourne’s north-western and south-eastern outer suburbs.

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