Is 16 too young to drop out of school? Picture: iStock
Is 16 too young to drop out of school? Picture: iStock

Aussie teen tradie’s ‘desperate’ plan

Welcome to Sisters In Law,'s weekly column solving all of your legal problems. This week, our resident lawyers and real-life sisters Alison and Jillian Barrett from Maurice Blackburn tackle your legal rights when it comes to leaving school "early".


QUESTION: I am 16 years old and desperate to leave school. I've always hated it, and wanted to leave to be tradie ASAP. I've recently secured an apprenticeship, but my parents are saying they won't let me drop out to pursue it. It's my life, not theirs. What are my rights when it comes to leaving school under the age of 18? - Jarred, VIC


ANSWER: Jarred, it would be frustrating when you've chosen your career path and you feel like there are hurdles preventing you from pursuing it.

There are laws governing education that impact on you and your parents.

The legal age to leave school varies across the states and territories in Australia.

For example, in Queensland you must stay at school until you turn 16 or finish Year 10 (whichever is first).

In Western Australia you can apply for an exemption, but it will only be considered for students in Year 10 or above who will be at least 15.5 years old that year.

As you're in Victoria, the laws in that state will apply to you which say you must remain at school until you are 17 years old.

If you decide to ignore your parents' wishes and just not attend school, your parents could be considered to be breaking the law, leading to them being issued a fine or taken to court.

Your parents would need to argue that an exception applies excluding them from being fined, which would be due to your "disobedience" and not due to a fault of theirs.

If you don't attend school without authorisation not to do so, a "school attendance officer" may stop you in the street during school hours and ask you for your name and address. You have to comply with this request.

There are some exceptions to staying in school until you're 17.

If you have completed Year 10, but haven't turned 17 yet, your parents can apply to your school to allow you to:

• Do approved education and training (such as TAFE, an apprenticeship or traineeship)

• Work full-time (at least 25 hours per week), or

• Do a combination of the above

Even if your parents do make the application, your school doesn't have to approve it and will consider factors including your wellbeing, reasons for wanting to leave school, your best interests and how likely you are to pursue the career or training you've said you intend to do.

You have other options such as the Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL) which is a more hands-on type of learning and also offered at some TAFEs, meaning once you finish it you can continue to study at TAFE or start an apprenticeship.

You may also be able to do Vocational Education and Training (VET) which is hands-on education directly relating to getting a job. You can study VET subjects via pre-apprenticeship programs or a school-based apprenticeship.

A school-based apprenticeship would mean you're complying with your parents' wishes, but also combining paid work, training and school studies so you can gain the skills you want to and progress through an apprenticeship when you are legally allowed to leave school.


This legal information is general in nature and should not be regarded as specific legal advice or relied upon. Persons requiring particular legal advice should consult a solicitor.


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Originally published as Aussie teen tradie's 'desperate' plan