Research method


Since 2005, the Queensland Government has conducted an annual survey of Year 12 completers from state, independent and Catholic schools across Queensland. The survey was commissioned by the department as part of the Schools Reporting initiative and supported the Queensland Government's Education and Training Reforms for the Future (ETRF), which aimed to have every school leaver either learning or earning.

The Early School Leavers survey was designed to closely align with the Year 12 Completers survey, and provide complementary results about the destinations of school leavers who did not complete Year 12. Many items exploring main destinations, work and study choices are shared between the 2 surveys.

The surveys are carried out by Department of Education through the Queensland Government Statistician's Office (QGSO) under the authority of the Statistical Returns Act 1896 (Qld).


The objectives of the suite of surveys are to help:

  • parents and the wider public to know the pathways of school leavers after leaving school, and to appreciate the range of options available to students
  • schools to review and plan their services for students, especially in the senior years of schooling
  • school systems to review their education policies as they affect the transition from school to further study and employment
  • training bodies, universities, business and industry, local government and regional planners to plan their services.

Survey methodology

The Next Step suite of post-school destination surveys are undertaken by the Department of Education through the QGSO, in accordance with the provisions of the Statistical Returns Act 1896 (Qld). Each survey follows the methodology outline.

The survey frames (or source material) for the Year 12 Completers and Early School Leavers surveys come from administrative records maintained by the Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority. The frame for the Early School Leavers survey is supplemented using departmental enrolment records.

Before carrying out the Year 12 Completers and Early School Leavers surveys, a letter is sent to respondents on the survey frame advising them of the upcoming survey. Participants in the longitudinal studies confirm their ongoing participation at the completion of each round of interviewing. Those with mobile phone numbers are also sent an SMS advising them of the upcoming survey.

The QGSO collects survey responses mainly through computer-assisted telephone interviewing (CATI). For the Year 12 Completers and Early School Leavers surveys, students are also offered the opportunity to complete the survey online.

All Year 12 Completers survey respondents go into a draw for a chance to win 1 of several prizes offered as incentives to encourage survey participation.

The QGSO cleans the CATI and online responses and provides the department with a de-identified unit record file.

The department creates, validates and releases reports.

The department evaluates and reviews the end-to-end survey process, and works to improve future processes.

What does the survey ask?

The survey asks questions about work and further study.

  • If you are working, we’ll ask for your occupation, industry, weekly hours worked, if you are casual and if you are doing an apprenticeship or traineeship.
  • If you’re not working, we’ll ask about any previous work and if you are looking for work. We’ll also ask what challenges you are facing in finding work or why you are not looking for work at the moment.
  • If you are studying, we’ll ask for the name of your course, level of the qualification, where you are studying and if it is full-time or part-time.
  • If you are not studying, we’ll ask why you are not doing further study at the moment. We’ll also ask if you are taking a gap year or deferred tertiary study and what your priorities are afterwards.
  • If you didn’t complete Year 12, we’ll ask you why you left.

Download the full questionnaires:


The results of the survey are shared in the following ways:

  • a statewide summary report analysing statewide trends and patterns
  • an interactive report builder that allows users to customise a report for their selected geography and topics of interest
  • statewide main destination data in Microsoft Excel format
  • individual school reports to each school (that has 5 or more responses to the survey).

The survey complements schools' own surveys by providing statewide data that allows schools to match local trends with statewide trends. It also provides schools with the option of relying upon Next Step survey data for destination information at no cost to the school.

Note on survey findings

It is important to note that the post-school destinations of all school leavers are influenced by the environment and available employment opportunities. This can limit their options and change their intended post-school pathways.

For example, in a tight labour market a school leaver may choose an education or training pathway rather than their initially preferred employment pathway.


The survey methodology allows for responses to be provided by a proxy. Allowable proxies include parents, siblings and other household members able to respond on behalf of the respondent.

Some answers supplied by proxies may be different from what the school leaver would have stated. Although we estimate that this error is small, we have not quantified its impact.

Response rates

Historically, the response rates for the Year 12 Completers survey and the three longitudinal studies have consistently been around 80%.

The response rate for the Early School Leavers survey is typically around 50%. This lower response rate results from an inability to contact the targeted individuals (due to out-of-date contact details) rather than their lack of willingness to participate in the survey.


The 2011 Early School Leavers survey was the first year to include early school leavers from non-state schools. In 2012, the survey was expanded to include early school leavers who were undertaking secondary studies at a non-secondary school. These changes in survey methodology constitute breaks in the time-series and data should be interpreted in this context. Care should also be taken when interpreting these results due to the varying response rates achieved across the years.

All survey respondents are assigned to a main destination. This data is presented in a structured grouping which outlines the main study and labour market destinations of respondents. Respondents are grouped as follows:

  • students are assigned to the education categories regardless of their labour force status
  • apprentices and trainees are assigned to their respective training categories
  • those grouped in a labour market destination (employed or seeking work) are not in education or training
  • those who are not in the labour force, education or training.

For a detailed breakdown of the main destination categories, refer to appendix 1.


Data for the longitudinal studies are weighted (to reflect the number of respondents who participated in the 2006 and 2011 Year 12 Completers surveys and the 2011 Early School Leavers survey) and are subject to sampling and non-sampling errors.

Data for the Year 12 Completers and Early School Leavers surveys are unweighted.

Effects of rounding

Percentages in Next Step reports have been rounded to 1 decimal point. This may cause discrepancies between the sum of component items and their totals.

Data editing

Data editing is performed throughout data entry and after each survey closes. Examples of data editing include checking for invalid entries (e.g. entries which were out of range), as well as checking the accuracy of manually-entered data.


The following appendices include information on commonly used terms and categorisations used in the Next Step reports.

Appendix 1: Main destination categories

Main destination categorisation system prioritises education related destinations over other destinations. For example, survey respondents who were both studying and working are reported as studying for their main destination. Refer to appendix 1 for details.

Appendix 2: Fields of study

Survey respondents who are continuing in further study or training are asked for information on their study course. Field of study categories are based on the Australian Standard Classification of Education (ABS cat. no.1272.0). Refer to appendix 2 for examples of courses included in each field of study.

Appendix 3: Industry categories

Survey respondents who are participating in paid employment are asked for information about their main job. Industry categories are based on the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ABS cat. no. 1292.0). Refer to appendix 3 for examples of job types included in each industry.

Appendix 4: Occupations

Survey respondents who are participating in paid employment are asked for information about their main job. Occupations are based on the ANZSCO - Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations, 2013, Version 1.2. Refer to appendix 4 for examples of job types included in each ANZSCO-1 major group.

Appendix 5: Glossary and abbreviations

Refer to appendix 5 for abbreviations and common terms used throughout Next Step reports.

Appendix 6: Statistical Area Level 4 – Queensland, ABS, 2016

Some data in Next Step reports are presented at a Statistical Areal Level 4 (SA4) level. SA4s are geographical areas built from whole Statistical Areas Level 3 (SA3s). The SA4 regions are the largest sub-state regions in the main structure of the Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS). They have been designed for the output of a variety of regional data, including data from the 2016 Census of Population and Housing. Refer to appendix 6 for a map outlining Queensland's SA4s.

Appendix 7: Statistical Area Level 4 – South-East Queensland, ABS, 2016

Appendix 7 is an enlarged map of the SA4's that make up the South-East Queensland region.​

Last updated 21 March 2024