Life after secondary school – transition into further study for students with disability

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Key points
Planning to transition into further study after secondary school can help you to reach your career goal
There are a range of tertiary options available to people with disability
Tertiary education providers are required to make reasonable and necessary adjustments for people with disability so that they can access their education on the same level as students without disabilityPlanning your transition out of school and into becoming an adult can be a big task, but it’s important to know you don’t have to go straight into employment when you finish high school. There are plenty of options out there for you to do more study after school.

Key points

  • Planning to transition into further study after secondary school can help you to reach your career goal
  • There are a range of tertiary options available to people with disability
  • Tertiary education providers are required to make reasonable and necessary adjustments for people with disability so that they can access their education on the same level as students without disability

Further study after school can help you to learn more about the kind of career you want and expand the skills you might need for that career, grow your social network and even increase your chance of earning a higher pay in your job of choice.

There are supports that people with disability can access to help with planning the transition from school into further study and also to make sure that your study needs are met in whichever tertiary setting you choose.

Planning your transition

If you know you want to study more after you leave school make sure you talk to your family, support network and National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) plan manager about making it part of your goals.

You can start talking about what your options are for study and what careers it might lead you into as early as Year 9, to make sure all the planning, funding and supports are in place to help you transition from your last year of secondary school into your chosen study path.

Some tips for thinking about your study pathway include:

  • Don’t limit your options – have high expectations of what you can achieve with the right support so that you reach the best outcome

  • Start planning your transition from secondary school into further study early – even before you start career education at school – so that you have an idea of what your future plan is

  • Involve anyone who you think can help in your planning, such as school staff, your family, tertiary institutions, support services and your NDIS coordinator

  • Remember your plans can change, for example, if you try work experience in a particular industry and find out it is not suited to you there is the option to change your study path

  • Consider your strengths and interests which might help to show what career and study path would match for you

  • Get as much information as you can about what options you have so that you don’t miss out on any opportunities

Aside from support to explore your employment potential through NDIS funding, your school can help you to create a transition plan so that you can choose school subjects which match your interests and study pathway, and ensure that you achieve the qualifications you need to be accepted into a tertiary institution.


With the right qualifications from secondary school, you can apply for courses at universities, TAFE (Technical and Further Education), or other Vocational Education Training (VET).

For university, you will need to check whether your chosen course has any requirements for the subjects to take at school, which can be included as part of your transition plan if you start looking at university degrees from early on in your career planning.

You will also need an Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank (ATAR) of a particular score, which you receive when you finish Year 12, and should discuss with your school as part of career planning.

Students with disability can sometimes be offered special entry schemes to assist them to gain admission to university, which you can find information on by contacting each university.

These schemes can include a certain number of places set aside for students with disability and the allocation of bonus points to boost your ATAR score.

University degrees usually aim to provide students with more research, written and verbal communication, critical thinking and problem-solving skills and can include more theory-based assessments.

However, university degrees can be seen as higher qualifications by some employers and are required for certain jobs in medicine, law, registered nursing and engineering.

You can visit universities for transition days while you are still in school to see if they have the right degrees, supports and access for you, and there are also some online universities which might suit you if you prefer to study from home.

Vocational education options

VET pathways, which include TAFE courses, usually provide practical experience or knowledge for a particular job and there are many jobs in different industries with corresponding courses.

Some VET courses can be done before you leave school, from Year 10 onwards, over one or two days of the school week and contribute to your education certificate, as well as scores for entering further education, like an ATAR.

There are different levels to each course – for example, a foundational level Pathways to Hospitality course can be built on with a Certificate IV in Hospitality and lead to a Diploma, Advanced Diploma or Bachelor’s degree.

For some jobs you may need to have completed a specific level of VET, for example, to be an aged care worker you need a Certificate III in Individual Support (Ageing), but you do not need to complete the course level below that before applying for the Certificate III.

You can also use VET courses as a stepping stone into university if you don’t meet the requirements of a university degree immediately after finishing school, or if you think completing an extra course before beginning university will be beneficial to you.

Completing VET courses can show a potential employer that you have the same skills and training as other job seekers with the same qualifications, while also helping you to understand whether your chosen career is the right fit for you or if you might like to look into something else.

Allowing time to investigate all the options can help you to know exactly what you want and need and to talk to your support network about what you are planning.

Reasonable adjustments

You have the right to access and participate in education and training in the same way as other students who don’t live with disability.

Under the Australian Disability Discrimination Act all education and training providers must make sure you have equal access to your learning.

This means study-related reasonable adjustments can be requested to assist you with your training.

Although, this adjustments can only be provided to put you on equal ground with other students and not give you an advantage or compromise the qualification you will receive at the end of your study.

Adjustments are disability specific but can include:

  • Provision of a professional note-taker for lectures, practicals or tutorials or electronic recordings

  • Provision of a practical assistant in laboratories or workshops

  • Access to assistive technology like a screen reader or speech recognition for written assignments

  • Access to a scribe in exams

  • Assistance in the library

  • Assignment extensions

  • Extended exam time or breaks during exams

  • Alternative assessments such as individual rather than group presentations

  • Provision of course materials and instructions in advance

  • Provision of Auslan interpreters

  • Provision of course resources in a format that is accessible, for example, audio for students who are blind or captioned video for students who are deaf

  • Negotiation of attendance requirements

  • Supplementary activities for field trips which may be difficult to access for students with physical disability

The reasonable adjustments which you need can be outlined in an access plan which is discussed with your education provider and may require you to provide a health practitioner report on what your needs are.

For more information on planning to enter tertiary education and putting in place supports for your learning, the Australian Disability Clearinghouse on Education and Training has eight disability-specific toolkits you can use.

Have you used supports to transition to further education after school? Tell us in the comments below.

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