Secondary Education

Secondary Education

In South Australia, regular attendance at secondary level education is compulsory until the age of 16. However, you must be enrolled in an approved learning course until the age of 17. Approved learning courses include:

  • SACE
  • Tafe SA
  • Accrediated courses by a Registered Training Organisation (RTO)
  • Apprenticeships/traineeships
  • University degree/award courses
  • Other courses approved by the Minister for Education


South Australian Certificate of Education (SACE) is the qualification you receive after completing year 11 and year 12. It is internationally recognised, and is the main way South Australian students get into TAFE and university courses.

SACE is broken down into 2 parts. Stage 1 courses (traditionally year 11 level), and Stage 2 (traditionally year 12 level).  There are many combinations you can do to complete the SACE. It is based on a point system. In general terms, 10 points is equivalent to 1 semester of study.  There are some compulsory aspects to achieve the certificate, but there is also space of what you want to do so you can tailor your education to what you want to achieve. You need 200 points, whilst following their compulsory criteria, to achieve your SACE.

Click here to see a copy of the SACE Planner that outlines the criteria for you.


On completion of the SACE you will receive an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR).  The number, between 0-99.95, is not a score out of 100 but a rank of how well you did in your subjects against students in your year across Australia.

They have a fancy way of calculating it which sometimes means that some subjects are worth more than others, resulting in scaling. Your best four stage 2 subjects go towards calculating your ATAR. Your ATAR is important if you wish to apply to university.

Assessment in SACE

Depending on what type of subjects you choose to enrol in, results in the type of assement. They range from tests, essays, projects, and oral presentations. Some subjects also have a major assesment in the form of a sit-down exam or in a final practical.

Stage 1 subjects are graded internally by the school, or organisation, that you attend, and stage 2 subjects are graded externally by the SACE board.

Getting Results

So you have finished... now time to wait! Generally, the results will be available to you before Christmas. You will be posted out a hard copy of your results for each subject and your ATAR. The SACE board plan it carefully so that the same day that your results should arrive in the post, the results will be available online via the SACE website. So make sure that all of your postal details are updated and you remember your login details for SACE.

This is just your results. You will recieve information pertaining to any courses you applied to early in the next year.

Remember, your score is just a number. You should be proud of yourself regardless! If you are at all concerned about your results, have a chat to your school counsellor beforehand, or prehaps a close friend or family member.

Vocational Education and Training

Vocational Education and Training (VET) is education and training that gives you knowledge and skills for work. VET courses are offered through Registered Training Organisations (RTO’s), the most popular being TAFESA. But there are other organisations aswell, including possibly your school! A list can be found at

VET courses are able to count towards achieving your SACE. With up to 150 of the 200 points allowed to be from a VET course. This is so you can tailor your education to suit you! Basically, you can finish your secondary education with SACE and a certificate level training.

There are a wide range of courses available to you, just simply pick what you are interested in. The advatanage of doing a VET course during secondary education is that it sets you up right away for work.

For more information, speak to the VET Coordinator at your school.

Surving Year 12 Tips

Leaving School

School… you either want to be there or you don’t. When you spend 7 hours a day, 5 days a week, for 13 years in school… leaving is a pretty big thing. Whether you leave at the completion of SACE or early there are many things to think through.

When you finish year 12 people have so many questions for you… What are you doing next year? Gap year? Uni or Tafe? Work? What are you going to do with your life? These are all pretty big questions and sometimes we don’t have the answers to them. For some people, this stage of life is super exciting, for others it is scary and confusing. Regardless of how you feel or what you are doing the decisions you make know do not necessarily mean you will stick with them for the rest of your life! Its okay to change.

It is important to remember that everyone is different. What your parents did, may not be what you want to do, or your friends taking a gap year and wanting you to join them, may not be apart of your plan! That’s okay because there are options out there for everyone, so don’t compare yourself.

What if I don't pass?

For some reason or another you may not pass, or maybe you didn’t get a high enough grade. There are many reasons for that, and that’s okay. Your life is not over! It may feel devastating, all those years studying have come down to one failed exam…  but there are options out there for you. Don’t get stuck down in the rut! Some options may be:

  • Go work
  • Go do a VET course
  • Retake exams (depending on the course)
  • Do another year of school (year 13)
  • Talk to your counsellor

Leaving School Early

For one reason or another you may want to leave school early. Legally, you have to be doing secondary school until you are at least 16, or doing VET until you are 17. Before that, there is no option but to stay in school. If you are struggling and you are under 16, go and talk to your counsellor about study options for your situation and things to put in place to help you.

There are many reasons why people leave school early…

If you are planning on leaving school for an apprenticeships make sure you are aware of the requirements. Often they require completion of year 11.

If your school does not offer the classes you would like to study, there may be options of studying at a different school or at a senior college.