The Victoria Institute

The value of Flexible Learning Options (FLO) for disenfranchised youth

Despite intensive policy efforts to raise educational attainment, large numbers of young Australians do not achieve Year 12 or an equivalent credential.

State and non-government organisations across Australia have endeavoured to develop appropriate programs to meet the needs of disenfranchised young people, aged 12–20, who are disengaged from schooling.

These programs typically sit outside or alongside mainstream schooling programs and are broadly identified as Flexible Learning Options (FLOs) (Brader & McGinty, 2005; Te Riele, 2012). FLOs are expected to assist in raising educational attainment, but evidence of their economic and social value to date has been anecdotal.

This project will address this gap by analysing FLO sites across three Australian states and the Northern Territory.

Research objective

The primary aim of this project is to generate evidence about the economic and social value of flexible learning options, for both young people themselves and for the wider society.

Central to the project is the development of an innovative methodology that appreciates the complexity of young people’s lives and the characteristics of the Australian educational environment. This will enable us to measure the social and economic impact of FLOs in the Australian context.


This research project will aim to answer the following questions:

  • what life trajectories (and their associated individual and societal outcomes) do disengaged young people navigate in the Australian context?
  • what changes to these life trajectories (and associated changes to individual and societal outcomes) can be expected as a result of participation in Flexible Learning Options?
  • what mechanisms are at work in Flexible Learning Options that facilitate the reshaping of life trajectories of disengaged Australian young people?

Project team

  • Professor Kitty te Riele, The Victoria Institute
  • Professor Sue McGinty (Lead CI), James Cook University
  • Dr Riccardo Welters, James Cook University
  • Associate Professor Brian Lewthwaite, James Cook University
  • Mrs Valda Wallace, James Cook University
  • Prof Hurriyet Babacan, James Cook University


This Linkage project is generously funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC) for the 2013-2016 period.

Collaborating University

  • James Cook University (lead organisation)

Partner organisations


The project will produce refereed journal articles, a book and a website in order to showcase findings for scholarly and professional audiences.


For further information contact:

Professor Kitty te Riele
Phone: +61 3 6226 6705
Email: [email protected]