Early drop out warning signals already show in the first year of secondary school

  • Poor performance in first year is key risk factor
  • Parental attention can prevent early school leaving
  • More drop outs in vmbo schools

The first signs that students are at a higher risk of dropping out of school are already visible in the first year of secondary school. This is one of the conclusions of the PhD thesis “Early school-leaving in the Netherlands. A multidisciplinary study of risk and protective factors explaining early school-leaving”, by T. Traag, researcher at Statistics Netherlands, who will receive her PhD at Maastricht University today.

Poor performance in the first year is a key risk factor

When children, especially boys, start their school career with a poor performance, they run a greater risk of dropping out. Lack of motivation, not liking the school, and belonging to the lower social-economic classes, turn out to be early predictors of the likelihood that a student will leave secondary school without starter qualification.
Personality characteristics such as orderliness (dealing with tasks), mildness (dealing with others) and autonomy (independent thinking and decision making) are also correlated with dropping out. Furthermore, popular children and children with many friends do not tend to drop out. But this is not true when the friends are dropouts themselves.

Parental attention can prevent early school-leaving

The drop out process starts at an early age, yet it is reversible. Parents showing an interest in the school activities of their child helps to reverse it. The drop-out risk is also clearly different between children from different social- economic groups.

More early school leavers in vmbo schools

Apart from the individual and social-economic differences, there is also a difference in the drop out risk between schools. Children in urban schools and children in schools with relatively many children with a foreign background are at a greater risk of leaving school without their starter qualification. Furthermore children in schools offering various types of secondary education are less likely to drop out than children in schools that only offer prevocational programmes (vmbo).