Our work recognises education as a key vehicle for individuals' life-long pathways of wellbeing and stability. It is a significant engagement mechanism spanning across major developmental periods encompassing childhood, adolescence and early adulthood. We partner with state and federal education departments as well as non-government organisations, such as The Smith Family, to identify what works to improve educational outcomes for disadvantaged young people, and improve knowledge about the cause of inequality in the Australian education system.

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Policy brief: Widening participation through secondary school mechanisms

University attendance is one of the strongest predictors of labour market success, personal health and wellbeing, and positive social outcomes. However, people from low socioeconomic backgrounds are disproportionately excluded from the benefits of tertiary education.

Since the release of the A Fair Chance for All report in 1990, Australian Higher Education policy has focused on increasing the number of students from disadvantaged backgrounds attending university. Yet, despite more than 25 years of policies aimed at reducing the gap, there is still a significant difference between the numbers of students from advantaged and disadvantaged backgrounds enrolling in university.

This brief provides a summary of our research findings, which highlight the key role of teachers and schools in supporting students from low socioeconomic backgrounds to enrol in university. Good teachers and supportive school environments have the capacity to compensate for some deficits felt more strongly by students from low socioeconomic backgrounds (such as a lack of Higher Education aspirations, information about university and role models).

Read the policy brief (PDF 1.3MB)


Parent engagement in schools

Clear, consistent evidence over the past five decades has shown that when parents are engaged in their children’s school education, the better academic, social, and emotional outcomes their children are likely to have. However, little is known about which engagement strategies and practices are the most effective, why some parents are disengaged with school, and the role that Principals can play in engaging parents in student learning through their leadership styles.

ISSR researchers have partnered with other UQ researchers, P&Cs Qld, and the Queensland Department of Education and Training (DET) to collect and analyse data on parent-school-community engagement in Queensland state schools to answer these questions.

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Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program-2016 National Priorities Pool: Review of Identified Equity Groups

ISSR was commissioned by the Australian Government to review the equity groups that are used to identify and support people who face systemic barriers to participating and succeeding in higher education. Our approach centred on our awareness that educational equity and disadvantage are subject to interpretation.... Read more

Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program-2014 National Priorities Pool: Widening Participation Longitudinal Scoping Study

ISSR, in collaboration with Victoria University, was commissioned by the Australian Government to deliver design specifications and indicative costings for a prospective Widening Participation Longitudinal Study, representing a potential new initiative to determine the factors influencing higher education participation.... Read more

Student engagement research and analysis

ISSR has a longstanding and successful research partnership with the NSW Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation (CESE) to build a powerful data resource from which to develop a better understanding of student engagement in the state and in Australia more broadly.... Read more

NSW Student Engagement Qualitative Study

Research shows that school leaders are aware of the importance of evidence informed practice and the link between evidence informed practices and improved student outcomes. There is, however, often disconnect between the importance attributed to evidence-informed practice and the actual school.... Read more