The Guides to Social Policy Law is a collection of publications designed to assist decision makers administering social policy law. The information contained in this publication is intended only as a guide to relevant legislation/policy. The information is accurate as at the date listed at the bottom of the page, but may be subject to change. To discuss individual circumstances please contact Services Australia. PES & secondary students


This topic covers issues relating to PES for secondary students (1.1.S.67) including:

  • study-load for full-time students
  • progress rules for study below year 12, and
  • progress rules for previous year 12 study.

Study-load for full-time students

The following table describes when a secondary student is considered to be a full-time student (1.1.F.230). This does not apply if they are on a concessional study-load (1.1.C.290). See also

If the student is studying at … then they must be …

a secondary school

in full-time study, which means completing a set amount of work, accepted by the school as being full-time for any given period.

a special school

over minimum (compulsory) school leaving age.

Explanation: State and territory education authorities have advised that students in special schools who are over school leaving age are regarded as undertaking accredited secondary study. This means they are undertaking approved courses for the purpose of the Student Assistance (Education Institutions and Courses) Determination 2019.

  • an institution other than a secondary school, OR
  • by correspondence or distance education

studying at least 75% of the normal full-time study-load for the course in which they are enrolled.

Act reference: SSAct section 1061PC Approved course of education or study

Student Assistance (Education Institutions and Courses) Determination 2019

Progress rules (i.e. allowable study time rules) for secondary study below year 12

Generally students are able to repeat study below year 12 level without restrictions. Only in exceptional circumstances should the delegate determine that a person is not making satisfactory progress towards completing the course. This is a discretionary decision and should also take into account any factors applicable to progress rules for year 12 study below.

Act reference: SSAct section 1061PH(1) General rule

Progress rules for previous year 12 study

Recipients will NOT usually be considered a full-time secondary student for PES purposes while attempting year 12 for a third time. However, a previous attempt at year 12 can be DISREGARDED if the recipient:

  • failed the year because of

    • an illness that had NOT been diagnosed when they started study in that calendar year, or
    • other circumstances beyond their control that were NOT evident when they started study that year
  • failed the year because English was NOT their first language
  • studied part-time
  • completed or discontinued studies within 6 months of the start of the academic year, or
  • undertook the previous courses more than 10 years ago.

Act reference: SSAct section 1061PH(2) Students repeating year 12

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