The Students at Risk Program was a national Program conducted by the then Department of Employment Education and Training (DEET). The expected outcomes for the program, were that students at risk of not completing 12 years of secondary education would be encouraged to remain at school as a result of innovatory programs funded by DEET. The client required a formative evaluation one year into the Program that would provide not only evidence of success but also case studies that could be published as exemplars for future projects. Funding and the expected evaluation outcomes did not allow a comprehensive quantitative and qualitative evaluation of all projects. A desk review of all projects led to the selection of diverse and representative projects in schools across Australia. Those projects were agreed with a steering committee representing both DEETYA and the State/Territory education systems.

In depth case studies were then conducted on the nine schools collecting data on retention statistics, attendance statistics, literacy and numeracy data where available, career information, qualitative information from students, parents, teachers and the community, analysis of school/community support structures, and the analysis of project management. A variety of data collection methods were used including questionnaires, in-depth interviews. focus group interviews, desk research, observation and community meetings. Two reports were produced: a formative evaluation of the Program, which concluded that the funding was indeed making a difference and a report with the case studies. Both were published and the second distributed to all schools taking part in the Students at Risk Program in Australia. Hugh Watson designed the evaluation and was directly involved in all phases in cooperation with Dean Ashendon.