Supporting students from disadvantaged backgrounds to succeed at school

Year: 2017

Author: Considine, Gillian, O'Byrne, Catherine, Reeve, Rebecca, Hapshire, Anne

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In Australia 1.1 million children and young people are growing up in financial disadvantage and facing poorer educational and longer-term life outcomes. Educational outcomes remain strongly related to the socio-economic background of Australian students. Students from disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely than their advantaged peers, to attain significant educational and developmental outcomes. This culminates in poorer life outcomes for many of them. By aged 24, more than 40 percent of young people from the most disadvantaged backgrounds are not fully engaged in education, training and/or employment, compared with 17 percent of their most advantaged peers.
The Smith Family, a national children's charity, currently supports more than 36,000 financially disadvantaged Australian children and young people through the evidence-based Learning for Life scholarship program. The program is premised on concepts of early intervention, long-term support, parental engagement, high expectations, reciprocity, accountability, partnerships and collaboration.
Students can participate on the Learning for Life program from the first year of school through to the completion of their tertiary studies. The program has three core components: 1) financial support; 2) practical support; and, 3) additional learning support. The last includes a range of evidence-based learning programs, which target different stages of a young person's life. They include literacy and numeracy initiatives, after-school learning clubs, mentoring and a range of career-related activities. These shorter programs rely on leveraging significant resources from The Smith Family's corporate, philanthropic and university partners, as well as from individual supporters and volunteers.
Learning for Life is implemented in partnership with over 500 schools in around 90 disadvantaged metropolitan and regional communities across all states and territories.
The efficacy of the program is demonstrated through the year-on-year measurement of the educational outcomes of scholarship students, relative to their peers. These outcomes include school attendance, Year 12 completion and post-school engagement in employment and/or further study. Using survey and longitudinal administrative data this presentation explores the factors associated with the educational engagement and Year 12 completion of Learning for Life students, as well as their post-school engagement in education, training and/or work.
The findings have significant implications for policies and programs aimed at improving the educational outcomes of disadvantaged young Australians and for strengthening family and community engagement in the pursuit of these outcomes. Learning for Life offers a sustainable and scalable solution to persistent and entrenched disadvantage by providing schools and families with additional resources that support stronger educational outcomes.