Progress reports from the first schools supported via Schools Plus have revealed more than 1700 students have already benefited from the wide range of projects.
In early 2015, six schools received about $20,000 each for projects including a pre-school program for families facing disadvantage, trade training for students from a refugee background and a resilience program to increase student wellbeing, engagement and attendance.
Feedback from the schools at the projects’ six-month mark shows the initiatives are having a strong impact on the students, teachers and parents involved.
For instance, at Morphett Vale Primary School in Adelaide’s south, pre-school aged children from 28 disadvantaged families have been attending weekly Learn and Grow sessions to give them the language, cognitive and social skills for a headstart at school next year. The school reports that several children with learning disabilities, such as speech issues, have been identified through the program and referred for specialist treatment. Parents are also being taught new skills to support their children’s early learning.
One parent said that through the sessions, her daughter “has come out of her shell … she really enjoys playing with the different things and interacting with people”.
In Katherine in the Northern Territory, Saint Joseph’s Catholic College installed video-conferencing equipment to overcome the disadvantage of its remote location and enable students, teachers and parents to connect with each other and peers across the world.
The equipment has been used to connect with a school in Southern India, to interview potential new staff and hold meetings with the Catholic Education Office in Darwin. It will save vast amounts of travel time, and the school is exploring ways its students can participate in international competitions such as debating using the equipment.
“The VC unit is a wonderful investment for us,” says Principal Denis Graham. “Its potential is unlimited for both students and staff.”
Cabramatta High School, in Sydney, used its funding to conduct a series of workshops for its 1400 students to teach them strong study skills and practical tips on stress and time management. About 145 parents from 10 language backgrounds also attended workshops that provided information about supporting their children at exam time.
The school invited former students back for one workshop, which will now become an annual event. “This is the best day of school so far this year. I am really inspired by the speakers,” said one student.
All schools supported via Schools Plus are required to evaluate their projects – the results are shared with donors so they can see the impact of their donations, and the wider education community.