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Sunshine Coast Mum Of Four Encourages Others To Support A Child

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Amanda and son Cooper, who is benefiting from The Smith Family's support.  Image Supplied 

A Sunshine Coast mum of four is urging locals who are in a position to help a child get an education, to get behind The Smith Family Appeal.  

The Smith Family currently sponsors over 33,000 students in QLD through its Learning for Life program.

For their Sponsorship appeal they still need over 1,200 students sponsored nationally by April 30.

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Cooper's life has changed direction thanks to a Smith Family sponsor.  Image Supplied 

Amanda has four children and is being assisted by The Smith Family.

Amanda said that growing up you never imagine that, as a mum, you won't be able to provide for your children and give them everything they deserve.

"So when I've had rough times, it's been good to know that I've had assistance from someone else to make sure that my children don't miss out on anything and be the children that are left behind.

"Someone's just given me a hand and it's really nice, they don't even know us.

Amanda explained that she knows the first name of her sponsor and they know the first names of her family. She agreed that it is amazing that sponsors are willing to help these children that they will never meet in life.

Amanda's 10-year-old son Cooper wasn't able to read at all when he was in Grade Three and would ask "mummy what does that say".

She said Cooper used to go to school with his stomach tied in knots. He struggled to make friends and the stress of not fitting in affected his self-esteem.

After a while, Cooper was too self-conscious to participate in class and his learning suffered.

“Cooper was very anxious and had lots of issues at his old school. He wasn't learning, he was too worked up.

“I was worried that he was behind on school work" she said.

She said "When Cooper started his new school, he joined The Smith Family out-of-school Learning Club and it was just what he needed".

"It’s a safe and supportive environment where students receive help with their homework from volunteer tutors. Before Learning Club, homework time was a challenge.

Basically an older student would phone the house and Cooper would read a book, that the caller had a copy of, to them over the phone.

She said by the end of Grade Three Cooper was reading at a level higher than his expected level.

Amanda said Cooper's school grades have also improved, saying he is "booming" at school adding that now he comes straight home and starts doing his homework.

She it had been hard finding time to give Cooper the extra time he needed when she had three other children and housework etc to do.

The Smith Family said 1 in 3 children (32.6 per cent) from Australia’s most disadvantaged communities start school already behind in key learning areas, such as literacy and numeracy.

Latest PISA report confirms the gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students (aged 15) is equivalent to around three years of schooling.

In the past year, The Smith Family supported over 120,000 disadvantaged children and young Australians (from early years to tertiary level) with their education and financial support, but the need is much higher.

The Smith Family supports families who face challenges of low or no income (people may be working but just scraping by), lots of families with health and disability issues, lots of single-parent families –education costs are harder to meet. When families are in financial stress, children can fall behind at school.

[1] 87-96% of students on The Smith Family Learning for Life programs have improved their studies because of participation in our programs. It costs the government over $1 million for every child that doesn’t finish year 12 as they end up on the system.

The impact of poverty on children’s education:

· 42 per cent of disadvantaged students are proficient in digital skills compared to 72 per cent of their more affluent peers (Year 6)[2] and around one in three students supported by The Smith Family are without access to a computer or laptop that is connected to the internet at home.

Only 60 per cent of young people from the lowest socioeconomic backgrounds complete Year 12, compared to around 90 per cent of those from the highest socioeconomic backgrounds.[3]

Many Queensland families on low incomes are likely to be missing out on the benefits of digital connection, including for education, work, and social inclusion.

The digital inclusion gap between high and low income families has widened since 2014. Digital inclusion for Indigenous people living in QLD is low, but improving, with the rate of increase for Indigenous Queenslanders outpacing the whole state increase. [2]

Students on the Learning for Life Program:

Around 1 in 4 students come from non-English-speaking backgrounds
1 in 5 students identify as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
All of them live in low-income families (receiving a Government pension or Health Care Card).
More than half live in a single-parent family, with 6% living with another relative or in foster care.
More than 70% have a parent/carer who is not in paid employment.
One in five students in Years 5–12 have attended four or more schools.

It comes after a survey commissioned by The Smith Family found that nearly two-thirds (64 per cent) of Australians say children’s education costs are unaffordable for many families.

The survey of more than 1,000 Australians also found an overwhelming majority (84 per cent) do not want to see children missing out on educational opportunities because their family can’t afford it; while three-quarters of respondents (76 per cent) said children in struggling families should be given extra assistance for uniforms, books and excursions to ensure they aren’t disadvantaged at school.

Smith Family QLD General Manager Alan Le May said “No parent wants their child to start the school year feeling isolated from their peers because they don’t have a decent uniform, school bag or shoes. They don’t want their kids feeling left out from school
activities because they can’t afford sport or excursions.”

Mr Le May said the deepening ‘digital divide’ in Australia is compounding the challenges for students whose families can’t afford the technology they need for school. A recent Australian study 2 of high school students confirmed many young people are going without these essential tools.

“These days, parents also have to factor in the costs of technology for their children’s education – things like laptops and internet access. For many families these can be quite unaffordable.

“We know, for example, that nearly a third of the students on our sponsorship program don’t have a computer at home that’s connected to the internet. We hear of students struggling to keep up at school because they don’t have the tools they need to study or get their homework done,” Mr Le May said.

The Smith Family is asking the community to consider sponsoring an Australian child in need to help with the cost of school essentials and out-of-school learning support.

Children sponsored through The Smith Family are helped in three ways:
 Financial assistance for education essentials, including uniforms, books and excursions.
 Targeted personal support from a Smith Family coordinator.
 Access to a range of out-of-school learning and mentoring programs, such as the student2student reading program and after-school Learning Clubs.

Sponsorship starts from $52 per month for a child in primary school – that’s less than $1.70 per day.

To sponsor a disadvantaged Australian child and support their education,

visit thesmithfamily.com.au/sponsor

See Amanda's story below.

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