Successful schooling begins at home
This week I was struck by the story of an 18-year-old Victorian student who was among 48, 594 young people to receive their Year 12 results and find out that they’d completed their Victorian Certificate of Education, or VCE.
Jack was by all accounts a model student in his senior years at school: he loved the subjects he was studying, and even stepped up to the role of house captain.
But in his early years at secondary school, it was a totally different story. Jack didn’t want to be at school, had no interest in his class work and didn’t feel like he fit in with classmates at all.
Yet Jack’s family refused to believe that he was a failure. They knew he was capable of great things, and were unwavering in their support.
His parents had both left school before finishing Year 12 and knew the constraints that this could place on their son’s life if he was to follow that path. Most importantly, they encouraged him to ask more of himself.
For me, this story highlights the importance of surrounding children with support in the home, at school, and encouraging kids to aspire to greater things. Aspire to get a good mark for an assignment, get involved in extra-curricular activities, try out for the sports team, and so on.
This is much harder for disadvantaged families, who simply cannot afford all the extras, especially if there are many children to support and the parents have a limited educational background of their own to draw upon. Put simply, it costs money to have aspirations fulfilled.
Many of the families who are supported through The Smith Family tell us that they want their child to have a university education, but they worry about the costs. For some disadvantaged young people, the temptation to leave school early, find a job and at least have some money and independence is very strong.
But we know that if they leave without completing Year 12, or its equivalent, they may never realise their potential. Without the life skills they need to participate in a fast moving and ever-changing world, we may never get to see the contribution these young people could make. And it isn’t just the students and their families who miss out, but the entire community.
This is why The Smith Family is so focused on supporting children’s education. Through our Learning for Life suite of programs, we offer a scholarship to help families pay for essentials such as books, uniforms and excursions, as well as access to tutors, after-school learning clubs, reading and maths programs, and personal development opportunities.
Today, 30,000 Australian students are making their own journey through school, with support from our scholarship and programs.
We’ve seen increasing numbers of Learning for Life students going on to tertiary study. In 2008, more than 50 per cent of our Year 12 Learning for Life scholarship holders progressed from Year 12 to tertiary study, an increase from 21 per cent in 2005. More than 1,200 Learning for Life students are currently receiving tertiary scholarships and mentoring support through The Smith Family.
For Jack, it took time to discover a love of learning. It wasn’t until his senior years of secondary school – as late as Year 12 – that everything clicked. He had terrific teachers who believed in him, and helped him discover a love of subjects, such as history and literature.
He got along with his classmates and found he could have an influence through his role as a house captain and junior sports coach. And through the tough years, even when he wasn’t sure if school was worth it, he could count on the unwavering support of his family.
We at The Smith Family are very proud and inspired by our scholarship recipients, including Jack. We congratulate him on his success, and give our best wishes to all of the students making their way from Prep to Year 12, and on to tertiary education.
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