Education concerns for children living in poverty

As thousands of Central Coast children prepare to return to school, The Smith Family has raised concerns on COVID’s impact on the education of children living in poverty.

A new survey commissioned by the children’s education charity has revealed over three quarters (76%) of Australians say COVID restrictions imposed during 2020 have made it harder for students experiencing poverty to progress with their education.

The survey of more than 1000 people also revealed concerns about the impact of poverty on children’s educational outcomes.

Areas of concern included; students having to deal with mental health issues like stress, anxiety, loneliness or isolation; struggling to do schoolwork without reliable access to a laptop and internet; falling behind at school because of difficulties attending classes online or in person; missing classroom learning for a period of time; and disruption to family life and school routine due to home learning.

More than half (56%) of respondents said they had seen child poverty worsen because of COVID, and 70% of people said they expect it to worsen over the next 12 months.

The Smith Family CEO, Wendy Field, said that returning to school can be difficult for a child living in poverty.

“With more financial pressure than ever on families due to COVID, it’s crucial we provide children experiencing poverty with the resources they need to fit in at school,” Field said.

“Because they may have also slipped behind in their schooling last year, they’ll need extra educational support to catch up to their peers, stay interested in their learning and keep on achieving.

“We’re heartened that so many Australians are concerned about this critical issue.

“Together, we can do something about it, one child at a time.

“Something as simple as providing financial support for families so they can afford textbooks, stationery and the right uniform, can have an enormous impact on a child’s engagement and sense of belonging at school.”

Following a harrowing 12 months, first with the bushfires, and then the outbreak of COVID, Field is appealing to Australians to give children experiencing poverty a hand up, so their school year gets off to the best possible start.

“We’re urgently calling on Australians to support children in need returning to school this year,” she said.

“We have to find 9,486 new sponsors to help children make the most of their education in this important year where they need to catch up after the disruption of 2020.”

With one in six Australian children and young people living in poverty today, The Smith Family is also working with major partners like Officeworks to ensure students in need receive the extra educational support required to make the most of their school year.

Field said in the last eight years, Officeworks has raised over $3M for students supported by The Smith Family.

“Our work over many years reinforces the evidence that supporting a child from a young age, and throughout their schooling, is the most effective way to help them break the cycle of disadvantage,” she said.

“The programs we offer to support students’ education help develop their confidence, skills and aspirations to strive for a better future.

“Now 57,000 students are supported through our evidence-based Learning for Life program, and alongside generous Australians and our partners like Officeworks, we’re determined to keep growing this support, now and for years to come.”

Media Release Jan 14
The Smith Family