• 30 JUN 10
    • 0

    #1273: The Smith Family Student2Student Program: Encouraging learning and possibly brain tumours as well

    The good work of the Smith Family charity in helping disadvantaged children is known throughout Australia. To quote from their website:

    “The Smith Family is a national, independent children’s charity that helps disadvantaged Australian children by unlocking opportunities through education and learning. As research has shown, supporting children’s education and learning is one of the most effective means of breaking the cycle of disadvantage and ensuring all children have the same opportunity to realise their potential. That’s why The Smith Family focuses on helping disadvantaged children get the most out of their education, so they can go on to make the best of their lives.

    At the centre of our work, and the heart of our organisation, is our belief in the power and possibilities of relationships. For disadvantaged children to thrive, many of whom are growing up in lone parent and jobless households, they need to be connected to, and supported by, an extended family.

    At The Smith Family, we link disadvantaged children with education and learning programs, opportunities and supports, and connect them with those Australians who have the capacity, skills and resources to help.”

    Link: http://www.thesmithfamily.com.au/site/page.cfm?u=2

    The Student2Student Program:

    All very good and important but unfortunately the Smith family has formed a partnership with Optus for a program to give disadvantaged kids (and their fellow child mentors) an Optus mobile phone which they will have to hold against their heads for at least 20 minutes daily, 2 or 3 times a week. Considering the ARPANSA advice about limiting children’s use of mobile phones with the phone next to the head (Message #1270) this ill thought out program is that is not what I would call a charitable act.

    Also from the Smith Family website:

    “In May, 2010 Optus launched a pilot program with The Smith Family to help improve childhood literacy through mobile technology.

    Children from disadvantaged backgrounds living in regional Australia such as Dubbo, Orange, Elizabeth, Toowoomba and Townsville will have the opportunity to improve their reading skills as a result of this new pilot delivered by The Smith Family and supported by Optus.

    The Smith Family’s Student2Student program matches students who need to improve their reading with student mentors who are trained to help develop literacy skills in others. Until Optus got involved, this support was limited to students with access to a landline phone. Now through their support, the new mobile pilot program will enable 50 students from disadvantaged backgrounds and without access to landline phones to participate in weekly reading sessions with their mentor via Optus mobile technology.

    Upon successful completion of the pilot program at the end of 2010, the participants will get to keep the Optus mobile handset along with pre-paid credit. This pilot aims to also explore whether rewarding the student and their family will lead to additional family support for the child and improved reading skills.

    Each student participant in this program will receive an Optus mobile handset, pre-paid credit, guidelines for responsible mobile phone use, and ongoing support from both Optus and The Smith Family to ensure they get the most out of the experience.

    Optus is proud to be working closely with The Smith Family to make a tangible difference to the future of disadvantaged children and families in our regional communities.

    The student2student program involves three groups of participants:

    1) Students in Years 3 to 8 who have been assessed as being up to two years behind in their reading development and want additional support to improve their reading.
    2) Mentors with good literacy skills who are at least two years older than the student with whom they are paired and who are trained by The Smith Family to develop literacy skills in others.
    3) Mentor supervisors who provide support for up to 10 mentors, helping them with problems and ensuring that mentors are following the correct process for mentoring students.

    The mentor telephones the student two to three times a week for at least 20 minutes.

    The student reads to the mentor who uses the skills learnt in their training to assist the student with their reading.

    The mentor keeps a simple record of each phone contact and reports progress to a mentor supervisor fortnightly.”

    Fact Sheet – Student2Student
    “Creating better outcomes for disadvantaged Australians

    Research identifies a clear relationship between the development of good cognitive skills such as literacy and numeracy at an early age and higher levels of educational achievement, greater employability, higher earnings and greater social participation.

    Children from low socio economic backgrounds are more likely to be reading below the minimum standard for reading than their higher socio economic peers*

    Remedial programs are necessary if achievement gaps are to be narrowed during the primary school years. The Smith Family, through its Learning for Life programs, aims to ensure that all children, particularly those aged between 6 to 12 years of age, meet minimum literacy and numeracy standards by supporting their development in school years.
    What is student2student?

    Research shows that one of the ways to support primary and early secondary level students who have reading difficulties is for the help to come from others near their own age.

    The Smith Family’s student2student program works by matching students who need to improve their reading with peer mentors, who are specially trained to help develop literacy skills in others. This peer support is key to the program’s success.
    A proven success

    Students participating in the initial pilot study control group trials of student2student demonstrated positive improvement in their reading performance with half (55%) improving their reading rate; 71% improved accuracy; 63% improving comprehension and 50% improving in all three areas.

    This initial success and the ongoing annual success of the program has seen The Smith Family continue to expand student2student now providing literacy support to approximately 1,000 students and training and supervision for 1,000 mentors nationally.”

    Link: http://www.thesmithfamily.com.au/site/page.cfm?u=127

    And: Link: http://www.thesmithfamily.com.au/site/page.cfm?u=397#e970

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