Program to keep children engaged in education trials new family approach
A program keeping disadvantaged young people engaged in education is set to have an even greater impact via a new, evidence-based approach to supporting families.
The Smith Family and Parenting Research Centre co-designed a practice framework for best supporting families in Learning for Life. The program gives young people targeted, long-term support to help them make the most of educational opportunities.
Smith Family Head of Policy and Programs, Wendy Field, said data showed plateauing outcomes in areas such as school attendance. The organisation had also observed some inconsistencies in how teams were working with families. So it partnered with us to enhance evidence-based practices in supporting families.
“We looked at how to maximise the impact the program could have with disadvantaged families,” said Parenting Research Centre Senior Practice Design Specialist Dr Melinda Polemini.
A new approach to using data
The framework focuses on maximising data the program is already collecting, Dr Polimeni said.
For example, the program requires families to provide school reports twice a year. The framework practices and principles prompt workers to use this process to identify families who might need extra support. This enables workers to explore reasons behind families not submitting reports on time.
“This administrative task to chase up reports has shifted to a conversation about what support families might need,” she said.
Anchored in best practice
Ms Field said working with the Parenting Research Centre was valuable in reassessing the way Learning for Life supported families.
“Our partnership with the Parenting Research Centre, given their deep experience in working with parents in complex family situations, has brought scientific rigour to the practical task of improving the quality and effectiveness of the supports and services provided to the families we work alongside,” she said.
“The process of co-designing the practice framework has resulted in developing an approach anchored in best practice, relevant to the unique Learning for Life program and in alignment with our systems, processes and policies.”
She said designing the Framework had challenged assumptions and refined the key skills and competencies required in quality practice.
“Our families are at the centre of everything we do – the approach in the framework is founded in building engagement, capacity and confidence in the parents, carers and students we work with.”
Fourteen Learning for Life communities across Australia are now trialling the framework implementation. This work has included conducting ‘implementation readiness assessments’, delivering training to staff and coaching for team leaders.
Ms Field said learnings and feedback on issues such as barriers and enablers would inform the framework’s implementation nationally.