Research and evaluation

One of The Smith Family's guiding principles is to be evidence-based.

We regularly conduct research on topics related to disadvantage in Australia and how to better support disadvantaged children, young people and their families.

Findings from our research help us to improve our policies and programs so we can make an even greater impact on the lives of the disadvantaged children we support. Research also informs our advocacy on behalf of disadvantage children and young people.

See some of our recent reports below.

Disadvantaged students are on average 2-3 years behind in reading and maths by the time they are 15 years old

Attendance lifts achievement: Building the evidence base to improve student outcomes

Attendance lifts achievement

Attendance lifts achievement: Building the evidence base to improve student outcomes

Australian children from disadvantaged backgrounds are at risk of poor educational outcomes from their first year of school. This risk increases as they move through school. There is significant opportunity to improve their educational outcomes and post-school prospects. Key is tracking students’ individual progress, and using evidence to identify, as early as possible, students needing additional support to achieve.

The findings in this publication are an Australian first, based on data from 30,000 disadvantaged students supported through The Smith Family’s long-term educational scholarship program, Learning for Life. This research contributes to ongoing national efforts to improve the educational outcomes of young Australians, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Download full report [PDF 6.1MB]

Improving the educational outcomes of disadvantaged young Australians: The Learning for Life program

Improving the educational outcomes of disadvantaged young Australians

Improving the educational outcomes of disadvantaged young Australians: The Learning for Life program

Australia faces significant educational challenges if it’s to remain globally competitive and socially cohesive. Large gaps in educational achievement, based on students’ backgrounds, are apparent in the first year of school. These gaps grow as young people move through school, resulting in large proportions of young adults from disadvantaged backgrounds not positively transitioning to employment or further study.

This report presents new data that highlights the success of The Smith Family’s Learning for Life program in improving the educational outcomes of highly disadvantaged Australian students.

Download full report [PDF 1.3MB]

Research Reports

Kids in Communities Study Final Report

Kids in Communities Study Final Report

Kids in Communities Study Final Report

This report summarises a series of promising foundational community factors (FCFs) for early childhood development. It is based on findings from the Kids in Communities Study (KiCS). FCFs are the community-level factors that lay the foundations of a good community for young children. KiCS was undertaken through an Australian Research Council Linkage Grant and led by The University of Melbourne, in partnership with a range of other universities, Federal and State Government Departments and non-government organisations, including The Smith Family. Further information on this project is available at www.mcri.edu.au/research/projects/kids-communities-kics-3/publications

Download full report [PDF 1.4MB]

Addressing entrenched disadvantage in Australia, Report by CEDA, Chapter 3: Early intervention - The key to preventing entrenched disadvantage

Early Intervention - CEDA report cover

Addressing entrenched disadvantage in Australia, Report by CEDA, Chapter 3: Early intervention - The key to preventing entrenched disadvantage

This chapter, written by The Smith Family's Head of Research and Advocacy Anne Hampshire, is featured in Addressing entrenched disadvantage in Australia, a research report published by The Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) in April 2015. The chapter highlights that improving the educational outcomes of disadvantaged children and young people is the most cost-effective approach to breaking the cycle of disadvantage. It’s far more efficient than later outlays on income support and remediation efforts targeted at building the skills of adults who are unable to secure employment or participate in society more broadly.

Download full report [PDF 0.2MB]

Young People’s successful transition to work: What are the pre-conditions?

Young people's successful transition to work report

Young People’s successful transition to work: What are the pre-conditions?

This report draws on the latest research and intelligence from key stakeholders and practitioners to identify the challenges faced by young people in today’s complex and ever changing labour market. It aims to identify which groups of young people face particularly difficult transitions between school and work, and the preconditions necessary to achieve successful transition. The report concludes that despite the complexity and challenges, there is a body of evidence which identifies these preconditions and how they can be developed.

Download full report [PDF 0.8MB]

Strengthening early numeracy learning: The Let's Count program

Strengthening early numeracy learning report

Strengthening early numeracy learning: The Let's Count program

Australia is facing a serious numeracy challenge, particularly among disadvantaged children, with many not developing the maths skills needed for economic and social participation. This research report demonstrates that The Smith Family’s early maths program, Let’s Count, has had a positive impact on the mathematical skills and confidence of the children, parents and educators who participated. Children who were involved in Let’s Count developed much stronger maths skills than their peers who didn’t participate.

Download full report [PDF 1.8MB]

Improving educational outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls

Improving educational outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls report

Improving educational outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls

Research suggests that increasing the educational outcomes achieved by young women from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds is particularly important to not only them, but their families and communities, as women are often instrumental in bringing about social change in disadvantaged communities (WHO 2014). This report looks at an independent evaluation of The Smith Family’s Girls at the Centre program and its outcomes to achieve improvements in school attendance rates and community engagement.

Download full report [PDF 0.7MB]

Improving young people’s educational outcomes through school business community partnerships: The Smith Family’s Partnership Brokers

Improving young people’s educational outcomes through school business community partnerships report

Improving young people’s educational outcomes through school business community partnerships: The Smith Family’s Partnership Brokers

This report showcases some of the innovative and effective partnerships that have been developed around Australia by The Smith Family through the Commonwealth Government funded School Business Community Partnership Brokers program. The partnerships bring together educational institutions, business, community organisations and other key stakeholders to support improved education, transition and employment outcomes for young people.

Download full report [PDF 1.4MB]

MoneyMinded Education Workshops and Mentoring Program Evaluation

MoneyMinded Education Workshops and Mentoring Program Evaluation - 2014

MoneyMinded Education Workshops and Mentoring Program Evaluation

This report provides the evaluation results of the MoneyMinded education workshops and mentoring pilot program developed by The Smith Family (TSF) and ANZ.

Download full report [PDF 0.8MB]

Improving children’s reading through peer support: The student2student program

Improving children’s reading through peer support report 2013

Improving children’s reading through peer support: The student2student program

This report outlines findings from a study of 742 participants in The Smith Family’s student2student reading program. It reveals that 93 per cent improved their reading skills with two-thirds boosting their reading age by more than six months.

Download full report [PDF 0.5MB]

Work Inspiration: Findings and lessons from the Australian pilot

Work Inspiration: Findings and lessons from the Australian pilot

Work Inspiration: Findings and lessons from the Australian pilot

This report outlines the findings and lessons from 14 Australian pilots of the Work Inspiration initiative. Work Inspiration is an employer-led initiative that aims to ensure young Australians’ first experience of the world of work is meaningful and inspiring.

Download full report [PDF 3.9MB]

Sport, culture and the Internet: Are Australian children participating?

Sport, Culture and the Internet - Research report

Sport, culture and the Internet: Are Australian children participating?

Research shows significant numbers of children living in disadvantaged communities are not participating in sport and cultural activities that are critical to their development. This report uses unpublished data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics' Survey of Children's Participation in Cultural and Leisure Activities and highlights how involvement varies according to the type of community in which a child lives.

Download full report [PDF 0.2MB]

Evaluation of the Money 4 Wellbeing Pilot Program

Evaluation of the Money for Wellbeing pilot program - 2013

Evaluation of the Money 4 Wellbeing Pilot Program

This report provides an evaluation of The Smith Family’s Money 4 Wellbeing pilot program. The program aimed to improve the financial capability of young people aged between 18 and 24 who were from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Download full report [PDF 2.8MB]

Making a Difference: Building on Young People's Experiences of Economic Adversity

Making a difference research report

Making a Difference: Building on Young People's Experiences of Economic Adversity

As one of the first Australian studies to consider the real experience of economically disadvantaged young people, this qualitative study documents how young people experience exclusion in the family, at school and in their communities. It involved more than 130 interviews with children and young people (aged between 11 and 17 years) in NSW, Victoria and South Australia and their parents, teachers and service providers. The report provides a unique and rare view into the lived experience of children, how they cope with disadvantage and what they think can be done about it.

Download full report [PDF 2.0MB]

Parent-school engagement: Exploring the concept of 'invisible' Indigenous parents in three north Australian school communities

Parent school engagement report

Parent-school engagement: Exploring the concept of 'invisible' Indigenous parents in three north Australian school communities

This report explores school-parent engagement in three town-based schools in the Northern Territory. Undertaken over a three year period between 2008 and 2010, the research team worked in partnership with The Smith Family and participating schools to explore what parents have to say about the schools that their Indigenous children attend and about education more broadly.

Download full report [PDF 1.3MB]

Unequal Opportunities: Life chances for children in the 'Lucky Country'

Unequal Opportunities - Research Report

Unequal Opportunities: Life chances for children in the 'Lucky Country'

New research questions whether Australia really is the 'lucky' country – the land of the 'fair go' where children are able to reach their potential regardless of their background. This AMP funded report looks at factors influencing children's life chances in Australia.

Download full report [PDF 1.0MB]

Preparing students for the transition to work or further study

Preparing students for the transition to work or further study report

Preparing students for the transition to work or further study

This literature review provides a comprehensive analysis of national and international research to assist with the development of an evidence-based model to support students in Years 8-10 (13-16 years) as they progress through school into work or further study.

Download summary report [PDF 0.5MB]

Download full report [PDF 0.6MB]

Opening doors: the role of sponsorship in addressing disadvantage

Opening Doors - research report

Opening doors: the role of sponsorship in addressing disadvantage

This report looks at the role of financial assistance in breaking the cycle of disadvantage for Australian children, using the example of a sponsorship model that works to help these individuals remove the many barriers they face.

Download summary report [PDF 1.4MB]

Money for Wellbeing: developing emotional resilience and financial responsibility

Money for wellbeing: developing emotional resilience and financial responsibility - 2009

Money for Wellbeing: developing emotional resilience and financial responsibility

This literature review informed the development of the Money 4 Wellbeing pilot program. The review provides an understanding of the psychological and social aspects of financial behaviour and how these can be transformed.

Download full report [PDF 5.2MB]

Participation research

Barriers to participation: financial, technological, educational

Barriers to Participation report

Barriers to participation: financial, technological, educational

This Smith Family report examines the barriers to societal participation among low-income Australians.

Download full report [PDF 0.7MB]

Home to school transitions research

Home-to-school transitions for financially disadvantaged children

Home-to-school transitions for financially disadvantaged children report

Home-to-school transitions for financially disadvantaged children

This Smith Family report seeks to identify the factors that facilitate or impede the school transitions of Australian children from financially disadvantaged families.

Download summary report [PDF 0.8MB]

Download full report [PDF 0.6MB]

School to work transitions research

Connecting for Careers: iTrack evaluation report

Connecting for Careers report

Connecting for Careers: iTrack evaluation report

An evaluation of the pilot program run for iTrack (previously called 'On-Track'), The Smith Family’s online mentoring program focusing on the school to work transition.

Download full report [PDF 0.5MB]

Australian Young People: Their stories, their families and post-school plans

This Smith Family report investigates the effects and influences of family expectations on the cost benefit analyses undertaken by students when they are considering their post-school plans.

Download full report [PDF 0.3MB]

On track? Students choosing a career

This report is the fourth in a series from The Smith Family examining the post-school plans of young people.

Download full report [PDF 5.3MB]

What do students know about work?

This report stems from a previous Smith Family report – Post-school Plans: aspirations, expectations and implementation – which indicated that the post-school plans of young people were important for understanding their educational and occupational aspirations.

Download full report [PDF 3.0MB]

What do students think of work?

What do students think of work? Are they on the right page? This Smith Family report provides an insight into junior secondary student perceptions of school, work, and vocation.

Download full report [PDF 2.0MB]

Post school plans: aspirations, expectations and implementation

This report was prepared for The Smith Family by the Australian Council for Educational Research and investigates the relations between post-school plans, family background and having a lifelong learning orientation.

Download full report [PDF 0.9MB]

Education research

Let’s Read Literature Review

Let's Read Literature review

Let’s Read Literature Review

The literature review describes the evidence base linking poor literacy to poverty and lower health and education outcomes. It outlines the research that has examined the impact of book reading in very early childhood in preparation for developing and acquiring language and literacy skills.

Download literature review [PDF 0.5MB]

Emotional literacy: Building strong relationships for lifelong learning

This snapshot report discusses the importance of emotional literacy, not just in supporting children and young people to build strong relationships now, but as the essential precursor to their broader academic and economic achievements in the future.

Download full report [PDF 1.2MB]

How is learning enhanced through improved health and nutrition?

This literature review examines key health issues impacting on the learning of children from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) and Indigenous backgrounds.

Download literature review [PDF 0.9MB]

Digital literacies research

Tech Packs evaluation report

Tech Packs Evaluation report

Tech Packs evaluation report

This report by the School of Education at Victoria University Melbourne provides an independent evaluation and review of The Smith Family’s Tech Packs initiative.

Download full report [PDF 1.6MB]