Lee almost gave up on her education

When she started Year 10, Lee was at high risk of cutting her education short. Health challenges in primary school meant she missed many days while she was in hospital. By high school, she was so far behind it was hard for Lee to catch up, and this affected her motivation.

“I’ve struggled with maths since primary school. And then in high school I failed English because I was slacking off,” said Lee.

“By Year 10, I had lots of stress. My grandpa was battling cancer. Later that year my dad and brother had a car crash and a close friend died. It was a lot to deal with.“I was thinking about leaving school early.”

The feeling that graduating high school is an impossible goal is all too common for disadvantaged students. Last year, we released the first Australian study Attendance lifts achievement: Building the evidence base to improve student outcomes, which demonstrates the relationship between school attendance, achievement in English or maths, school completion and post-school work or study.

It showed that 75 per cent of students with high attendance in Year 7 completed Year 12. This compared to only 48 per cent of those with very low attendance.

Our research also demonstrated that it is essential to provide targeted and timely support to improve students’ low school attendance and below-satisfactory achievement in English and maths.

For Lee, receiving support was the deciding factor that kept her at school.

“Mum called The Smith Family and that’s how I joined Learning Club,” said Lee.

Learning Clubs provide safe and supportive out-of-school learning environments where students get help with their homework from trained volunteer tutors. The practical support made Lee feel equipped to keep up in the classroom.

“Since Learning Club, I feel more confident with maths and I know how to do homework,” said Lee.

“Now I am on track to graduate Year 12. My goal is to become a qualified hairdresser and own a salon.”

Lee’s parents, Karen and Craig both left school before graduating. So they hadn’t felt equipped to help Lee succeed at school. But our learning programs that your donations go towards have really opened doors for Lee. And Karen and Craig couldn’t be more grateful.

“As parents our hearts were breaking because we couldn’t give our children the support they needed. We just wanted to see our kids go above and beyond with their education and happiness,” said Karen.

“The Smith Family’s support has meant so much to my family and I hope I can do the same and sponsor a child one day,” said Lee.

Read more student and family stories in our Autumn edition of Real People, Real Stories.