Smith Family report shows small investment in a child's education brings lifetime of success.

By Danuta Kozaki

Parsa Rosa says the Smith Family has helped give her confidence during her studies.

First year university student Parsa Rose wants to be a leader in business or human resources when she finishes her double degree at the University of Technology in Sydney.

The 18-year-old has been part of a mentoring and scholarship program since Year 9, run by The Smith Family, one of the country's largest education-orientated charities.

A new report released today by The Smith Family shows long-term support over decades can help improve educational outcomes for disadvantaged children.

The research report looked into the success of the national scholarship program, Learning for Life.

The program, which can start in the first year of school and run through to the completion of tertiary education, provides a range of short programs, including in literacy and numeracy, as well as learning clubs, mentoring and career activities and digital and financial literacy initiatives for parents.

Ms Rose is one of 34,000 children taking part.

Originally from Pakistan, she came to Australia through New Zealand, and now lives in Sydney's west with her parents and two younger sisters.

"We were pretty new in Australia. I'm the first one in the Australian education system, with the HSC and so on," Ms Rose said.

"And that was one of the main things, I wanted to find out things on my own and experience things by myself and basically be the first one in my family."

As a student, Ms Rose said having a mentor gave her the confidence to keep going with her education.

"I wanted to step out of my comfort zone. It helped increase my confidence. I wanted to connect with the outside world," she said.

"My parents moved from Pakistan to give me and my sisters a better life, a better education.

"My parents were really supportive of that and the impact on my life. Education means everything to me."

Associate professor Debra Hayes, from the University of Sydney's Faculty of Education and Social Work, is a specialist on poverty and the devastating impact it can have on young people's participation and achievement.


She said the report highlighted the impact of even small, targeted investments in a young person's future.

"What the report tells us is that young people are responding really well to this support, so I think it is suggesting that there really is great benefit to be gained from this modest investment," Ms Hayes said.

Education key to breaking a lifetime of disadvantage

The Smith Family's head of research and advocacy Anne Hampshire said the report showed the impact of using better data to reach those families most in need.

"Today's report shows it is possible to improve the educational outcomes for disadvantaged young people," Ms Hampshire said.

"Over the past year there's been a 5 per cent improvement, with seven out of 10 disadvantaged young people completing Year 12.

"A further four out of five students are then either going on to employment or further education when they complete high school."

Ms Hampshire said parental engagement was one of the key factors to success in the 94 communities currently in the program across the country.

"One of the things the Learning for Life program does is provide a small, modest financial scholarship to the family to help them with essentials things like school uniforms, books and school excursions," Ms Hampshire said.

Associate Professor Hayes said education was one of the major ways to break the lifetime of disadvantage for more than 600,000 children nationally.

"Once upon a time not completing school meant you would go into an industry that did not need a Year 12 certificate," she said.

"These days there are not too many jobs you can get without one."

This post originally appeared on ABC News

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