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Calls for Federal Budget funding for acclaimed school engagement program

A program praised by parents for keeping their children in school should be fully funded in Tuesday’s Budget and rolled out nationally, says Save the Children
31 March 2019

The aid agency is calling for a $10 million funding commitment over four years for its Hands on Learning program. This would enable the program to triple its reach, supporting more than 5,000 at-risk young people across 300 schools throughout the country. 

Aimed at students aged between 9 and 14, the program helps young people who are at heightened risk of dropping out of school. 

A Grattan Institute study found that around 40 percent of students in this age range were disengaged and unproductive in any given year, while those who do leave school early cost the broader community $23 billion over a working lifetime, according to research by the Mitchell Institute. 

Save the Children CEO Paul Ronalds urged the Government to invest in Hands on Learning in this year’s Budget.

“This year’s Federal Budget presents the ideal opportunity for the Government to demonstrate leadership and foresight in confronting this critical issue. Funding a proven program like Hands on Learning to enable it to deliver on a much larger scale, would be a shrewd, long-term investment in Australia’s young people,” Mr Ronalds said.

“On the flipside, failing to keep students in this age group engaged is a problem of national significance, creating the risk of a huge number of young people starting their adult lives at a distinct disadvantage. Australia cannot afford the far-reaching economic and social implications of allowing this group to slip through the cracks.”

A 2012 study by Deloitte Access economics showed a $12 return for every dollar invested in Hands on Learning. The program, which is practical and school-based, now operates in almost 100 primary and secondary schools in Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania.

The program targets schools and students where, due to a range of socio-economic factors, they are more likely to disengage from education during the crucial middle years. There is strong evidence linking early departure from formal education and higher likelihood of welfare dependence and interaction with the criminal justice system. 

Students spend one day a week, on-site at their school, working together on practical projects, including construction and hospitality, around the school and community. The projects foster teamwork, communication and problem-solving skills.

A recent survey of parents showed emphatic support for the program’s academic and social benefits. The survey found that:

  • 86 per cent of parents said that since being in Hands on Learning their child's sense of belonging at school had improved;

  • 85 per cent said that Hands on Learning was the main reason their child has been engaged and motivated to come to school; and 

  • 95 per cent of parents said that since being in Hands on Learning their child had developed new work and life skills, making them more job ready.

In 2017 Hands on Learning merged with Save the Children, enabling it to reach more children and bringing its recognised expertise in educational support. It operates through philanthropic donations and in-kind support from schools.

Click here for the Hands on Learning: Future Directions report. Includes full parental survey results and parent testimonials.

For media inquiries contact Licardo Prince on 0401 777 917.

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