We’re one of Australia’s oldest companies, and we look at a lot more than our bottom line when it comes to measuring our performance: the impacts we make on communities across the country are just as important.
We aspire to make a genuine difference in people’s lives and support the causes we are dedicated to, through our partnerships with charities and community organizations. For almost two decades, this aspiration has been a central part of our Energy for Life corporate citizenship program. One of our strategic partners on this journey is The Smith Family, an Australian charity focused on helping disadvantaged children – particularly through education.
A reading revolution
Education has the power to transform lives and break the cycle of disadvantage. In FY19 we began a second six-year partnership with The Smith Family, supporting their student2student reading buddy program. This program matches disadvantaged children who are up to two years behind in their reading development with other reading buddies around their own age, who read with and encourage the disadvantaged children.
The reading gap between the lowest socio-economic status (SES) students and the highest SES students is equivalent to almost three full years of schooling. The foundations that reading creates in young children are crucial to their ability to perform throughout their entire education. There’s also a clear link between literacy at an early age and higher education achievement, greater employability, higher earnings, and greater social participation in later life. So, closing this reading gap is absolutely essential.
This is a program with a solid foundation: research shows that this peer support from children near their own age is one of the most effective ways of improving their reading development, and the reading buddies are given support and training from The Smith Family to help their paired students.
This is a program with a solid foundation: research shows that this peer support from children near their own age is one of the most effective ways of improving their reading development4, and the reading buddies are given support and training from The Smith Family to help their paired students.
There are amazing statistics associated with the program. In 2019, the following program outcomes were seen:
- 97% of students improved their reading
- 84% of students agreed student2student made it easier to do their schoolwork
- 84% of students say that they read more now
- 93% of parents reported their child feels better about themselves
At AGL, it’s even more personal. Our employees can nominate their children – or their relatives’ children or grandchildren – to be support buddies for students on the program.
Learning for Life
In our previous six-year sponsorship, we supported 340 children through The Smith Family’s Learning for Life program. The Learning for Life program currently supports the education of more than 50,000 young Australians from disadvantaged backgrounds in three distinct ways:
- They provide financial support for school essentials, like uniforms and books.
- They provide access to additional learning programs before and after school – tailored to each child’s individual needs.
- And they match each child with a dedicated team member at The Smith Family to help them get to school, stay at school and go on to further training or work.
The young Australians supported by The Smith Family need help more than ever right now, as the impacts of COVID-19 are likely to create challenges for those that are already vulnerable.
Mentoring for success
The student2student and Learning for Life programs aren’t the only way we support young Australians from disadvantaged backgrounds. For example, like other AGL people, I’m actively involved in The Smith Family’s iTrack mentoring program. Many young people disengage from their education and drop out of school during their teenage years. Leaving school early affects the work choices available to them, and they may have a more limited network of people to talk about career options and opportunities.
In this program, we’re matched up as mentors to a Year 9-11 student, and we chat to them online once a week about careers and future pathways, what they’d like to do, and the best ways to put their best foot forward.
In addition to our Energy for Life sponsorship of The Smith Family, AGL people also support more than 60 different causes – including The Smith Family – through our employee giving program, Power to Give. Donations made through Power to Give are especially valuable, as AGL matches employee donations and fundraising events dollar-for-dollar. In FY19 alone, Power to Give donations reached more than $282,000, and fundraising events garnered more than $74,000 (including AGL’s contribution).
Breaking the cycle
Our purpose – AGL’s purpose – is progress for life, but we know that progress isn’t always shared equally within society. Through our work with The Smith Family, we can build a society that’s more inclusive and prosperous for all.
1 Or up to four years behind for Year 5-8 students.
2 The Smith Family Research Report (Dec 2013), Improving children’s reading through peer support: The student2student program.
3 Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, 2011, Review of school funding final report.
4 Rohrbeck, C. A. et al (2003) ‘Peer-assisted learning interventions with elementary school students: a meta-analytic review.’ Journal of Education Psychology, 95(2), 240-257.