School is back. The first hurdle is over.
Now the real race commences.
School closures have been tougher on some students than others. The kids RMCC supports can attest to this.
During the six months that Victorian kids were away from school, many kids experiencing disadvantage lacked the technology and support needed to participate effectively in remote learning.
Grattan Institute research reveals teachers in low-SES schools believe students learnt only 25-to-50 per cent of what they would normally learn in class, and many disadvantaged students who were already falling behind before the crisis, will have slipped further back.
The cost of school closures isn’t limited to academic results; it’s taken a toll on the mental well-being of many students too. While anxious parents are keen for their kids to catch up on lost learning, many school communities face a bigger immediate priority; a race to prevent the kids left behind by COVID from disengaging with school altogether.
We're acting fast
Re-engaging students in their education is time critical. If a student falls behind their peers they can withdraw emotionally from their learning, which reduces their participation in class, which leads to poorer academic performance.
This cycle continues over the student career, and can have life-long consequences. Low achievement at school can limit options for further study and work later on. People with poorer educational results are more likely to be unemployed and to have lower lifetime earnings.
How is RMCC responding?
1) We've empowered RMCC kids with computer and internet access at home.
Generous donors that supported our Tech to Connect appeal, plus campaign partners IAG, Optus and RACV, have provided 160 computers and internet access to RMCC kids.
This ensures they can receive mentor support through RMCC's weekly online educational and social sessions, and have the technology they need for school work. Technology is a fundamental tool needed for learning and will help ensure the kids are digitally ready for the future workplace.
2) We’ve expanded our programs to meet growing demand.
Our Tech to Connect appeal saw RMCC inundated with referrals from other charities and councils, all seeking assistance for kids from refugee and migrant backgrounds locked out of remote learning due to a lack of technology and a reduction in available support. We've expanded our weekly programs to welcome these kids, and will continue delivering programs online so they can keep accessing our support. The technology also enables us to reach kids in more isolated and rural areas.
3) We’re re-establishing relationships that boost the kids’ confidence and sense of belonging.
“Many of the kids have felt really isolated during the last six months” says Bobby Allen, RMCC’s Head of Operations. “By re-establishing connections with their mentors and the kids they usually share RMCC weekly sessions with, we create a positive, fun and engaging environment. This ensures the kids attend our sessions each week, which provides their mentors with the opportunity to provide extra educational support the kids might need”.
The educational and social support will be constant, but gradual. We don’t want the kids to feel under pressure to ‘catch up’. The worst thing we can do is make COVID even more stressful. Happy kids learn well, so we’re focusing on building resilience, so the kids have the confidence to keep trying when things are tough.
4) We’re working together with the kids’ schools, families and communities.
We’re liaising with the Wellbeing Officers in each of our partner schools to see how the kids have adjusted back into school. We're also checking in with their parents or guardians and connecting them in with other services where needed. It’s important we’re all working together, so the kids benefit from a broad community of care and support.
None of us know how long this pandemic will affect our day to day lives, but at RMCC we’re committed to providing long-term support that kids from refugee and migrant backgrounds deserve.
The settlement journey our kids experience as they adjust to life in Australia is constantly evolving, and we’ll continue to evolve alongside them to provide the support they ask for. This pandemic is no exception.
 Sonnemann, J. and Goss, P. (2020). COVID catch-up: helping disadvantaged students close the equity gap. Grattan Institute. Page 7.