The expansion of The Smith Family’s Catch-Up Learning program will see the Australian Council for Education Research (ACER) join the partnership, contributing PAT Adaptive assessments and PAT teaching resources to the expanded cohort of over 500 students.
2021 was a big year for The Catch-Up Learning Program and saw ClassCover team up with The Smith Family to connect our platform of talented educators with needy children at risk of falling behind in their studies.
The initial pilot saw around 100 students supported by The Smith Family’s long-term educational scholarship program, Learning for Life, receive one-on-one online literacy and numeracy tutoring in their homes over six months. Learning gains were outstanding, and the Australian Government, through the Department of Education, Skills and Employment, has committed funding for an expanded second pilot program for 530 students in 2022.
The research shows a clear link between socioeconomic background and educational outcomes, with disadvantaged students disproportionately represented in Australia’s ‘tail of underachievement’. Catch-Up Learning aims to ensure that students were not further disadvantaged by remote learning during the pandemic.
Tutors and students in the expanded pilot will have access to innovative PAT Adaptive assessments in maths and English, designed to help every learner demonstrate progress, regardless of starting points, and to allow for even more precise diagnosis of a student’s capabilities. ACER will also help teachers find the right teaching resources to meet each student’s needs through access to the PAT Teaching Resources Centre.
Educational disadvantage in a pandemic
The good news for now is that this year’s NAPLAN results suggest there’s been little to no change to overall literacy and numeracy levels as a result of the past year’s lockdowns. What will be telling is emerging data examining the results of students in low socioeconomic groups in particular. Research from the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) on the topic suggest that factors like a lack of access to study tools like a computer, books and quiet study areas may make the issues impacting disadvantaged students more pronounced during remote learning.
To help combat this, the Catch-Up Learning Program provided students with internet access, computers and other tools where needed and maintained communication between students, their parents and program supervisors to fix any issues as they arose.
ACER Deputy CEO Dr Sue Thomson writes frequently of the need for reform to address ongoing inequities in the Australian education system. She said the pilot program had achieved impressive results in a short time.
“Something needs to change in Australian education if we are to improve the learning outcomes of students struggling with disadvantage,” Dr Thomson said. “The Catch-Up Learning pilot is a great example of what could be achieved at scale.”
Dr Jarrod Hingston is Manager of ACER’s School Assessment Services and manages PAT assessments. Dr Hingston said: “We’re excited to support this innovative and impactful program with our PAT Adaptive assessments, and to help make a difference in the lives of students who may be struggling.”
The Smith Family’s Head of Research and Advocacy Anne Hampshire said: “The Smith Family is delighted to be working in partnership with students, families, ClassCover and ACER to support students to improve their literacy and numeracy. We’re grateful for the support of the Australian Government to enable this expanded trial, which will provide further insights on the impact of high-quality home-based tutoring to students experiencing disadvantage.”
ClassCover CEO, Ben Grozier said: “The Catch-Up Learning project has personally and professionally been the most fulfilling project I have ever been a part of. We are humbled by ACER’s willingness to partner on this project. Their subject matter expertise around assessment will ensure that the scaled version of Catch-Up Learning in 2022 will not only assist a very large group of children, but also bring world class assessment tools to the program. This will be of great benefit to the students, teachers and researchers.”