Edmund Rice Community and Refugee Services’ Homework Clubs are more than a Homework Club. They are an opportunity for children to build relationships, increase overall interest in school, and develop social connections, all while also enhancing their learning and development.
At the Homework Clubs students are paired up with a volunteer who mentor and tutor a child 1:1. These volunteers are secondary and tertiary students looking to give back, and even retirees who are passionate about the education of young people. ERCRS primarily works in Melbourne’s Western Suburbs with a focus on supporting children and families from various refugee and migrant backgrounds. They create a welcoming, inclusive environment where they support not only educational needs, but provide a base of holistic support for the whole family unit through mentoring programs and skill development.
A recent evaluation of one of these Homework Clubs surveyed the students who attend, school staff, volunteers, and interviewed parents to help create a picture of the holistic impact that Homework Clubs make.
Building relationships between the community and the school
‘It has been so beneficial to have such a trusted organisation work collaboratively with our school and community...The combined community/school/home relationship has demonstrated a solid foundation to improving the importance of education.' – School staff The survey showed that one of the impacts of the program was a deepened relationship between the community and the school. School staff and leadership were asked about the role of the Homework Club in supporting community engagement within the school. Overall, responses to the school staff survey illustrated the valuable role ERCRS fulfills in building trust between the community and the school. The Homework Club was described as a ‘supportive’ and ‘familiar’ space for parents, and part of ‘building strong community relationships’ and improving community engagement within the school. ‘ERCRS has been a fantastic driver of building community support and relationships. . . It provides an extra point of contact for families and students to communicate their concerns/worries/feedback to the school and teachers.’ (School teacher) A parent of two children who attend the Homework Club described feeling much more comfortable with being at the school as a result of the program. She also felt it helped to facilitate greater involvement in her children’s education. In addition to building connections for students and families, some ERCRS volunteers also regarded the program as helping to develop their own capacity to support and work alongside vulnerable local communities.
Increased interest in school
Surveys of students showed that most of the students were more interested in school because of the Homework Club program. This is something that was echoed by school staff who also indicated that students who were involved had become more interested in their education.
Increased social connections
A special part of the Homework Club model is the environment it creates for children and young people. It creates a sense of safety, with all students who were surveyed saying that they feel comfortable at the Homework Club. School staff surveyed also identified the social and interpersonal development benefits of the program. The volunteers who work 1:1 with the kids also reported seeing friendships and collaboration between the students. Importantly, the volunteers were also a source of friendship for the students as they worked with students over multiple sessions.
‘I've gained the joy of working with children and being able to sit down with them one on one to really engage in activities.’ (Volunteer)
Enhanced learning and development
‘They remember the things we learn week to week, as evident in our end-of-term reflections, and we can see that their skills have been improved over the term.’ (Volunteer)
Both the primary school staff and ERCRS volunteers described the program as giving the students opportunities to practice skills taught at school and to experience success in learning. Outcomes from the program also included building self-confidence and help with understanding Maths and English.
All school staff who were surveyed identified ‘self-confidence’ as an outcome for the students who attended the program. A mother of two children who attended the program also described the smaller group in the Homework Club as providing an opportunity for her child to show his work to a volunteer and found participating in Homework Club led to him having greater confidence. ‘I think the one-on-one environment means the kids feel they have the full attention of an adult. I think this gives them confidence.' (Volunteer) Students identified that the program was helpful to their learning, with most students finding that the program was either ‘somewhat helpful’ or ‘very helpful’ to their understanding of Maths and English. Volunteer surveying also supported this finding, with some identifying development in student learning.
‘It definitely is rewarding seeing the children learn something from your interactions, such as spelling or sounding out a word. It is my impression that they benefit both educationally, from the supervised learning generally being in small groups, but also socially, as Homework Club gives them a chance to spend more time with their peers.’ (Volunteer) ‘Some of the kids I've worked with they have become more confident in their spelling and maths and also more confident in asking questions. I also think the children have become better at collaborating with each other and working together.' (Volunteer)
ERCRS's Homework Clubs are more than just a space for children to do their homework. As important as that is, they are a holistic program that helps children, their parents, and the whole community thrive and reach their full potential. You can follow ERCRS on Facebook and Instagram and learn more about the diversity of programs and services that they offer the community via their website.
Note: The evaluation included surveys of school staff and leadership (n=5), students who attended the program (n=15) and ERCRS volunteers (n=9). One parent whose children attended the program participated in a one-one interview.’