Windang Public school teacher Elena Dimoski has been teaching for more than a decade and knows the importance of creating a welcoming, inclusive and creative environment to engage students in their school community.

This is why Mrs Dimoski and her colleagues decided to donate hundreds of dollars-worth of books, stationery and learning resources to CareSouth’s Homework Hub, in the hope this would help vulnerable students start the school year off on the right foot.

“Each year the teachers would do a Secret Santa and buy each other a small gift but last year we decided to instead collect the money that we would normally spend on each other and buy resources for a charity,” said Mrs Dimoski.

“I came across the Homework Hub online and it sounded like a great idea to help vulnerable students. We wanted to contribute in some way to help them engage in school.”

CareSouth Homework Hub coordinator Danielle Woolage said school engagement refers to a student’s enthusiasm, curiosity, involvement and excitement in learning,

“When children and young people are engaged, they learn faster and more comprehensively, and can more easily cope with setbacks and obstacles,” said Danielle.

Unfortunately children and young people in the child protection system are more likely to be disengaged at school and have poorer education outcomes compared to their peers.

A study by the Australian Council of Educational Research (ACER) found children and young people in care achieved lower scores in literacy and numeracy tests compared to their peers, and can be up to three years behind in their learning.

CareSouth’s Homework Hub was set up four years ago to address this learning gap by pairing vulnerable young people with mentors, including teaching, social work and psychology students from the University of Wollongong.

“The Homework Hub provides a safe, calm learning environment for vulnerable students,” said Danielle.

“Mentors take into account the learning needs of each student and, through establishing a supportive relationship and positive role-modelling, improve a child’s confidence and well-being, both socially and academically.

“Mentors have seen first-hand the difference a few hours a week of positive reinforcement and supportive learning can have on a student’s confidence and ability. And having a wide range of learning resources available enhances these outcomes.

“We are grateful for the support of people like Mrs Dimoski and her colleagues at Windang Public School who, through the donation of books, games and stationery, help ensure our students have all the resources they need to be engaged learners.”