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$4M Enterprise Targets Education Programs

1 June 2016 at 8:55 am
Ellie Cooper
The funding arm of a $4 million social enterprise has awarded $881,000 to two education programs with the aim of breaking the strong link between family income and student outcomes.

Ellie Cooper | 1 June 2016 at 8:55 am


$4M Enterprise Targets Education Programs
1 June 2016 at 8:55 am

The $4 million funding arm of a social enterprise has awarded $881,000 to two education programs with the aim of breaking the strong link between family income and student outcomes.

Social Ventures Australia (SVA) has launched a new enterprise, Evidence for Learning, to identify and scale Australia’s most effective education programs.

SVA’s director of education, Matthew Deeble, said Evidence for Learning was “designed to help great education practice become common practice”.

“We want to encourage educators to become more evidence informed in their work, and we hope to influence policy in the same way,” Deeble said.

“The big message is there’s lots of money that flows into education and lots of people have got views about what’s going to make a difference, but it’s not particularly well informed by, or responsive to, evidence. ”

However, he said evidence-based approaches to education were gaining more interest.

“We have had good research that’s been done but it’s not been of strong, quantitative measures of actually asking what’s been the individual learning impact of a program and how has it worked, and that’s what we’re seeking to answer and provide much better information to the sector,” he said.

The social enterprise is based on the model of one of SVA’s partners, the Education Endowment Foundation in the UK, and is supported by $6 million from the Commonwealth Bank.

Part of Evidence for Learning, the Learning Impact Fund was created to build an evidence base of education programs. Independent trials in schools will evaluate which programs achieve social impact and best target disadvantage.

“We want to help build, share and use evidence. We have funding and initiatives that are in all three parts of the work,” Deeble said.

“The Learning Impact Fund is part of building evidence – we want to build new evidence around independent, rigorous trials in schools to see what works and what doesn’t work, and to share that freely with the Australian community.”

In the first round of funding, QuickSmart Maths and Thinking Maths were granted $686,000 and $195,000 respectively.

“We pair a program that looks like it’s got some promise, particularly in helping those who are experiencing disadvantage… with an independent evaluator,” Deeble said.

“In the first two [programs] that we’ve picked we wanted to get our own processes running on how are we going to find good programs, assess them for their impact on disadvantage, their ability to scale, and their cost-effectiveness.

“We think they’re really valuable programs that could make a difference. But really importantly, they’ve both been interested in this idea of having an independent evaluator review their work.

“Both of them have kind of done their own evaluation but recognise the benefit of someone independent coming and looking at it, and also they were prepared to sign up to having this information produced freely and shared widely regardless of the outcome of the trial, which is another really important aspect of the work.”

In QuickSmart Maths students work in pairs with a trained tutor for 30 minutes each week, and early evaluations showed that students participating in the program gained an extra seven to 12 months progress a year.

Thinking Maths supports Year 7 and Year 8 teachers to engage all students in learning maths and was designed to address the drop in maths performance between year 7 and 9, identified in NAPLAN results.

Deeble said the two programs were handpicked for the first grants, but an open funding round would be available mid-year.

He said it was a good opportunity for organisations running or supporting programs who are interested in an independent evaluation to put their hands up.

“We feel if we can independently evaluate and show great outcomes from those programs, that should be a good reason for it to attract further funding, because we’ve been able to show its scale,” he said.

Ellie Cooper  |  Journalist  |  @ProBonoNews

Ellie Cooper is a journalist covering the social sector.

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