Earlier in the year, the Ballarat Foundation distributed 400 Back to School Vouchers in association with the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal. These vouchers were to the value of $50 each and were able to be used at either Kmart or Target for back-to-school items; stationary, books or uniform.
These vouchers were distributed across 28 primary schools in the Ballarat region. School staff were then able to identify families in their community, who would benefit from the voucher. Families facing economic instability are recognised by welfare teams, with staff noticing students coming to school with inadequate uniform or shoes or recognising financial insecurity through other programs or discussions.
Individual schools are in the best position to distribute the vouchers as they know their school community well. One school recognised that students needed to purchase new shoes and clothing for an upcoming school camp and the vouchers were given to families to help purchase those items. Examples such as this, mean that children can participate and contribute to all aspects of school life ensuring that students have improved engagement and a better attitude towards their learning.
The schools have reported that they have seen an increase in student wellbeing due to children attending school with the materials they need. Coming to school with a pencil case filled with your own coloured pens and pencils or wearing the correct coloured socks and school shoe scan make a huge difference to a child’s school experience.
The schools have also noted that they have been able to build stronger relationships with the school community, especially struggling families. A $50 voucher can go a long way at the start of the school year, and parents were very appreciative to receive the extra help. Schools were able to use the distribution of the vouchers to form a strong and positive relationship with families. This can help with communication and correspondence and with a child’s learning. Teachers said they were able to form a good connection and foster a caring and trusting relationship. One school commented, “the vouchers allow us to build relationships with parents and carers and create an open line of communication and support.”
The vouchers have helped children feel that they belong and that they fit in with their peers. Schools have seen an increase in student wellbeing and overall happiness because of the school vouchers. One school responded that they loved being able to help the most vulnerable children in their community and it gave them an opportunity to bring a smile to a child’s face. The Ballarat Foundation is proud to have contributed in such an impactful way to these families and school communities.