More than 1.1 million children and young people living in poverty across Australia are in critical need of additional learning support throughout their education, says national children's education charity The Smith Family.
Launching The Smith Family's Christmas Appeal Monday, New South Wales General Manager, Annette Young, said the organisation needed to raise $3.66 million by the end of the year to provide thousands of disadvantaged children with access to important out-of-school learning programs in 2017.
"Disadvantaged children across the nation face many complex challenges that impact their ability to succeed at school," said Ms Young.
"For the 33,000 children we support through our Learning for Life program, all live in low income homes where affording life's basics is a struggle; over half live in single parent homes and forty per cent of the children have a disability or health issue.
"Too often these family struggles that affect a child's home life can flow on to affect their school life, too.
"One in three disadvantaged children start school behind their peers and without additional support they fall further behind as they move through school.
"Sadly, research tells us that this gap in educational achievement leads to poorer overall life outcomes.
"Supporting a child's education and providing additional learning opportunities is one of the most effective ways to help children catch up, keep up, and break the cycle of disadvantage.
"Funds from our Christmas Appeal will provide more than 8,000 children to access our learning support programs, including student2student and Learning Clubs, which are proven highly effective in boosting the educational outcomes of disadvantaged children."
In 2015, 95 per cent of student2student participants improved their reading. The program matches a student who is behind in their reading with a trained student buddy who listens to them read over the phone, two to three times per week for 18 weeks.
Learning Clubs are a safe and supportive out-of-school environment which provides disadvantaged students with access to resources and help with their homework and learning from trained volunteer tutors. Last year 88 per cent of student participants agreed it helped them try harder at school.
"We know that growing up in poverty can mean being isolated and going without all year round, but it's particularly hard for children at this time of year," said Ms Young.
"Being able to complete a successful education is a pathway out of poverty and for a child living in disadvantage, being provided with opportunities to fully participate in their learning can be the greatest gift.
"I urge the community to share their Christmas giving with a child who needs your help. Please support our Christmas Appeal so we can ensure thousands of disadvantaged students get the access to the life-changing educational support they need to build a better future."
Donations to The Smith Family's 2016 Christmas Appeal can be made at www.thesmithfamily.com.au.