Canterbury clubs band together to change the lives of children with learning difficulties

Over the last three years, prominent clubs in the Canterbury-Bankstown region – Canterbury League Club, Canterbury Hurlstone Park RSL Club, Campsie RSL and The Lantern Club – have united to provide life-changing educational support to over 200 students in local primary schools.

This coordinated approach from the clubs created a funding partnership with Leanings Links to run individual and small group intervention across 15 schools in the local area, to improve the literacy and numeracy outcomes of children with learning difficulties.

Up to 15% of students in our schools have learning difficulties and disabilities1. This equates to 4-5 children in every classroom. On average, it’s estimated that these children learn at half the rate of their peers, and the gap this causes continues to widen over time. Learning Links’ programs aim to empower students at significant risk of falling behind by helping them to develop foundation literacy and numeracy skills, and confidence in their learning abilities.

“Clubs have a close relationship with the local schools that use club facilities for fundraising events and presentation days. Because of this, we’ve known for some time that many schools don’t have the resources for specialist education programs, which is why these clubs have joined together to try and combat this issue. Each of the clubs is incredibly proud of the impact the partnership with Learning Links has had for children in our local area over the last three years,” said Paul Kougias, Community Manager at Canterbury Hurlstone Park RSL Club.

The Reading for Life® program was one of the weekly interventions that 50 students were able to participate in. Pre- and post-testing showed that over 15 weeks, students achieved average learning gains of 7.4-months for their sight word understanding, 4.4-months for reading accuracy and 6.6-months for reading comprehension. Without this targeted intervention, children with learning difficulties make average gains of only 2-months over the same period.

Similar results were seen in Learning Links’ Counting for Life® program and maths-focused educational support group sessions, with students building confidence and making notable average learning gains of up to 8-months with their numeracy skills.

Feedback from children who took part in the programs highlighted the increase in confidence that their new skills provided. One student said, “I feel differently about reading now because my buddy said I improved, and I am now reading so much.”

Thanks to the partnership, Learning Links has also been able to offer professional development opportunities for over 80 teachers in the Canterbury-Bankstown local government area, to improve knowledge and capacity for supporting students in the classroom with learning difficulties.

Birgitte Maibom, Learning Links CEO, said, “There are many children in the Canterbury-Bankstown community at risk of falling behind at school and facing a lifetime of disadvantage. The generous and ongoing support of these four clubs has enabled Learning Links to address this issue and provide the interventions to help change the trajectory of their future.”

Learning Links is a not-for-profit charitable organisation established in 1972 by parents concerned about the lack of appropriate education and support services for children with learning difficulties. Learning Links works with these children, their families and schools offering tailored programs and services to improve learning, confidence and participation. Our vision is to create a community where difficulties learning are no longer a barrier to a fulfilling life.

1Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), 2013, American Psychiatric Association