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Back to School - Penrith South Primary School

The benefits of a back to school program at a grass roots level


Being a part of Community Smiles Back to School Program has helped build supportive and positive relationships between the school and family which is necessary, especially for families that may require additional financial/emotional/physical support throughout the years. 


Poor attendance is a major cause of low academic results so coming to school every day is very necessary especially for children of low socio economic families.  Without a strong trust relationship between the school and the family, children often stay at home from school.  Sometimes because there is nothing to take for lunch or because they don’t have a jumper on a cold day. 


If a family feels comfortable to share their struggle with a trusted person at school then the school is able to help, without the child’s attendance at school being affected. The Back Pack - Back to School Program from Community Smiles definitely helped build that family/school  trust relationship.


Having a connection with Community Smiles meant that the school could give school bags FULL of necessary school items to needy children.  This gesture has helped build that relational trust between the school and the families which helps when they need to confide in a teacher to ask for further support for example for financial assistance for their child to attend an excursion. Often it’s the children that need the experiences the most that either stay at home on the day of an excursion or need to be left behind at school which is heartbreaking for teachers as well as the student.


If a family knows that school is there to listen and help their child be successful at school in every way, then they are more likely to ask for support rather than avoid the situation or disengage. The Back to School Program helps foster this type of relationship.


Often disadvantaged children move schools a lot, which means every time there are ‘starting a new school’ costs involved as well as ‘moving house’ costs and school costs usually come last.  Again, for disadvantaged children attendance is sometimes affected as they can’t start school until a few weeks after the move because there is no money for uniforms or school equipment until the next pay day/week/month…again attendance and learning are impacted. Being able to provide school items for families is a major stress reliever for families at a difficult time for them.


Socially, disadvantaged children are often isolated.  Partly because when a child misses a lot of school their friends forget them in their social groups.  If you have been away for a week, then your friends are often playing something new or with other children which sometimes means it’s difficult for a student to rejoin the group.  Children who come to school every day usually have stronger ties to their social groups.  This impacts on birthday party invitations, and play dates as well as having fun at recess and lunch times.  These isolated children are often the ones that ask to stay in at lunch time to ‘help’ the teacher.


Disadvantaged children often don’t have lovely school things like the other kids at school and they just want to be like everyone else.  The back bags full of such lovely school resources were so happily received by each child – it was like Christmas Day for some of them!


Parents who did not have a positive experience while they attended school themselves are often reluctant to engage with the school or to speak with teachers about what their child is learning at school.  This is a major issue for their child’s educational outcomes as research shows that when parents are supportive of the school and engaged with their child’s learning the child does better academically.  So helping parents feel welcomed and valued is very important work for schools.  This type of program helps with this factor and helps build success for each child.


A simple gesture like the Back to School Program that Penrith South Public School has been privileged to be a part of, has had many implications for children and the benefits are immediate as well as long term educational attainment. I strongly hope the program can sustain and grow through the upcoming years.


Kerrie Bebbie


Penrith South Public School