The OECD report "Low-Performing Students - Why They Fall Behind and How to Help Them Succeed" found that socio-economic status was the most important factor associated with low academic performance.
Kids who perform poorly are less likely to do homework, have less motivation and perseverance and are more likely to skip classes than those kids who do well. These kids are also less likely to have attended Early Childhood Education (ECE).
Our Academic Mentors work with kids just like these every day, doing their best to keep them engaged, motivated and helping them experience success. But our job is made so much more difficult by the burden that living in poverty places on these kids. It's really hard to keep a kid engaged when they are hungry because there is no food in the house and their grown up didn't get them to school on time to get breakfast, when they are tired from sleeping in a room with 4 other kids or when they want to go home and do homework, but there simply isn't a quiet space for them to do this.
So what makes our job as Academic Mentors easier? Giving our kids a head start is crucial - and this starts with enrolling them in ECE. Growing their brains at home is also important (for a whole lot of free ideas to grow little kids brains see Success for Little People). We want parents to make sure kids have a good breakfast - most schools we work with offer the free KickStart programme where kids get Weetbix and milk every morning. Making sure kids have access to a quiet space at home is also important - this is as easy as making sure that kids can have uninterrupted quiet time in a bedroom where they can do their homework.
The messages that parents give kids is also really important. Parents don't need to be maths whizzes (although understanding the types of things that kids are doing in maths now is helpful), but they do have a really important role to play in giving positive messages to kids. So instead of saying "Yeah, maths sux, I really hated maths at school", parents could say something like "I used to find maths tricky too."
There are no easy answers to this. We can't magically make poverty go away. But we are proud be part of a movement that ensures our kids have access to the support they need to reach their potential.