When a child's greatest wish is an iPad for school

Posted on 21 December 2014 by Ché Stockley

The Education Equity Coalition has been campaigning this year for a genuine replacement for the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA), which is being scrapped next year. Our Senior Policy Officer Ché Stockley from MacKillop Family Services tells a story that shows why supporting children facing disadvantage through a program like the EMA is so important.

MacKillop Family Services provides out-of-home care, family services and education services in Victoria. Every day in our work we are confronted by disadvantage and inequality in the community. MacKillop is of the view that access to education can help people to overcome disadvantage and work towards a secure future. Unfortunately, we have found that access to education is not equal for everyone.

As a member of the Education Equity Coalition, we are involved in the Cover the Costs campaign calling for the state government to cover the costs of education by providing funding or materials that children and young people need to attend and participate at school.

As a provider of services in vulnerable communities we have experienced firsthand the impact of inequitable funding approaches. Shannon* lives at home with her mother and three older siblings. Shannon’s mother has mental health issues and an intellectual disability, and two of Shannon’s siblings have health issues that impact on the family’s functioning. Shannon’s father is often absent and when he is there, he is violent and abusive.

In spite of these difficulties, Shannon is a happy girl and loves attending school; she will be entering Grade 5 in 2015. Shannon was recently assessed as requiring additional support to finish primary school. Her family discussed the option of changing to a special development school, however Shannon’s current school has agreed to provide her with support to stay on. Importantly, Shannon feels safe and supported at her school and wants to remain there.

Children in Grade 5 and 6 at Shannon’s school are required to have an iPad for school use and homework. Although Shannon’s school is supportive of Shannon and her family, it is unable to fund an iPad for her. The school has already paid for a range of other items for Shannon during her years at the school, including school camps, excursions and incursions.

Through MacKillop’s Grant a Wish program Shannon will receive an iPad. Shannon’s wish was deemed critical to assist her to participate fully in school and enter Grade 5 with the equipment needed to get the most out of her education.

Unfortunately, there are many children and young people who MacKillop and other agencies are unable to help with education costs. That is why MacKillop believes a fair and equitable replacement for the Education Maintenance Allowance is essential.

*Names have been changed and model images used to protect privacy.

READ MORE great stories from the MacKillop blog.