Case study in collaboration: Partnership model to build a stronger foundation for homework clubs

By: Trudy Wyse, Australia Communities Foundation

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much” these wise words from Helen Keller are ones which held us in good stead when working towards a solution of long-term sustainability for homework clubs in Victorian schools.

What are homework clubs?

Homework clubs, or Out of School Hours Learning Support Programs, provide extra learning support to disadvantaged young people who may have had disrupted education and receive limited study assistance at home. They are a particularly important service for students from a non-English speaking background, and 75% of programs have a majority of students with English as an Additional Language (EAL).

There are over 250 homework clubs operating across Victoria, catering to 6,000 students weekly.

What was the situation?

Funding for homework clubs comes from a diverse range of sources and is often short-term and highly insecure. The level of funding received is often barely sufficient to operate at a very basic level, let alone in accordance with identified best practice standards. Best practice includes elements such as training and support of volunteer tutors, planning and liaison time for coordinators and suitable venues which are conducive to the learning requirements of students.

Australian Communities Foundation (ACF), together with a number of other organisations that support homework clubs, wanted to address the current inadequate funding model. Collectively, we wanted to provide a better outcome for the clubs, and most importantly, for the students using the programs. It was this desire that led to the Improving Support to Homework Clubs Initiative.

Who are the players?

The Centre for Multicultural Youth (CMY) is a not for profit organisation funded by the Victorian Government to resource and support homework clubs across the State, through a program known as Learning Beyond the Bell (LBB). LBB provides services such as the recruitment, training and matching of volunteer tutors, production of homework club resources and the development of quality improvement plans.  Based on their experience as the homework club resource body, CMY has identified good practice standards.

The Stan Willis Trust  was established in 1994 to support communities in Melbourne’s Western Suburbs with small grants that have reaped rewards of far greater value and impact than the initial investment.  As a small trust with no staff, Stan Willis Trust employs ACF to provide administrative and grant making support.

For the past three years, Stan Willis Trust has made small grants to homework clubs in the western suburbs, and has built a strong partnership with CMY in order to do this. CMY has assisted Stan Willis Trust to advertise the grants to homework clubs and to develop granting guidelines against which applications can be assessed.

What did we do?

We followed Helen Keller’s advice. CMY, ACF and Stan Willis Trust agreed to collaborate on a strategy to improve homework club outcomes through a more targeted, reliable and coordinated funding approach. The backbone of the approach was to bring together philanthropic organisations that have an interest in supporting educational opportunities for disadvantaged young people.

Eight trusts and foundations came together over two major planning sessions to discuss the issues and possible approaches for a coordinated funding model. The sessions ended with in-principle support for two major initiatives. Firstly, adopting a set of common principles to be used when assessing homework club applications and secondly, for the development of a Funders Resource Kit by CMY, to assist funders to promote good practice in homework clubs.

What were the results?

The two initiatives have now been completed, with the Homework Club Resource Kit – A Guide for Funders  providing straightforward advice to enable funders to more confidently assess applications and direct resources to poorly serviced areas or groups with the highest need. The kit also outlines minimum requirements all homework clubs should demonstrate in order to ensure that funding is directed to develop or enhance high quality programs.

The next step was to establish a Homework Club Partnership sub-fund at ACF to further support the funding model. The sub-fund’s initial $100,000 grant is being used to match funding provided by other funders for homework clubs in the greatest areas of need across Victoria.

A grant of $20,000 provides sufficient funding to employ a program coordinator for 12 hours per week, funds for program resources and catering, and to enable simple data collection and evaluation of the club’s activities.

Already, three grants of $10,000 have been made to match three equivalent grants from the Stan Willis Trust to support homework clubs in Footscray, Sunshine and Tarneit.

A long term goal is to build the corpus of the sub-fund so that it can continue to provide matched funding for homework clubs into the future.

Where to from here?

Both the Resource Kit and Homework Club Partnership sub-fund are being launched at an event to be held on Tuesday 28 July (4.00 - 5.30pm) at the Reading Room, Fitzroy Townhall. Funders and other stakeholders interested in the future of Out of School Hours Learning Support Programs in Victoria are encouraged to attend.

For more information please contact Trudy on (03) 9412 0412 or

May. 27, 2015

 Tags: partnership, communities, collaboration

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