A pioneering program inviting public high school alumni back to their old schools to inspire students is having a positive impact on pupils, according to survey data.
Gandel Philanthropy is one of the funders that has provided seed granting to pilot the program, called Ourschool, the first such initiative of its kind in Australia.
Public high schools educate the vast majority of teenagers from disadvantaged backgrounds, according to the Gonski review into schooling.
Caroline Milburn, Ourschool’s co-founder, established Ourschool to help public high schools build their alumni communities to benefit students. The not-for-profit program is delivered by the Victorian Association of State Secondary Principals, the peak professional body representing Victoria’s public high school principals.
Ourschool invites alumni back to their old schools to provide career or study advice to students, to provide work experience, to provide student scholarships or to volunteer in other ways.
An independent evaluator is analysing the two-year pilot’s impact on students, teachers and alumni. “We knew we had to have hard evidence to show our funders and potential funders that Ourschool is effective and deserves to expand beyond the pilot, “ Ms Milburn said. “But even we were surprised by how enthusiastically students, teachers and alumni are embracing the program.”
The evaluator has completed an interim evaluation report, dealing with the first six months of the Ourschool program’s operation in its eight pilot schools. The report dealt mainly with the responses from students, teachers and alumni surveyed about their participation in the alumni career sessions organised by Ourschool. More than 1,451 students took part in the sessions.
Some of the interim report’s key findings from the student surveys included:
• 83% of students would recommend an alumni career session like this to other students (13% were not sure)

• 82% of students agreed or strongly agreed that the session helped them to better understand what life after school might be like (13% were neutral)

• 74% of students agreed or strongly agreed that the session improved their understanding of how to get a job in the future (17% were neutral)

• 69% of students agreed or strongly agreed the session helped motivated them to stay at school to complete year 12 (22% were neutral)

• 69% of students agreed or strongly agreed that the session motivated them to put more effort into their schoolwork (24% were neutral)

Key findings from the teacher surveys:
• 97% of teachers said they would recommend an alumni session like this to other teachers (3% unsure)

• 97% of teachers agreed or strongly agreed that ‘my students were engaged with the content of the alumni session’

• 94% of teachers agreed or strongly agreed that the alumni session ‘gave my students practical, useful advice and insights about study and the workplace’

Key findings from the alumni surveys:
• 100% of alumni said they would recommend an alumni session to other alumni
• 100% of alumni said they would return for another session or event.

To find out more, go to http://www.ourschool.net.au

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