Effective strategies for supporting students from low socio-economic backgrounds

Schools can use this equity loading to develop and implement effective evidence-based strategies that improve the learning and wellbeing outcomes for students from low socio-economic backgrounds.

'In schools that excel, students consistently perform at high levels on external and internal school performance measures and equity gaps are closing.' - Learning domain, School Excellence Framework

Every school is a unique context. Your school should use this equity loading to develop and implement effective evidence-based strategies that improve the learning and wellbeing outcomes of your students from low socio-economic backgrounds.

Although all initiatives and activities should be evidence-based, school leaders should consult with staff, parents and carers to determine the best way to support the learning needs of their students from low socio-economic backgrounds.

The strategies and examples can be viewed through the lens of What works best: 2020 update (CESE).

Effective strategies: What works best?

See CESE publications:

These publications indicate that schools achieving a high impact on the outcomes of students from low socio-economic backgrounds focused on:

  • providing teachers with ongoing professional learning around explicit instruction, wellbeing, feedback and high expectations
  • fostering a culture of high expectations and raising expectations for achievement and future study, training or pathways to employment
  • having whole school collaborative goals that are supported by staff, students and parents
  • having a collaborative whole school and cross curriculum approach to literacy and numeracy
  • taking a collaborative approach to planning, programming and assessment throughout the school
  • emphasising innovations in teaching practice to address student needs and increase student engagement
  • encouraging higher levels of achievement by showing students what success looks like and breaking down the steps required through explicit teaching
  • giving students effective feedback on tasks and processes with a focus on student improvement and the development of self-regulation, promoting a positive learning culture in which students value their learning outcomes
  • strengthening the use of personalised learning and support plans
  • using data to inform practice, identifying student learning needs and explicitly teaching
  • using data to inform practice, and using flexible and/or staffing allocations to differentiate learning for equity groups
  • encouraging a safe, positive and stimulating learning environment that is conducive to learning through effective classroom management
  • emphasising the development of staff through professional learning and mentoring.

More effective strategies

Schools funding provides further examples of the strategic use of the equity loading for students from low socio-economic backgrounds.

Further examples from school funding snapshots show how principals and school leaders have made strategic resourcing decisions to make a positive difference to student learning and wellbeing outcomes.

Examples of the effective use of the low socio-economic background equity loading will look different in each school context, and may include:

  • building leadership and teacher capabilities to implement a targeted and differentiated approach, ensuring that students with disadvantage receive support to achieve their potential
  • supporting students to gain broader and equitable access to curriculum and learning via a financial assistance pathway for subject-specific costs, providing funding to ensure engagement in whole school activities, including extra-curricular activities
  • building capability to engage and consult with the community. This may include engaging a community engagement officer to improve liaison with parents, caregivers and the local school community
  • engaging a youth worker to provide community-based intervention for an identified student, or group of students, to support their engagement in schooling and goal setting
  • reviewing your homework policy, with attention to the needs of students affected by disadvantage by giving consideration to research that suggests students from disadvantaged backgrounds need greater scaffolding of and specificity in homework tasks, particularly those related to consolidating numeracy skills - this may be a good approach for all of your students
  • implementing a homework centre or program to support students to complete assessment tasks and regular homework
  • providing teachers with opportunities to work collaboratively during the school day
  • Engaging additional staffing with specialist expertise, including permanent appointments if funding permits
  • building teacher and school leadership capabilities through the use of inbuilt and timetabled release to support professional learning, teacher collaboration and professional growth
  • Developing a sustainable workforce planning approach to ensure continuity of learning for students.

Reflective questions on effective strategies

  • Have we researched successful evidence-based strategies as part of our situational analysis to help us make the most appropriate use of funds to support our students from low socio-economic backgrounds?
  • Have we considered the themes from What works best: 2020 update - high expectations, explicit instruction, wellbeing, use of data to inform practice, feedback, assessment, classroom management and collaboration as strategies for success?
  • Have we triangulated school data within our situational analysis to guide our initiatives and inform our desired outcomes?
  • Have we considered evidence-based strategies that address the key adverse effect of disadvantage on performance in literacy and numeracy?
  • Have we considered evidence-based strategies that address the other key adverse effects of disadvantage on rates of school attendance, levels of educational achievement, students’ own expectations of their abilities, levels of engagement and access to learning materials and experiences at home?
  • How effective is our school in identifying, assessing and supporting students from low socio-economic backgrounds who have high potential in one or more domains?
  • How effective is our school in identifying, assessing and supporting students from low socio-economic backgrounds who have additional needs?

Success criteria for students from low socio-economic backgrounds

Your school will develop high level initiatives and activities that are designed to deliver improved student outcomes. Your public facing plan will include success criteria for each strategic direction.

For this equity group, some of these sample success criteria may be adaptable for your plan.

  • Students can identify what they are learning and what success looks like.
  • Positive, respectful relationships are evident and widespread among students and staff, promoting student wellbeing to ensure optimum conditions for student learning across the whole school.
  • The school has implemented evidence-based change to whole school practices, resulting in measurable improvements in wellbeing and engagement to support learning.
  • Students are engaging with learning that is differentiated and focused on achievable tasks that consolidate their learning, as research suggests that for students from low-socio economic backgrounds, this is a necessary and effective approach.
  • Teachers collaboratively embed the 8 principles of What works best: 2020 update in their teaching and learning programs.
  • Every student can identify a staff member to whom they can confidently turn for advice and assistance.
  • The school is recognised as excellent and responsive by its community because it uses best practice to embed a culture of high expectations and effectively caters for the range of equity groups within the school.

Learn more

Find out more about School Excellence in Action.

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