The Learning Catalysts project investigates factors associated with educational success based on a study of 34,000 disadvantaged young people and their families. The project aims to examine the circumstances of disadvantaged young people and their families, identify factors contributing to improved educational outcomes and address the objectives of the partner organisation, the Smith Family (TSF), to support educational outcomes.

We employ an innovative approach that combines the analysis of detailed administrative data on TSF Learning for Life (LFL) scholarship holders and their families, student achievement data from school reports, a purpose-built supplementary survey and in-depth qualitative interviews.

The project will advance knowledge about mobility processes and mechanisms and about how education systems, families, schools and communities reproduce or ameliorate inequality. The project will also contribute to Australia's prosperity and social well-being, and help address problems such as unemployment and homelessness, that arise when a large proportion of young Australians is denied an effective education.


  • Examine the circumstances of socioeconomically disadvantaged families and students
  • Identify what factors contribute to improved educational outcomes for students from disadvantaged families
  • Build the evidence base to better design and implement programs that are intended to improve educational outcomes of these students

Project team

Project details

Duration: January 2013–December 2013

Partners: The Smith Family and the Australian Research Council

Funding: The Smith Family and the Australian Research Council

Contact: Professor Mark Western (

ISSR ref: ISSR020500