Evaluation of our programs is incredibly important to us, as it helps us know we are making an impact and informs the design of our programs.
We’ve worked hard with respected evaluation consultants Clear Horizon to develop a robust evaluation framework for all of our programs.
We are proud that the results have been overwhelmingly positive, and have highlighted the impact of our workshops on young people’s writing, literacy skills and confidence.
In our most recent results:
- 77% of teachers reported that most or all of their students were more confident writers as a result of our program.
- 75% of teachers reported that most or all of their students improved their literacy as a result of our program.
- 92% of students enjoyed writing with us in our programs.
- 90% of students felt they came up with lots of good ideas to use in their writing.
- 68% of students felt they were better at writing after participating in Story Factory workshops.
- The average writing confidence levels of surveyed students increased by 31%, with 72% of students reporting feeling confident or very confident about writing after participating in Story Factory workshops compared to 41% of students reporting feeling confident before participating in Story Factory workshops.
Case study: Marvellous Birds
Marvellous Birds was a collaborative creative writing and storytelling project for students from four primary schools in under-resourced communities in Western Sydney. These young writers explored themes such as community, camaraderie, displacement, environmental change, migration and the challenges of new adventures – through the piercing eyes and under the all-seeing gaze of the magnificent, mysterious (and occasionally menacing!) birdlife of the world.
The project was a huge success, with class teachers from all four participating schools reporting that most or all of their students were more confident and better equipped writers after participating in Marvellous Birds workshops.Read More
The positive impacts of the program on young people were revealed through student surveys, which indicated that:
- 93% enjoyed writing in the program.
- 89% felt they were better writers after the program.
- 53% increased their confidence in writing, with 82% of students reporting they felt confident in writing after participating in the program, compared to 29% of students reporting they felt confident before the program.
The writing produced by students in the Marvellous Birds project provides a unique and truly creative insight into the lives of children in Western Sydney, in their own words. A professionally published collection of these original short stories and tall tales is available for purchase here.
Everyone had an opportunity to share and write their ideas. They all produced great pieces of writing…Everyone developed improvement in different areas of their literacy skills. Thank you!
Creating Enthusiastic, Proud Young Writers in Schools
In our residency programs, we work with schools in under-resourced communities for a full year, delivering two weekly creative writing programs to young writers each term. Workshops are tailored to the students’ specific learning needs, and provide young people with the deep engagement and intensive writing support they need to succeed at school and beyond.
Toongabbie East Public School
Toongabbie East Public School is one of our residency schools, where we have been working since 2018. Like a lot of the young people we work with, many students at the school have complex home situations, struggle with very low literacy levels, and are often disengaged from school. Over the course of our ongoing residency with the school, we have been thrilled to see students become more engaged and confident in their writing with the support of Storytellers and volunteer writing tutors, and become enthusiastic, proud young writers.
This impact is attested to by Deputy Principal of Toongabbie East Public School:
“At the start of the year very few of our students enjoyed writing and many refused point blank to engage in ANY writing tasks. Term 1 was a struggle to get these students engaged but when they realised that in Story Factory they were being supported so well and that no-one was negatively critiquing their efforts they began to relax and give writing a go. This has had the flow on effect and now in class students willingly engage in writing tasks and many are quite happy to continue writing during lunch and recess breaks which is something we didn’t think we’d ever experience here at Toongabbie East. The students are proud of their efforts and keen to show teachers what they have accomplished. It has also made them more conscious of their need to improve their spelling skills and as a result they have been working hard in spelling to achieve this.
Personally I cannot speak highly enough of the wonderful job you and your team do each and every week…Not only have the students learnt so much about writing but I have got so many teaching ideas too. THANK YOU!”
Telopea Public School
Telopea Public School is one of our residency schools, where we have worked since 2018. Like all of the communities we work with, Telopea is under-resourced. Over the course of our ongoing residency with the school, we have been thrilled to see students become more engaged and confident in their writing with the support of Storytellers and volunteer writing tutors, and become enthusiastic, proud young writers. This impact is attested to by one of the classroom teachers we worked closely with at Telopea Public School:
“The Story Factory has been visiting Telopea Public School for a few years now. It has been such an amazing experience for our students and they have learnt so much during this time…every single visit has been so beneficial for our students. These visits have turned some of our most hesitant writers into writers that are now blossoming and full of confidence. Some have even turned writing into a passion, developing their own series of books.”
Fostering an After-School Writing Community
Our new online after-school programs were one of the great successes of our shift to digital programming in the wake of COVID-19 in 2020. Now offered both online and in-person, we are thrilled that these programs are attracting an ever-increasing number of young people in Western Sydney interested in improving and sharing their writing.
14-year-old Pete was one of the first students to join our after-school program in 2020, after seeing it advertised at his school. A keen writer from Western Sydney, Pete threw himself into the program with gusto, writing pieces inspired by his family history. Pete’s grandparents immigrated to Australia from Greece in the 1950s, and writing about their experiences has helped him deepen his relationship with them, as well as improve his writing skills.
Our Head of Youth Engagement, Bilal, who runs our after-school programs, comments: “Pete’s writing has, from day one, benefited from the pride and sense of ownership he has in his background and family history. He lets it inform his writing, and I believe that process has helped validate his own experiences, in sharing his work with his peers.”
In Pete’s words: “I really like how Bilal [the workshop leader] adds comments on my docs. Look, sometimes I did not even think of the stuff he adds in. Again, this goes back to having a community around me, and this group of people. I can give them a piece of my writing and ask them what would you suggest. Sometimes they point out things I would never have thought of.”
Since his initial involvement in the after-school online program, Pete has joined our Year of the Novella program, in which he aims to write a 30,000 word novella during weekly workshops. Pete is a valued member of this community of young writers, described by workshop leader Bilal as “…a rallying energy all the other students are bolstered by. He has a level of insight and care into his peers’ writing (even those 4 years his senior) that always has them leaving prouder of their work, and more ready to tackle the next step of their project, than when they come in. He raises the standard of what it means to be a young writer.”
We can’t wait to read Pete’s novella, and to help other enthusiastic young writers in our after-school programs write and share their stories.
Discovering Exciting New Talent
One of our incredible young writers is Vivian Pham, who in 2017 participated in Year of the Novella, a year-long program of weekly workshops in which students aim to write a novella of up to 30,000 words, which is then professionally published. Aged just 16, Vivian wrote a 90,000 word novel over the course of the program, focused on two Australian-Vietnamese families living in 1998 Cabramatta, a diverse area of Western Sydney, which is in many ways inspired by her father and his story.
As part of the Novella program, editors from Penguin Random House volunteered to edit the writing of young authors in preparation for publication. The senior editor assigned to work with Vivian was blown away by her extraordinary writing, and the discovery of her talent led to her manuscript going to auction, with Penguin Random House signing Vivian to the Vintage imprint in 2018.
Vivian’s novel, The Coconut Children, was published in March 2020 to great acclaim. Vivian has since won the 2021 Sydney Morning Herald/Age Best Young Novelist of the Year award, and the 2021 Matt Richell Award for New Writer of the Year.
Reflecting on the impact of the Year of the Novella program on her life, Vivian commented;
“The Novella Project has changed the way I do things. It has somehow given me the courage to test my own boundaries and overcome the very things I always told myself were impossible. If you told me a year ago that I would soon write a 93,000 word story that I’m actually proud of, that I’d learn to have faith in the good of people again, that I’d be this senselessly happy all of the time, then I’d probably laugh in your face. But this is exactly what The Novella Project has done for me. Working on our novellas has taught us to listen to our own voices and trust that there’s value in what we have to say. It taught us that stories can change the world, one person at a time. It taught us that stories can change the world, and the world begins with us.”
Thank you for helping me unlock my writing abilities and giving me the confidence to share my work…The facilitators make writing fun and they make it very easy to start writing.
2016 Australian of the Year
In January 2016, executive director and co-founder Cath Keenan was honoured to be named 2016 Australian of the Year Local Hero. The award is fitting recognition for Cath and everyone involved with the Story Factory who have worked so hard to make a real difference in the lives of marginalised Australian children and young people. We couldn’t be prouder.