Why volunteers make a difference – and some tools to help

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gamesmaker-imageVolunteering can happen anytime, anyplace and anywhere, and it has the power to bring about lasting change. Volunteers take on a wide range of roles which can make a huge difference to people and communities. Who can forget the Games Makers at the 2012 Olympics – 70,000 people who gave their time and energy to help make the London Games a phenomenal success?  Games Makers contributed eight million hours of voluntary work, however I am pretty sure a great deal of planning and organisation was needed in advance to make sure those hours had such a positive impact.

Work as part of our UFA National Citizen Service programme over the last four years has seen more than 10,000 young people undertake more than 3 million hours of social action in their communities. Once again these hours needed organisation and a structure to ensure any resulting social action is of high quality and makes a real difference. We can only imagine what the long term impact of these hours will be.

We can also agree that volunteering is a good thing but it has the greatest impact when it’s well thought-out and planned, making sure volunteer effort is put to best use.

Schools have a rich history of using volunteers to add value to school life, helping with reading, outings etc. Weekly swimming lessons for my children were only possible if the school had three helpers and self-managed negotiations at the school gate if you weren’t able to attend could be interesting!  Therefore my volunteering experience was a little adhoc, turning up when you could, not ideal for the school or those volunteering.

Over recent weeks I’ve been looking at a planning structure for volunteering in schools with a particular focus on volunteer led learning/tutoring.  With support from Nesta and the Cabinet Office UFA has developed a school led approach to make the most of volunteer tutors.

Our Volunteer Led Learning Toolkit contains a number of resources which aim to help schools to plan and organise the effective deployment of their volunteer tutors. Click below to check out the tools.

These tools include a training programme for volunteers, seen here in action at North Huddersfield Trust School.volunteering-image

Whilst volunteers are an additional resource who can help to raise aspiration, improve attainment and support personal development, volunteers tell me that they get lots out of their involvement too. Volunteers at NHTS have had an impact on students’ grades and aspirations as well as helping students on their next steps to either college or apprenticeships. But it has also provided volunteers with a sense of satisfaction that they have helped their tutees fulfil their potential.

Private tuition for children from middle and high income backgrounds is growing rapidly, but this can be out of reach for many pupils. I hope our Volunteer Led learning Toolkit will encourage schools to mobilise all those potential volunteers within their community to help support pupils from all backgrounds to reach their potential. Download it and please let us know what you think – we’d love to hear your feedback.

Volunteering is at the very core of being a human. No one has made it through life without someone else’s help.

Heather French Henry

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