Where have all the Volunteers gone?
The past year has been the most tumultuous time in recent memory for schools, but as restrictions from COVID-19 start to ease, we can all look toward returning to a new normal. The return to schools earlier this month has been a great step in this direction.
The restrictions in schools have meant in many cases that volunteers have not been able to support schools. As clubs can start to reopen and more people are allowed in school now is the perfect time to take stock and look at where past volunteers have gone and think about recruiting some new volunteers.
Why use Volunteers?
Benefiting from Volunteers is very common in schools, especially in the primary setting. Volunteers can be brought in to help for example as:
- Reading Assistants
- Support for after school clubs
- Assistance for Drama or music productions
- Library Assistants
- Office support
- Fundraising Support
Volunteers are a fantastic way to provide support to your teaching and support staff. Importantly however it is also an opportunity to encourage parent engagement in school, and for someone to gain valuable new skills and work experience.
When looking to increase your pool of Volunteers it is important to keep one key thing in mind. There is no such thing as ‘Just a Volunteer’. This means that for a Volunteer to be of maximum benefit to you, and for them to want to keep volunteering, you should plan a specific role that a Volunteer will be undertaking and set this out in writing. Keeping this in mind will make your Volunteer feel a part of the School team and not additional ‘Free Labour’.
Once you have a role in mind think about the best way to attract the right person for you. This could be a parent of a student, a past student, a retired individual, an early career worker who needs experience or someone with a specific skill that you need.
The type of role needed will change how you recruit to the position. You could look for candidates in many ways including:
- Notice in a school Newsletter
- Posting on the schools Social Media
- Advertising on job sites (such as Indeed which is free to use)
- Advertising at School events
- School Website
Once you find the right Volunteer you can work with them to create the perfect Volunteer opportunity that benefits both you and the Volunteer.
We would advise that you ask volunteers to complete a short application letter/form and that a professional dialogue takes place before accepting the volunteer, to clarify your, and their expectations and to ensure that these are aligned. This should cover:
- the parameters of the role
- conduct and behaviour expectations (code of conduct), particularly, but not exclusively in relation to safeguarding
- support and communication systems.
Things to remember
When recruiting Volunteers you must remember to complete the relevant pre-employment checks for the person joining your team. This will include an identity check and may include a DBS check, Barred List check, overseas checks depending on the role they will have in your school. We would also recommend seeking some sort of reference where possible. Where schools are welcoming back volunteers who were engaged prior to lockdown, there is strictly no requirement to re-DBS check, but schools may feel more secure doing so, especially where contact has been limited during the interim period.