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Parent Volunteers

(31 Posts)
HidingBehindThisUsername Wed 22-Jun-16 21:26:29

We need more classroom volunteers.

We used to have quite a lot, then interim Headteacher alienated quite a few and numbers dwindled.

Now got new head and want to ramp up our Parent/Carer volunteer support again. I am hoping new leadership will gradually help improve things - but is there anything else we could do to encourage people to help?

Thank you.

admission Wed 22-Jun-16 22:24:28

I am interested in what capacity you are asking the question?
What you are using these volunteers for?
The person who is responsible and needs to be asking the questions around whether you need more parent volunteers is the new head. Could it be that the new head is agreeing with the interim head that actually the school does not need them?

HidingBehindThisUsername Wed 22-Jun-16 22:34:54

Parent Governor. And all agreed as a strategy that we need more volunteers - just somehow I have been tasked with "looking after" reinvigorating it all.

Also large class sizes next year (budget stuff) especially in KS2 so staff desperate for stickers/photocopiers/people to help with listening to readers/extra pair of hands when TAs not in.

HidingBehindThisUsername Wed 22-Jun-16 22:36:43

And even Interim head agreed a while back we needed more - just their communication style was less than helpful iyswim. So using a new head/new start to bring people back. I hope.

DelphiniumBlue Wed 22-Jun-16 22:37:37

So all the things that used to be a paid job? Have you run this past the relevant unions?

HidingBehindThisUsername Wed 22-Jun-16 22:39:22

And YY should all be down to the Head - but lots of stuff going on so all hands to the deck, lots of communication going on with parents about various things so trying to harness the parent 'wish to help" effectively...namely come and tidy the art cupboard and listen to readers please.

The school has generally never had to ask too much for help - it was just part of the culture - but having been stamped on it now needs to, as above, be reinvigorated.

Sorry - lots of answers.

HidingBehindThisUsername Wed 22-Jun-16 22:42:18

No, not stuff that used to be paid. TAs never been full time in the school. Has always been done by volunteers. I am sure it is not the only school that has willing helpers sticking work into books and stapling pieces of work onto walls! I am not talking SEN interventions or marking. Just basic photocopying and tidying art pots away.

SpoonintheBin Wed 22-Jun-16 22:43:08

Parent volunteers may help children with specific activities, I used to help reception children bake once a week as the class has one teacher and one TA and it's nice if the children have an activity such as cooking, baking, special craft activities with the help of a parent volunteer. Loads of school do it it has nothing to do with unions. They might help with planting a vegetable patch at the back of the school, help take children to library, etc. If your school has a newsletter, or a website it would be a good place to advertise?

FlouncyMcFlounceFace Wed 22-Jun-16 22:48:33

I help out a lot at my younger DC's school.

I would rather it was at the start or end of the day i.e. straight after drop off or running to collection.

I like tasks to be clear and a rough time indication of how long things will take.

I dont like to be taken for granted.

I dont like to be treated like an unpaid skivvy. Consider yourself on a warning board of bloomin governors who want to organise events then leave the work to people who've agreed to help out in a different capacity.

Our schoo, send out requests on newsletters i.e. could anyone help with reading 30 mins before pick up, anyone help with setting up sports day etc

whatsitallabout1 Wed 22-Jun-16 22:51:41

Don't forget to target grandparents too - in our school retired/semi-retired grandparents living locally have the time to be a huge help! We've also approached organisations like the local WI in the past to try to reach non-grandparents who, in some cases, were delighted to help. It's also worth asking your fellow governors to ask around, or even consider if they have the time to help an hour/week, potentially it would also give them a greater insight into the school.

HidingBehindThisUsername Wed 22-Jun-16 22:52:40

Um, being governor does not preclude me from also helping out as a parent volunteer - I am one of the stubborn ones few that stuck with it over the last few terms grin as I think it helps me in my role as Governor.

So do you think a list of "tasks/times" is likely to illicit more response. Yes, I could see that working.

HidingBehindThisUsername Wed 22-Jun-16 22:53:35

Grandparents. Yes. Good idea.

Obeliskherder Thu 23-Jun-16 00:02:07

I don't mind doing poster displays or laminating as I see it has a direct impact freeing up the TA or teacher's time, but I know other parents hate that kind of thing and want to be interacting with the children. I don't think anyone enjoys photocopying. Personally I love helping out a small group and don't mind reading but I'm painfully aware I'm much less skilled than the TA.

I think the main thing is to ask for volunteers with enthusiasm, and "sell" how it benefits the children. If your school has a policy of not letting volunteers work in their own child's classroom, dropping that rule might encourage more volunteers, but the rule is set with good reason.

Also with your school's history of having lots of helpers, I wonder if you're in the habit of asking volunteers to do things that could be done by the children themselves. Ours stick their own work in books, tidy & sort pencils etc.

Foxyloxy1plus1 Thu 23-Jun-16 08:52:14

Being appreciated is the key if you're a volunteer. I volunteered at our (very) local school, hearing readers. I was initially happy to do a day a week or a couple of mornings.

They didn't always remember that I would be in- fair enough, it's a busy life, but it wasted time having to sort out the readers etc. I was in a 'bay' outside the classroom, but if it was needed for group work, I had to find somewhere else. I wasn't invited into the staff room for a drink at break time and I think I was actually offered a coffee twice in two terms.

Other than to talk about which group would be reading, no one spoke to me and I actually felt very unwelcome. I didn't go back in September.

whiteDragon Thu 23-Jun-16 10:12:05

send out requests on newsletters i.e. could anyone help with reading 30 mins before pick up, anyone help with setting up sports day etc

Last school did this and I responded when I could. Spent a year gong in a set time and spending an hour hearing different children read.

Only once got annoyed as class was busy doing something else but TA insisted I stick around and "relax" - I'd have preferred to go home and possibly if they wanted come in later but hated sitting round twirling thumbs waiting.

Current school has been a nightmare - I did all the CBR checking then got back in touch to arrange what they wanted. 4 meetings - all of which have been forgotten about when I turn up then they through multiple ideas at me but with no firm decisions about what they wanted me to do or how to proceed - just lots of exciting ideas.

I'd have been perfectly happy to just listen to some children read or photocopy but they wanted to use some skills I had - though no idea why I couldn't have done both or some general helping while they figure out how they wanted to do that.

I was left feeling bemused and complete messed around - they could have had me helping all year but instead I'm now very disinclined to get involved at all.

So make it clear what you want would be my advice.

chamenager Thu 23-Jun-16 11:29:30

I think what could work is a plan like this:

1) Start with existing volunteers.
- *Make their contributions count*: A few effective, well placed, efficient, thought through, organised volunteers are actually worth more than lots of unorganised ones.
Things to consider: Perhaps a termly volunteer planning meeting. Info leaflets for new volunteers explaining the ropes (e.g. how should you be addressed by the children. what to do when children approach you e.g. needing the toilet. what to do when witnessing behavioural issues. when to refer to the teacher. if there is a behaviour management system, what 'rights' do you have e.g. can you give 'points'. can/should you praise children, for what, e.g. can you give stickers for good reading. can/should you tell children off. This just off the top of my head, all things I was unsure of when I started volunteering, I'm sure there's more. Ask your volunteers, they'll tell you what they wish they had known.
Asking the volunteers if they can see ways they could be made use of better. Find out about specialist skills they have, and determine (together with them) how these skills could be used. Find out about things they feel uncomfortable about and change that.
Make sure all volunteers know about strict confidentiality and what it extends to.

- At the same time, make them feel appreciated. If they are being used in an organised, effective way, they are already more likely to feel appreciated. (Being told on arrival at school 'oh hmm, well let's see, oh perhaps you could do x?' makes you feel 'I guess they really could have done just as well without me.'). They are also more likely to be making a real difference, and hence to be able to see the difference they are making (and if not, do point it out to them). Never take them for granted. E.g. our school changed the days/times that volunteers could come in at, from one day to the next. With the effect that half the volunteers couldn't come anymore, because, you know, some of us actually take time off from work in order to go in to school and can't just move their working hours around on a whim. So, talk to your existing volunteers to see if their volunteering can be made easier for them e.g. by arriving earlier or changing days or such. You can also contribute to them feeling appreciated by the occasional offer of a cup of tea. By informing them of what's going on e.g. there will be assembly, you are welcome to attend, or to do x in the classroom while waiting, but we will only need you for y afterwards.

2) Once your current volunteers are working effectively and feeling appreciated, it will be easy to find new volunteers. And it will be easy to incorporate them effectively, in an organised manner, because your organisation will already be settled and tested.

And if you don't have time to organise the volunteers? Well maybe you could find a volunteer who has the skills and would be happy to work with the relevant people to get the volunteers organised and happy.

chunkymum1 Thu 23-Jun-16 11:42:51

My DDs infant school used to have one morning a week where parents of reception children were invited to come in to school for the first half an hour of the day to read with their child. The parents that came in tended to sit and read to a small group of children. I think this was a good idea to get parents into the classroom and help everyone feel comfortable having discussions with the staff etc (as well as clearly being enjoyable for the children). I can see that this might also help generate volunteers (or at least make people more open to volunteering when you send round a request).

I'd say also follow up requests in newsletters with texts and speak to parents in person if you can. I'm always open to helping at DD/DS schools but I'm afraid the newsletter is usually read in a rush then put on the 'to do' pile- by the time I look at it again it seems too late to respond.

Also maybe hold a coffee morning/drop in session for potential volunteers, so they can have a chat about what might be involved/meet other volunteers, governors etc. This needn't take much time from the head- maybe he/she could just pop in for a minute to say hello then leave you to it.

Obeliskherder Thu 23-Jun-16 12:35:18

I think chame's post is excellent. The only thing I'd question is the termly meetings. My volunteering needs to fit around my work - I use all my flex covering all the various assemblies etc. Our school organised volunteer meetings on tues and weds ( the most popular working days). If you must have a meeting, Mon or Fri - or better, a choice betwen the 2 - would be better. But once the set-up info has been communicated as per the rest of chame's point (1), me talking with the class teacher is much more valuable than a group meeting because ultimately my role is to help her/him out.

KingLooieCatz Thu 23-Jun-16 13:52:40

Do make clear there are different ways to get involved (gardening, reading, admin, baking, craft etc).

For some parents (e.g. DSIL) it can be a step towards getting back into employment/career development or career change. I'm astonished more is not made of this. I have a pretty strong CV but I think my involvement with the school will make it even better.

Try to provide alternative ways of communicating for people who are not at the school gate or can't attend meetings. DS's last school asked people to "pop into the school office at 09.15". No breakfast or after school club so I was almost never at the school, but there were events that I would have loved to help at if it had been made easier to get involved. The current school's PTA make good use of e-mail and a facebook group, so far no photos of kids or using it to air grievances. This way you can join the conversation whatever your commitments are. Some parents are out of town/overseas for a period, then back with free time that they plough into supporting the school, it works well for them.

Iwantacampervan Thu 23-Jun-16 14:08:13

Please make volunteers feel welcome and wanted - being allowed into the staffroom to have a cup of tea would be great especially if they are there over break.
Our village school often has a request for general and sometimes specific help wanted in the Parish Magazine.

TeenAndTween Thu 23-Jun-16 14:16:25

Things that need to be made clear
- where to leave your coat & valuables
- which toilets to use
- where you can go at break time (e.g. staff room or not?)
- can you use tea / coffee / mugs
- confidentiality and safeguarding rules
- are DBS checks required

Things for the school not to do:
- not warn you when not needed because of school trip or other off timetable thing
- get you to listen to children read when actually they are all off to PE / music / assembly

Agree generally easier either after morning drop off, or in a time slot running up to pick up

If listening to readers, school should be clear whether they want you to write in reading records or not. Also give you an opportunity to feedback if you are concerned book is too easy / hard.

Does your school have a PTA op?

bojorojo Thu 23-Jun-16 23:04:08

I am sorry, but Governors are concerned with strategic management of the school. Scouting for parent volunteers is the day to day running of the school and you should not be doing it. Do you and your governing body understand the role of governors? Volunteer by all means but you should not be leading recruitment in this way. It is totally down to SLT and you should know this. It is clearly the Head's decision, it is for the Head to manage and it is for the Head to recruit and report the success or otherwise to governors. You must separate your role as a governor from that as a parent helper. They are totally separate.

HidingBehindThisUsername Thu 23-Jun-16 23:41:23

I am aware of the strategic nature of my role, thank you.

It is a small school. Which has strong community support. I am a parent. I am a parent volunteer. I am a parent governor. I am not intending personally on ra-ra-ra ing to get numbers up, but equally I talk to people. To other parents. And I will ask other parents on the playground if the conversation comes round to it. And direct them to the normal channels (school office).

And the head/Governing Board have been asked by parents what they can do to help support the school. As a Governing body we want to harness the support and answer the question. Strategically we want to improve community involvement again. I am being held up (as parent helper and Governor - therefore known) as someone parents can talk to about what is involved.

Yes the day to day stuff down to SLT - but as a Governor is is forbidden for me to seek ideas/experiences of others?

This is why I have started this thread - to feed into the pot/SLT what ideas could be used to turn back the tide of dwindling volunteers. To get the experience of other schools. As above - the school didn't have a problem in the past - but we need to approach with care going forward

I will feed the information into my next discussion with the head and leave them to act on it. And then ask the head to report on how it is going.

admission Fri 24-Jun-16 11:59:18

I do have to agree with Bojorojo here that this seems to be outside the remit for being a governor, where the role should be strategic.
There is a role for you but it is as a parent helper organising other parents not as a parent governor.
From your posts I think there is a need within the GB as a whole to better understand their strategic roles and also ensure that they are not cramping the day to day responsibilities of the head teacher, one of which should be organising parental help in the classrooms.

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