Volunteering provides opportunities for the local community to engage with your school’s extended services. Here are some suggestions for activities, including awareness days, accreditation opportunities, the arts and the Olympic Games

Volunteering opportunities in environmental studies and art

  • Volunteers’ Week (1-7 June) is an annual event which celebrates the fantastic contribution that millions of volunteers make across the UK. The week plays a huge part in raising the profile of the millions of volunteers who regularly contribute to society, while inspiring others to get involved too. Volunteer England is encouraging organisations to hold events to encourage volunteering and its website can provide a range of resources and materials to highlight and publicise your school’s activity – for more information go to www.volunteersweek
  • The first week of June also sees the United Nations Environment Programme’s World Environment Day (5 June), which is seen as the most important event in the calendar for raising awareness of and participation in climate change activities. Coincidentally, the first week in June also sees the national School Grounds Week, promoted by Learning Through Landscapes (LTL) – see www.ltl.org.uk. LTL’s theme this year is turning your school playground into an outdoor art gallery, so as well as planting raised beds and saplings, volunteers can get involved in painting murals, installing mosaics and creating ceramic planters.
  • For the past three years Malorees School in Brent has used a spare classroom to host an in-house community arts organisation, the Lyndons Arts Trust. This arrangement gives the school access not only to a thriving group of community artists, many of whom work for the organisation on a voluntary basis, but also equipment such as pottery kilns, which have been used to create the vibrantly coloured ceramic tiles and mosaic pieces that now adorn exterior walls in the form of birds, animals and beautiful mosaic trees. See www.lyndonsartstrust.com
  • Using parents as a potential pool of sports tutors can improve your school’s sports activities menu. For example, a parent or staff skills survey which reveals that the dinner lady has a Manchester United season ticket can be encouraged to start the girls’ football team. (If your school has not already benefited from a Football Foundation grant, it is worth considering applying for funding. Grants are periodically made available to fund kit strips, equipment and even resources such as playground floodlighting – see www.footballfoundation.org.uk.) This is also a great way of promoting some of the minority sports that are beginning to flourish in schools – according to a recent TES survey, the 10 fastest growing sports in schools are tennis, fitness, orienteering, badminton, cycling, golf, table tennis, canoeing, archery and martial arts.

Accreditation opportunities for parents and other volunteers

  • Volunteers are an essential aspect of developing a sustainable extended services programme and with the Olympic Games’ call for volunteers, 280,000 people are now registered for the 70,000 available volunteer places. In order to provide volunteers with the necessary skills to run a sports club, all local authorities have funding to run the Community Sports Leadership Award. This 30-hour course is delivered through a variety of programmes but is usually offered during a half-term week at a local leisure centre and for individuals on benefits or even locally resident, the cost of a place is subsidised or free. The local authority’s PE, school sport and club links coordinator (PESSCL) can provide information as to when courses are taking place locally. The Community Sports Leadership Award includes seven core units that cover essential knowledge, from planning and organising each session to understanding progression pathways as participants become more confident and committed to a particular sport. Practical training in first aid, differentiation and pacing a session, teaching the rules, warm-ups, stamina, speed and suppleness building are covered. Participants also learn the funding streams and the national bodies which support the development of sports across the UK.

The Olympic Games provide further opportunities for schools to improve their extended services provision; see ‘Extended services and the Olympics’, below.

  • For London schools, another great way of encouraging parents and carers as volunteers is through the London Development Agency’s Personal Best programme which is running in most boroughs. Personal Best is aimed at unemployed adults, who can achieve a level 1 qualification while on benefits (if claiming) through a 12-week course, supported by 30 hours of volunteering. Although themed to the Olympics, the Personal Best programme skills are generic and transferable to any event management training programme such as public safety, team and interpersonal skills, conflict resolution, equality and diversity and customer relations – see www.personalbestprogramme.co.uk.

Extended services and the Olympics
Whether you are organising a summer play scheme or a Year 6 transition programme, a great resource has been created by a group of schools on the door step of the Olympic site in East London. The East Hackney Schools At the Heart network has produced a cross-curriculum resource that promotes a wide understanding of the games through literacy, numeracy, science, humanities and citizenship. There are five themes that can be used and adapted – so, for example, ‘My Olympics’ gets children designing flags, symbols, signs, mascots and writing their theme songs and anthems, while ‘My Olympic Friends’ looks at the lifestyle of an athlete, healthy nutrition and equalities issues around the Paralympics. Year 6 teachers will be particularly interested in ‘My Olympic Future’, which helps older pupils think about and prepare for transition. For the Schools at the Heart website see www.learninglive.co.uk/teachers/oc/

This e-bulletin issue was first published in April 2010

About the author: Nick Holt is an education consultant. Previously he has been a teacher, local authority commissioning officer and most recently the extended services coordinator for an inner London borough.