Even during the current restrictions, schools working with Coram Beanstalk are planning to restore the volunteer programme, which has a proven track record of improving children’s reading confidence and attainment. The charity is aiming to both continue working with its current schools as well as expand into new ones as restrictions ease.
The charity currently has some 1,500 volunteers already supporting thousands of children in schools nationwide and is aiming to sign up 1,000 more over the next year to support children both in person in school, and where that is not possible, online.
The impact of the pandemic, which has seen many children’s education disrupted while also preventing older ‘shielding’ volunteers from going into the schools, has also emphasised a need for younger volunteers. Coram Beanstalk is adapting its programme to enable greater flexibility for volunteers with more limited available time.
From application to introduction to a local school, the whole recruitment journey for new volunteers is currently averaging 30 days from application to completing training and DBS checks.
There is a wealth of evidence that shows that the more children are supported through the programme, the more their attainment and confidence grow across the board. In Coram Beanstalk’s latest schools’ survey:
• 95% said their reading helpers helped children to increase their self-confidence and self-esteem
• 97% agreed their reading helpers helped children to increase their enjoyment of reading
• 98% said their reading helpers helped children to increase their confidence in reading
Ginny Lunn, Managing Director of Coram Beanstalk, said: “The theme of Coram’s Christmas campaign this year is ‘Love and Opportunity’. Our work in schools gives thousands of children the care and opportunity they need to thrive. We are particularly keen to appeal to those people who might previously have been interested in volunteering to help but weren’t in a position to do so.
“At this time of year – and in this of all years – many of us are keen to find a way to help our local communities and especially children whose education is being disrupted so badly. Schools are telling us that they value support in person so we preparing our volunteers now to be ready to meet the demand for classroom support that we believe will return in 2021.
“This is a perfect opportunity to make a real difference, and we are hugely grateful to all of those people who give their time, or if not able to do that make donations, to allow our vital work to continue.”
Schools that partner with Coram Beanstalk are also clear about the benefits volunteers bring.
Ian McDermott, Head Teacher, Sacred Heart RC Primary School, said: “Our volunteer Gladys has worked tirelessly with three of our children who were essentially non-readers. Over the term, she has developed a rapport with these children and this has contributed to a positive working relationship being created between them all. The children’s reading skills have improved significantly and the children are now enjoying all aspects of school more. It is the one intervention I would not be without.”
Jane Jones, Deputy Head, Dormers Wells Junior School, said: “Both our volunteers do a great job. Michelle is amazing, she is flexible and has formed really good relationships with the children. The children are now confident enthusiastic readers, a true gift for life.”
For more information on becoming a volunteer, visit Coram Beanstalk’s website