20 May 2013

Northamptonshire County Council is launching the next phase of its campaign to encourage more people to get involved and volunteer in their local community.

With the focus of the current phase of the Get Involved campaign on supporting schools and learning, the council is leading the call for more reading helpers in primary schools and more school governors.

Council Leader Jim Harker said: “We launched our Get Involved campaign in February as a way of co-ordinating the multitude of volunteering opportunities across our services. The campaign groups the volunteering opportunities into themes so we can have a rolling programme throughout the year.

“This latest phase highlights opportunities to raise standards of learning and education in the county, whether by improving an individual child’s reading skills or providing strategic direction to a school.”

Reading helpers are volunteers who go into a school to help individual children with their reading skills. The council works with the Beanstalk charity which trains volunteers and sends them into primary schools to talk, read and play with children aged 6 to 11.

The Northamptonshire branch of Beanstalk currently works in 66 schools across the county, where 127 reading helpers support 381 children. The aim is to double the number of Beanstalk volunteers in the next five years.

Volunteers must be able to spare three hours per week, plus travel time. They must be able to visit a local school twice a week for 90 minutes per visit during term time.

Christine Thomas, Beanstalk’s volunteer services manager for Northamptonshire, said: “We’re working with the council to help support more local children who are struggling with their reading, to give them the vital literacy skills they need to be successful in life.

“Our reading helpers go into a local primary school twice a week for a whole year to provide one-to-one literacy support to three children for half an hour each. This regular, individual support helps build their literacy skills, self-confidence and self esteem, a proven, effective early intervention model.”

While reading helpers work with children on a one-to-one basis, school governors work on behalf of the entire school. The country’s largest volunteer force, school governors have an important part to play in raising school standards by working with the head teacher and senior management. They help the school focus strategically on raising standards of achievement for all pupils at the school, for setting the budget and for overseeing the curriculum.

Pete Banks is the chair of governors for The Grange School in Daventry with 30 years’ experience as a governor. He said: “I’m a strong believer that a good education is every child’s right. I’m lucky that my school has a great head, and a supportive governing body with a good mix of skills.

“Anyone can be a school governor. You don’t need a background in education or have to be a parent. Actually, a governor body is stronger for having a good mix of people with varied skills and view points.

“You just need common sense and to be committed to providing the best for the children by encouraging, supporting, and challenging the school management.”

Being a volunteer is a chance for people to gain experience and new skills, receive training, grow in confidence, make new friends and at the same time, do something worthwhile.

To find out more about these volunteering opportunities, people can visit the dedicated Get Involved section of the council website.

These pages give details of what opportunities are available, including videos of local volunteers sharing their experiences and thoughts on volunteering.