Why primary school children need a community of supporters

In recent years there has been increased interest in volunteers returning to support in state schools. Declining budgets and appeals, such as those from The Department of Education and OECD, encouraging understanding of the world of work from the earliest years have contributed significantly to this.

We know primary schools have a long history of drawing upon the time and talent of volunteers to bring wide ranging benefits to their school, children and staff. However, this approach is often disjointed and recent research has highlighted significant disparities across schools in line with deprivation. Primary schools in the wealthiest areas received nearly 5 times more volunteer support in a week than those in the poorest (Body, A & Hogg, E., 2018).

Future First wants to change this and ensure that all primary schools, regardless of the barriers they face, have the opportunity to strategically develop a thriving and engaged community of alumni, parents and local representatives.

 

Experiences of the world of work

Children can only aspire to become what they know exists. Through sharing their personal stories and experiences, school supporters provide pupils with invaluable insights into the world of work. They help to address children’s assumptions and stereotypes while showing them the world of choice and possibility available in their future; higher career aspirations in children have been found to reduce behavioural and emotional problems in school (Flouri, E. & Panourgia C., 2012).

Kim, a Year 5 teacher from Prescot Primary School explains that: “talking to a range of volunteers has allowed [her pupils] to find out about different pathways they had not heard of before and given them new experiences to aspire to. Meeting these role models early on in their lives has meant that their awareness of the world of work and the community around them is both challenged and broadened before they need to make any decisions.”

 

Enhancing the curriculum

Beyond encounters with the world of work, school supporters help to anchor pupils’ learning in real life. They demonstrate the importance of what is learnt in school by showing children how the subject knowledge, skills and characteristics they are developing will be useful as they get older. This increases motivation to learn and children will often produce higher quality work for an authentic audience.

Former pupils, parents and local community representatives are also fantastic role models who can help pupils develop an acceptance of other people and their viewpoints. Just one of the many ways supporters can help enhance the provision of SMSC and British Values development in schools.

 

Providing additional resource

School supporters are often looking to give back in any way they can. From running an after school club, helping with the school play, presenting awards at sports day or supporting philanthropic efforts, there are a huge range of ways they can enhance school life.

Deputy headteacher, Sheila, explains how one of their former pupils provided additional support to their school that they didn’t know they needed! “One of the volunteers during [the Future First] workshops was Brad, a former pupil and currently a parent of our school. He was fantastic and the children really engaged with him. We had a graduation ceremony coming up for our Year 3 – 6 children and we wouldn’t usually have a speaker but we’d heard how well it worked from another Future First primary school and thought it would be an inspiring thing for our school community too.”

 

Making it count

Future First ensures that your supporters are not just people in suits or a uniform but relatable role models. They have often grown up in the same area, visited the same shops and in some cases even sat in the same classroom chairs as your pupils. It is widely recognised that support and advice from the right person can make a big difference to pupils’ lives. This gives children the chance to really understand how someone like them has succeeded.

To find out more about how Future First works with primary schools, get in touch with Amy at amy.cuffley@futurefirst.org.uk.

 

Body, A & Hogg, E. (2018). A Bridge too Far: The increasing role of voluntary action in primary education.

Flouri, E. & Panourgia C. (2012). Do primary school children’s career aspirations matter? The relationship between family poverty, career aspirations and emotional and behavioural problems.