If you’re looking to recruit volunteers to support your school then parents, grandparents and carers of pupils are an obvious place to start. However, approaching members of the wider community could result in offers of help that will enrich school life in a number of ways. These include:
Mentoring: Invite helpers into the school to aid pupils with their learning, for example as reading partners. This could be for a regular slot each week or on an ad-hoc basis. Bear in mind that a DBS check may be necessary. Visit gov.uk/dbs to find out if this will be required for your particular circumstances.
Speaking to pupils: Everyone has a story to tell, so see who in your community is able to share theirs with your pupils. It may be business owners talking about how they got to where they are, grandparents discussing what life was like when they were young, or hobbyists sharing practical skills.
DIY and maintenance: Hold an open day at the weekend where you invite volunteers to come into school and get their hands dirty by painting, repairing, gardening and building. Play music and provide plenty of refreshments to make it an enjoyable day. If there’s a particularly skilled job that needs to be carried out, see if you can get a tradesman with a link to the school to volunteer their services.
Volunteering at events: You can never have enough manpower at school events, so advertise widely for people to set up, tidy away, run stalls, and more.
It’s not simply a matter of finding out how people could help – you also need to make sure they know that they can be of use. When appealing for support, always make it clear what a difference this could make to the school and pupils. People will always be more willing to help when they know they’re appreciated and really do matter.
Parents are a fantastic resource for a school, not least because they have the biggest incentive for wanting to help – their children. Begin by auditing your parents to find out more about them. What skills do they have? Where do they work? What connections do they have?
Make them aware of different ways in which they can help, with varying levels of commitment. Show them that helping out needn’t be time-consuming by collating a list of quick-and-easy tasks. This could be reading with a child once a week or being a guest speaker in assembly. Ensure they know how important their input is, and always thank people to keep them coming back.
‘We decided to offer parents a takeaway curry to reheat and enjoy at home. Through my glamping company, I have a registered food business, which meant my kitchen could be used for preparation. We bagged up the orders and the food was stored in my large fridge until an hour before collection time, when I transported the food to school in polystyrene containers. Everyone loved it, and we raised around £500! It’s a great way for parents to support the PTA without the time commitment, and we’re confident it’s going to be a regular event.’
Nicola Mills, PTA member, Tibberton Community Primary School, Tibberton, Gloucestershire (107 pupils)
With more and more grandparents helping out with childcare, it’s a natural transition for them to become involved in the school community. While senior supporters potentially have more time to contribute than your parents, they aren’t just an extra pair of helping hands. With a lifetime of experience, they may well have skills and expertise to bring to your school, whether it’s a retired accountant who would make a perfect PTA treasurer, or a former graphic designer ready to help with your next marketing campaign.
‘My granddaughter brought a letter home from school asking for a volunteer to be treasurer of the PTFA, and my daughter-in-law suggested I give it a go. Not having the restrictions of a job or a young family meant I was free to help out whenever needed. The headteacher then said they were looking for midday supervisors and asked if I would be interested. I discovered at the age of 60 how much I enjoyed working with children.’
Sue Stone, former PTFA treasurer, Greenleas School, Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire (560 pupils)
Your school alumni will clearly increase year-on-year, meaning there is huge potential for support – but engaging with them can be tricky due to GDPR. You’re able to contact your alumni with the information you have – providing you’re entitled to still hold the information – as this falls under legitimate interest.
Bear in mind that when contacting alumni via email or SMS, you must have permission in order to comply with the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR). Be sure not to bombard them with communications as this could damage the potential of a long-lasting relationship.
An alternative means of contact is social media. Make an alumni group for people to join of their own accord. Use this to keep them up to date with what’s happening in the school and how they can help.
Pupils who have fond memories of the school will want to ensure it’s doing well and will want to help where they can. This could be through set monetary donations, or by offering their skills to help the school. Invite people back to talk at careers events or to run workshops.
Schools are often at the heart of a community, which is why it makes sense to pull in the support of people who aren’t directly linked to the school. A way of making a real impact is a project that benefits and brings together the school and community, for example setting up a computer café where those outside the school can drop in and learn computer skills from older pupils. This will enable pupils to develop their knowledge and communication skills, while proving the school with a valuable asset that people will want to support.
If you hold events, open these up to the public. Not only will this mean more footfall and therefore more profit, but you will also have a captive audience to whom you can spread your message. Promote the result of the event publicly too, include how much profit was made, resources purchased and the impact it has had on the children.
‘After running the village May Fair for 10 years, our local Scouts group offered our school the opportunity to take it over. Seeing the financial potential, we decided to give it a go. After four months of planning, the event was held on the village recreation ground on the May bank holiday afternoon. Our target was £4,500 in the first year but we exceeded it by £1,100. Last year we raised £7,120. Feedback has been amazing, and we’re predicting 2,000+ attendees this year.’
Lizell Williams, PTFA chair, Headcorn Primary School, Headcorn, Kent (240 pupils)
The key is to find out what skills people have, and how they can transfer these to the school: