Andy is one of the education volunteers helping children at Loudwater Combined School as part of the Education Aid initiative set up by High Wycombe Mutual Aid.
He says it has given him a whole new appreciation of teachers and the school environment, as well helped to brush up his own maths skills.
What led you to volunteer? I initially signed up as a volunteer in the first lockdown in the Spring. At that time there were lots of messages about the health services being overwhelmed and significant uncertainty about how long the crisis might go on. I felt it was the right thing to do to volunteer as part of the community effort to get us all through it.
What attracted you to the Education Volunteer role? I spotted the role in one of the Volunteer Matching Service update emails and thought that it was something I could help with and so put myself forward. I’d seen first-hand what my own two boys (aged 11 and 13) were missing out on from not being at school due to the lockdown home-schooling situation.
What do you do as a volunteer at Loudwater School? After the obligatory security checks and safeguarding training, I was asked to support a Year 6 Maths group.
The support sessions follow what the teacher has been doing with the class that day, observing and helping a couple of children work through the exercises set by the teacher. The teacher selects which pupils will join each session with an Education Volunteer based on who would benefit from the personalised support.
I don’t teach them anything as such, instead I sit with them as they work through the exercises keeping them on track in line with the syllabus and helping out if they make mistakes or need help. This helps the children progress more quickly and gain confidence in the subject.
I’d only done a couple of visits and unfortunately there is currently a pause in the sessions as we go into the second national lockdown, but I am looking forward to becoming a familiar face in the classroom.
Is there a challenging aspect to your volunteering? Although I am comfortable with maths as a topic, I found that some terminology has changed since I learned my maths skills and it is important to describe how to do something in the same way that the children have been taught. The children really whiz through their questions, so the speed of my mental arithmetic needed to be faster just to keep up – particularly when multiplying big numbers.
What do you gain personally from volunteering? At a general level there is the philanthropic reward, knowing that I have been able to ‘give something back’. Volunteering in the school is a new experience, arriving on the scene as ‘the new guy’ and testing my mental agility. It has also widened my perspective, giving me a much better appreciation of everything that teachers do.
What difference does volunteering at the school make to others? The aim of the initiative is to help children catch-up from the impact of the first lockdown, by providing additional support where it will help them. Also I suspect it helps the children to have a different voice reinforcing what they have been learning in class in a supportive, not overbearing way.
Having more adults on hand to help out also benefits the teachers to deliver the best possible learning environment. Having the volunteers there to support the lunchtime ‘homework catch-up’ sessions means that teachers get time for a short lunch break before their afternoon classes.
Would you recommend this type of volunteering? Yes – there are benefits both ways and, from the school’s and children’s perspective, any help that can be provided can only be for the good.
Finally – a quote from the Headteacher: “There are now twelve volunteers working across the school focusing on supporting children with reading and comprehension skills as well as basic maths skills; their work is directed and supported by the class teachers.
“This project is developing into a truly valuable experience; for school staff, pupils and I hope for the volunteers.”
If you would like to know more about Wycombe Mutual Aid, visit www.wycombe-mutual-aid.org
If you are looking for a volunteering role, you can register your interest with the Buckinghamshire Volunteer Matching Service.Back