FAQs for volunteers
Thank you so much for your interest in volunteering your time. We know that you will have some questions. Below are the questions most frequently asked about volunteering. If you have any further queries, please don't hesitate to contact us via email email@example.com or telephone 01234 924111, we would love to hear from you.
Do I have to commit to volunteering for a set length of time?
In order to provide consistent help to the children and school, we ask that our volunteers are prepared to attend school at the agreed time on the same day once a week for at least 1 hour, and stay with us for at least one full academic year from when you start in school.
Many volunteers are at school for longer than 1 hour and some also go on multiple days. The time commitment is arranged to suit the volunteers availability and the schools’ need.
Will I need an Enhanced DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) check?
Yes, you will need to have an Enhanced DBS check carried out by the school prior to starting in school.
Once you are matched with a school, staff there will organise this for you. Click here to find out more about the Enhanced DBS check. If you are already registered on the DBS update service https://www.gov.uk/dbs-update-service) this will be checked by the school.
Will I be able to take holidays during term time?
Many of our volunteers take holidays during term time. These arrangements are made directly with the school who we find are always happy to accommodate planned absences.
Where and when will my sessions take place?
Schoolreaders sessions take place on the school premises during normal academic hours at times that you agree in advance with the school staff. Every school makes its own arrangement with its volunteers, so it should be possible to find a time that suits you.
Sessions often take place in libraries and empty classrooms, or in any other quiet space, but in a very busy school it can be harder to find an unused area, so you may need to be prepared for this.
How many children will I see? Do I see the same children each week?
Each school will make its own decision about which classes and children should receive help from a Schoolreaders volunteer and we encourage teachers to talk to our volunteers about what works best.
Most 1:1 sessions last around ten minutes with each child, but some may be longer and it does depend on the age and ability of the child. Each school uses our volunteers differently, so some volunteers see the same few children each week, while some will get to spend time with every member of the class over a term. On average, volunteers listen to 10 children read in a 2 hour session.
Will I receive any training?
Your main training and guidance will be provided by the school, and depends on your experience along with the age and needs of the children you will be supporting. It may include guidance on reading support techniques, and will include school safeguarding guidance, to provide you with the correct procedure in the unlikely event of a disclosure of abuse from a child, or if you have any concerns over a child’s safety. The school will also make you aware of any necessary health and safety, GDPR and evacuation procedures.
Schoolreaders has a supplementary mandatory Safeguarding Guidance for Volunteers that all new volunteers complete before starting in school. We also have a mandatory online Reading Support Guidance course for volunteers. This covers some of the basic principles and best practice of supporting children with their reading. We also have a Volunteer Resource section of our website with specific Key Stage 1 and 2 guidance and links to additional resources.
How do I apply and what happens next?
If you would like to apply to become a Schoolreaders volunteer, you can do so either via this website or we can post you a paper application form. You will then arrange a time convenient for you to have a short phone interview with one of the Operations Team where we find out more about you to enable us to make the best school match.
The link to arrange an interview comes by email if you have provided an email address, so please check your junk folders if you haven’t received it. Following a successful interview, we will then work to match you to a partner school based on the distance you can travel and days you are free. If there isn’t yet a partner school in your location we will approach schools to join the scheme. Once accepted by a school you will go and meet with them and begin the DBS process and complete any other guidance their policies require.
Can I claim expenses?
We regret that we are unable to pay your expenses, but we do make every effort to find a school that is easy for you to travel to and from. Many of our volunteers are able to walk from home to their school.
How long will it take me to start?
We make every effort to get you started as quickly as possible. Please note, however, that depending on your location, the time it takes to complete the DBS check, individual circumstances and the level of need within local schools, it can take anything from two weeks to three months* to place you. (* But this can be longer if you are not matched with a local school before the school holidays).
Will being a Schoolreader cost me anything?
No, it's completely free to become a Schoolreader (and the service is also completely free to the schools who use it). Our administration costs are met by the fundraising efforts of our central team and our supporters. The vast majority of our partner schools are happy to pay the administration fee of the Enhanced DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) check for each volunteer.
Can I change schools?
Ideally, volunteers will stay at the same school for the minimum commitment of one academic year as the consistent support to children is what makes the difference. However, we can, in some circumstances, arrange for you to change schools e.g. if you move house. We also have some volunteers who love it so much, they volunteer at two schools!
What if I need help or support?
In the first instance you should talk to your nominated co-ordinator or class teacher at school. Or, if you feel it more appropriate, you can contact the Schoolreaders team directly on the number below or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be happy to provide advice and speak to the school if needed. If you have a safeguarding concern, you should speak to the Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL) at your school as soon as possible, and let Schoolreaders DSL know that you have raised a concern, but none of the detail.
How old do I need to be to volunteer?
We can only accept volunteers who are aged 18 and over. This is due to the level of supervision a younger person might need within the school as well as school policies for under 18 volunteers. There is no upper age limit.
Do I need experience in schools or any qualifications?
No, you don’t need to have previous experience in schools, nor any qualifications nor to have volunteered before. Schoolreaders volunteers do need to be able to speak, write and read fluently in English, enjoy spending time with children, be committed to the role and dependable.
Does Schoolreaders work near me?
Schoolreaders covers England and also has some schools in Wales. Since starting in 2013, we have expanded steadily and have partner schools in almost every county in England. We are focused on supporting children in areas of high deprivation as a priority. That means that although we are open to all state primary schools our work does concentrate on schools in specific counties and towns. Our application form will let you know where we are currently seeking volunteers. If you are able to volunteer in those areas, we will contact schools to join the scheme if there is not a partner school already registered with us near you.
Will I get feedback from the school?
Some schools are able to give regular feedback to volunteers, others do it termly or ad hoc if there is something that they would like to communicate. Each school works in its own way, but as you know they are incredibly busy places and so if you would like any specific feedback, one effective method is to e-mail the teacher and they can then come back to you at a time that works, as they are often teaching when you are volunteering.
What is Schoolreaders' Impact?
Schools appreciate the time and dedication their Schoolreaders volunteers bring, click here to read their feedback. Our volunteers love their time each week in school, listening to children read. Click here to read about some of their experiences. We conduct annual impact research in partnership with the Institute for Research in Education at the University of Bedfordshire, the results have shown an overwhelming positive impact to a child of being supported by a Schoolreaders volunteer. The 2022 results can be found here.