Schools Volunteer Programme
The Retired and Senior Volunteer Programme (RSVP) is part of Community Service Volunteers (CSV). For several years RSVP Scotland has run a programme in certain nursery and primary schools in Edinburgh with 30 older volunteers, supported by an organiser who is herself a volunteer. Volunteers are matched to a primary school close to where they live and undertake to go into school for a morning or afternoon session once a week. They often start off with listening to children read but this can lead to helping with a range of school activities depending on the needs of the children and the skills of the volunteers. Many work with P7 classes as this reflects the importance of additional support during the crucial transition to secondary school. The programme is popular with volunteers, teachers and pupils alike.
Support offered includes help with reading, writing and spelling, maths and computing, use of the school library and supporting children whose first language is not English. One volunteer uses his specialist skills with autistic and dyslexic pupils and with gifted and talented pupils. More generally, volunteers support pupils with special needs, including particular learning difficulties, behavioural problems, poor social skills or a long absence from school. They can also support special projects, for instance, preparation for a mock trial at Edinburgh Sheriff Court and a water ecology project. However not everything is done in the classroom, with gardening in the school grounds, school trips and social occasions, such as school assembly and fund-raising events. The volunteers describe their roles as enjoyable, interesting, encouraging, satisfying and rewarding. They also derive great pleasure from the progress and increased confidence they see in the pupils with whom they work.
Quotes from RSVP volunteers:
“I have received a good welcome in both schools from staff and pupils. They are happy to let me help in any area.”
“I have seen for myself the value in implementing these new skills. The children are enthusiastic and appear much more confident than when I first met them. The teachers have commented on the marked results they have seen.”
“I understand that the library had at one time been ‘manned’ by parent volunteers. However, because of the disclosure requirements, it had become an unused resource over the past two years. They are happy it has come into use again.”
“The RSVP volunteer’s support has been immeasurable throughout the year and the children and I can’t thank her enough for all she does for us.”
Some schools become adept at using the volunteers’ knowledge, experience and skills. One volunteer has worked with P7 gifted and talented pupils on concepts such as scientific notation and proportion. He has also planned and provided enrichment activities, such as work on graphical representation. It is also planned that he will give advice to teachers who are planning a mathematical masterclass. Another volunteer reports, “When the class started a water ecology project, the teacher asked me to share with them my experience of growing up in a country where conservation is vital”.
Overall, it is clear that the RSVP volunteers make a real difference in primary schools for children and teachers alike, through an impressively varied range of contributions.