In my experience, schools place a high value on the support they receive from volunteers. The beginnings may be very small - one assembly to speak about Christmas or Easter from a Christian perspective, for instance. It's very important for any volunteer who hopes to develop their work in an educational setting to be professional in their approach from the very beginning. This includes personal appearance and attitude; relevant training to deliver high quality work and a good understanding and adherence to the policies and procedures of the educational setting.
I believe that the best way to develop work in a particular educational setting is relationally, by building trust based on high standards; showing awareness of the unique environment that exists in an educational setting; showing respect for staff and pupils and never having a hidden agenda to the work. Most of our opportunities to develop our work have arisen through conversations in staff rooms and during or after events in a school.
To develop work on a larger scale, e.g. across several schools, communication and reputation are key. We try to keep schools informed of the support we offer by post or email and in person, including comments from staff and pupils who have been involved in our events and activities. Inviting staff to events such as prayer meetings and services focusing on local schools and our work is another good way to promote the support we offer.
It is also key to find out what support needs the school has, rather than devoting time and resources developing programmes that are not needed. Some needs expressed by schools may be outside our area of work or beyond our expertise. If a need is identified that coincides with our aims and ethos as a Christian organisation, we will consider offering our support. If it is beyond our current expertise, we could look for volunteers with the right expertise who are willing to work with us, or consider training a staff member or volunteer. I have done this to be able to help meet Pastoral Care needs in local schools, by obtaining training in Mentoring, Sex and Relationships Education and Grief Support.
Our ongoing plans to develop our work in educational settings includes:
See individual post