Volunteering in your child’s school

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At a glance

Different ways you can volunteer at your child's school including helping in the classroom and joining school trips.

What is a classroom helper?

Classroom helpers volunteer to assist teachers on a regular basis, usually in primary schools. They help with tasks like listening to pupils read. Reading practice is very labour-intensive, and helpers can make a big difference to teachers and children.

Classroom helpers are often, but not always, parents of children at the school and are not the same as classroom assistants, who are paid staff.

The role of classroom helper

Classroom helpers usually commit to spending regular slots of time in school each week. This time can vary from half an hour to half a day at most.

Many schools prefer not to put you in your child’s class because they consider it disruptive for your child, and possibly unfair to classmates whose parents can’t volunteer.

Classroom helpers make a big difference in improving standards. Even if you’re not helping in your child’s class, research shows that having a parent who volunteers improves a child’s experience of school. This may be because you’re more ‘plugged in’ to school and know what goes on during their day. It’s a great way to get behind the scenes.

How to become a classroom helper

If you’re interested in volunteering, talk to your child’s teacher or the headteacher at their school.

Before you can work in a school, you need to have a police background check. It’s a standard procedure – carried out by the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) in England and Wales and by Disclosure Scotland in Scotland.

You’ll be asked to fill out a straightforward form which is sent off for processing – the check takes 4-6 weeks. If you have any police convictions, you may still be able to volunteer, depending on the kind of conviction.

Other ways to volunteer at your child’s school

Being a classroom helper is only one way to volunteer at your child’s school. There are other things you can do that don’t require a regular commitment.

Teachers often ask for parent volunteers to help with school trips. However, as with being a classroom helper, you probably won’t be looking after your own child directly. Schools also ask parents to help with drama productions or with one-off events at the school.

Another way you can help is by offering your skills. For example, your work experience may be useful to share with pupils at some point in the curriculum - again, not necessarily in your child’s year.

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