Local volunteers come forward to support WLZ children Blog by Emily Barran – Partnerships Manager When we started work with Ark Swift Primary Academy, it did not have any local or parent volunteers to practice reading with individual children. The new Principal, Jason Marantz, asked us to find some because he felt strongly that this was an important role for WLZ – the children needed this type of support and WLZ strives to motivate the community to support itself, so it was exactly the type of support we should be mobilising. We knew two organisations that might be able to help different parts of the puzzle: Beanstalk Charity is a national organisation that provides opportunities for professionals to volunteer in schools as reading helpers. Big Local is an initiative in White City that invests in community development and provides volunteering opportunities to residents, who are often looking to get back to work. We invited Helen, the Area Manager of Beanstalk Charity to come down and meet Angela, the volunteer coordinator for Big Local, based at the White City Community Centre on the estate.Sitting in the hall at the Community Centre, we explained what we thought was needed: some local residents who could volunteer regularly over a year to give the children a chance to practice their reading and improve their literacy skills. It would also be an opportunity for the children to build a relationship with a trusted adult from the local area on a 1:1 basis, and to have some undivided attention twice a week. Much to our relief, Helen and Angela responded with huge enthusiasm. We thought about what type of additional support the volunteers from non-traditional backgrounds might need, and confirmed that the commitment and professional standards expected of the volunteers would need to be made very clear up front. We quickly put together a plan and as a result, four volunteers have started at the school, taking the number of children who get support for their reading to 18. The volunteers are local residents, some of whom haven’t spent any time in the school before, and who have been looking for opportunities before transitioning back into work. Mr Marantz is thrilled and more parents of the children have now asked to be included – which increases the chances that they will read more with their children at home as well.