On September 1st 2015, in time for the new school year, Volunteering Matters will launch Learn Together Cymru.  This ambitious Big Lottery funded project aims to recruit and train a national network of volunteers to support the basic skills of children and young people across  Wales, with the help of strategic partner organisations such as Save the Children, Book Trust Cymru and Communities First.

The project builds on Volunteering Matters’ 50+ years of experience of supporting learning and the 500 Volunteering Matters’ reading volunteers already in place in Welsh primary schools.  It responds to demand from schools for support in other subject areas, as well as from secondary schools, after school clubs and professionals in community and family learning, especially in areas where basic skills levels are poor.  And it aims to recruit, train and support an additional 450 volunteers, who will provide one-to-one support to 21,000 young people over three years.

Learn Together Cymru will target older volunteers – aged 50+ years – through the organisation’s RSVP (Retired and Senior Volunteer) Programme, although it is expected that some proportion of the volunteers will be younger people seeking work-related experience from their placements. All prospective volunteers will undergo reference and criminal records checks before they are placed or signposted on to other projects.

The volunteers will be trained in how literacy develops and have an introduction to child protection, but they will not be trained how to teach.  “The way the support is delivered”, explains project manager Teresa Walters, “will utilise mainly the volunteers’ social skills and their life experience: they will listen to the pupils and help them practice what they are learning through doing.  As well as listening to the children read, volunteers may be with a class which is measuring or drawing, or keeping a pollen count log in the garden; they may be watching pupils weighing ingredients, or use the recipe to explore a foreign culture or healthy eating ideas.  Like our existing volunteers, they will take their lead from the teaching staff, who oversea all activities, and support the teachers’ efforts to embed literacy and numeracy into all subjects.”

Volunteers in learning settings may, to some extent, do what extended family members do: they listen, discuss and praise.  As well as the most obvious benefits – improved literacy and numeracy levels – aims for the project include the community benefits of intergenerational contact and improvements in the volunteers’ well-being, for example through increased community involvement or sense of purpose. As Volunteering Matters is at pains to point out: volunteers’ lives are enriched too; it’s a two way street.

Ann H, a retired civil servant  supporting literacy in her local primary school near Llanelli, says: “I had a great working life doing what I enjoyed doing and was also rewarded with a good pension, which is enabling me to have a full and happy retirement. So it seems only right to give back some of my time to volunteer in my local community ….which is loads of fun and gives me great fulfilment.”

Partners in the project will help to target areas and groups needing support, and provide resources and spaces for learning activities, as well as expertise and training in areas such as literacy learning, numeracy and child safeguarding.    To these ends, Volunteering Matters will work with Save the Children Wales, Book Trust Cymru, Communities First, the Regional School Effectiveness & Improvement Service for North Wales, Swansea Libraries, Pembrokeshire Association of Voluntary Services and WEA Cymru.


More information about Volunteering Matters and their work in Wales is at www.volunteeringmatters.org.uk


Notes to Editors:

Further information from Teresa Walters, 07901 551407 teresa.walters@volunteeringmatters.org.uk

Volunteering Matters www.volunteeringmatters.org.uk/wales (formerly CSV) is the UK’s leading volunteering charity running volunteering and social action programmes. Volunteers make a difference by supporting families in difficulty, young people leaving care, disabled and vulnerable adults and isolated older people.

Save the Children: www.savethechildren.org.uk

Save the Children works in more than 120 countries. We save children’s lives. We fight for their rights. We help them fulfil their potential.  Contact Mererid Lewis, Head of Programmes, Save the Children – Wales, m.lewis@savethechildren.org.uk

Book Trust Cymru: www.booktrust.org.uk

Runs national early reading and bookgifting programmes, including Bookstart and the Pori Drwy Stori literacy and numeracy programme for Reception children. Contact Helen Wales, National Development Manager of Book Trust Cymru, helen.wales@booktrust.org.uk

Communities First http://gov.wales/topics/people-and-communities/communities/communitiesfirst

Works to narrow the economic, education/skills and health gaps between our most deprived and more affluent areas. Contact Debbie Satchel,  Communities First Learning Lead Officer debbie.satchell@co-operative.coop

Regional School Effectiveness & Improvement Service for North Wales  www.gwegogledd.cymru

Swansea Libraries www.swansea.gov.uk/libraries

Pembrokeshire Association of Voluntary Services http://www.pavs.org.uk

WEA Cymru www.wea.org.uk