Top tips on how to gain volunteer work with children

How to gain volunteering experience with children

If you are looking to work with children, volunteering provides invaluable experience for those wanting a career in the classroom. There are different ways to gain experience that include volunteering in a school, helping out at a local community group and paid internships.

We spoke to Ashley Wicken from the Thinking Schools Academy Trust (TSAT) and Dr Susannah Smith from the University of Chichester who shared their top tips on how to find opportunities and the importance of having experience before applying for teacher training.

How to gain classroom experience at a school?

If you want to gain classroom experience, contact a school in the first instance to see if they can help. You could contact your old school or one nearby and ask if they offer volunteering roles. As Dr Susannah Smith explains:

Experience in a primary school classroom before you apply for teacher training is very valuable but it can be difficult to get find a school willing to take you on. You are more likely to be successful if you go through a personal contact - a relative or friend who works in a school. Or if you still live locally to the primary school you attended, approach them and ask if they would take you on as a volunteer.

Dr Susannah Smith, University of Chichester

A top tip from the Thinking Schools Academy Trust is to contact multi-academy trusts, an organisation who oversees different schools in the area:

It is possible to reach multiple schools with one email when you contact multi academy trusts (MATs) and/or school centered initial teacher training providers (SCITTs). Establishing links to SCITTs which are useful as they will typically interview you for a teacher training place when you are ready to apply.

Ashley Wicken, Thinking Schools Academy Trust

What experience can I gain?

Experience comes in different shapes and forms. It can come from working or volunteering with children outside of the classroom. You could draw upon your own experience as a scout or guide. If there is a club or group nearby, see if you can volunteer with them. Or even a holiday club you were once part of. If you know the organiser, ask if you could help during the holidays. Any experience you gain working with children will give you an edge over other candidates making you stand out at interview. 

Volunteering with children does not have to be in a classroom setting. Experience with primary-aged children through activities, e.g. holiday camps, scouting/guiding groups, sports clubs, are all worthwhile and will give you something to reflect on and talk about at an interview for a teacher training course.

Dr Susannah Smith, University of Chichester

Another top tip from TSAT is that undergraduates can gain experience from paid internships, using the internships programme run by The Department for Education as an example. 

The Department for Education paid internship programme for undergraduates and their school experience days should be the first port of call for anybody looking for school experience.

Ashley Wicken, Thinking Schools Academy Trust

Interestingly, you could mix your love of travel with the ability to work with children as TSAT pointed out.

Paid summer roles through organisations like Camp America or Teach English Abroad are a great way to combine your love of travel whilst gaining experience working with young people.

Ashley Wicken, Thinking Schools Academy Trust

If you'd like to look at working abroad or gaining teaching experience, visit the British Council website for more information.  

What else can I do?

This list is far from exhaustive but gives you a good starting point when considering your options. TSAT provided a final top tip about their ideal candidate for a teacher training course. 

They should ensure they have an overview of what is covered in the national curriculum in their subject. BBC Bitesize is a great way to refresh your memory on any parts of the school curriculum you are unfamiliar with. I would also recommend engaging with some of the most influential authors in UK Education, some examples would include: Adam Boxer, Daisy Christodoulou, Mary Myatt, Tom Sherrington, Bill Rogers and Tom Sherrington.

Ashley Wicken, Thinking Schools Academy Trust

Interested in becoming a teacher?

Are you inspired and ready to embark on your teacher training journey? Read more about different routes on the Teach Portsmouth website. 

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