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The call for volunteers

North Lanarkshire pupils' performance at the YouthLink awards reflects the importance the authority places on volunteering, says quality improvement officer Pauline O'Neill.

In addition to Jayne Copeland and Catherine Exposito, Zoe Shanks of Airdrie Academy took silver in the peer educator of the year category, for "exceptional work in school", particularly in support of vulnerable youngsters, and Nicole Foster of Coltness High in Wishaw was runner-up in the volunteer of the year category. She volunteers in a range of settings and is particularly committed to her work with ChildLine and the NSPCC.

"We were delighted to have two winners and two runners-up, in competition with all kinds of youth workers, not just school pupils," says Ms O'Neill. "It helps people see that we should celebrate achievement as attainment. Volunteering is a key aspect of our Achievement for All policy."

To raise the status of wider achievement in schools, including volunteering, North Lanarkshire has developed a very useful recording system, she says. "It was fairly easy to customise the management system SEEMIS to do the job. But we are sector-leading and it has generated a lot of interest."

That system depends on someone in each school gathering the data on the numbers of pupils taking part in any of a dozen wider achievement national awards - Millennium Volunteer, John Muir, Prince's Trust, Diana, Young Scot, etc. It shows that Clyde Valley High has more pupils on these schemes than any other school, and that more than 1,000 pupils take part in them in secondary schools across the authority.

The next step is to develop a volunteering course and qualifications, says Ms O'Neill. "We are already talking to the Scottish Qualifications Authority. It is early days, but I would like to see those in place next session."

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