The majority of schools pride themselves on providing their pupils with the means to be successful and fulfilled. Our young people are guided by their teachers to become active and responsible citizens who make a positive and valuable contribution to the wider community.
But it’s not just the pupils who should have the opportunity to learn and thrive. Teachers too need the tools, support and budget to take ownership of their professional development. This not only raises educational standards, but it's also a great way to combat the current retention crisis. And volunteering is a good way to offer staff CPD opportunities.
Why volunteering? Well, we already know that the benefits volunteering offers young people are plentiful. But I wholeheartedly believe that offering teachers the chance to develop their skills outside of the classroom – the kind of skills they can’t acquire in a lesson environment – is the missing piece of the jigsaw.
As teachers, we all know it can be hard to find the time for yourself, let alone help run extracurricular activities. But as a school leader, I highly value those who volunteer with young people in their spare time. Showing willingness to go the extra mile demonstrates a level of commitment to young people and the job in hand, both of which are incredibly important attributes.
Extra-curricular activities wouldn’t exist without the generosity of teachers who dedicate their spare time to provide students with self-development opportunities outside the four walls of a classroom. I often find that volunteering offers teachers (especially those in their early careers) the chance to build on their working relationships as a member of the school community and their reputation as a leader.
For those teachers who want to develop professionally, demonstrating skills such as leadership, line management, recruitment, budgeting and planning are all important. These are skills I specifically look for when recruiting and promotion, and volunteering provides the perfect opportunity to perfect them.
In my experience, it is often the case that the teachers who volunteer benefit from opportunities to be happier, more confident and develop stronger working relationships with students and colleagues than if they had not.
Effective CPD is a combination of both theory and practice: this is where volunteering to run extracurricular activities, such as The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, can offer several benefits to both pupils and teachers. Not only does it give you a new perspective on young people, the local community and society, it gives you the time to create bonds with students that will make the day-to-day job of teaching easier. And possibly for some, clear your head of some of the hassles of the job – even if it is just for a few hours a week.
In my school, we have a prime example of a member of staff who has developed her career through volunteering. Ms Baker was a PE teacher who helped to run the DofE programme with other members of staff. It was through the programme that her organisational, managerial and recruitment skills improved. And it was these skills that gave her the edge when it came to applying for the role of head of enrichment. It was that that little bit extra, that passion for supporting our students in their quest for self-development, as well as her skills as a teacher, that made her a truly exceptional candidate.
Being able to acquire experience and knowledge is vital for any teacher, and volunteering is a fulfilling, active and fun way to do this.
Michael Pennington is the head teacher of The Blue Coat School in Liverpool