More phone counsellors come from teaching than from any other profession. William Stewart reports
Hannah Miller may spend all week talking to children but that does not stop her getting up early every Sunday to spend four hours taking calls for ChildLine.
"It is really rewarding work and a very different experience speaking to children on the telephone to working with them in the classroom," said the 24-year-old reception teacher. "I drive an hour each way to get to ChildLine because I get such a buzz from it."
The Hertfordshire teacher is not alone. A survey by the charity has revealed the caring side of the profession: more of its counsellors come from teaching than from any other profession.
Nine per cent of the unpaid volunteers were teachers, with 10 per cent working in education, the charity found. Retired people came next with 9 per cent, followed by students (8 per cent) and healthcare workers (7 per cent).
"This is a pleasant surprise," said Adrian Brown from ChildLine. "It is really positive that so many people working with children want to help them in their spare time as well."
But the findings do not surprise Mary Bousted, Association of Teachers and Lecturers general secretary.
She said: "One of the principal requirements of the job is that you like children and want to make their lives better so it does not surprise me teachers should take their skills and knowledge into charity work."
Ms Miller has been working at the charity's London call centre since she began teaching in September 2003. She said her two roles were complementary: working with ChildLine had allowed her to gain listening and counselling skills making it easier to understand her pupils' needs.
It also worked the other way: "I think because I work with children on a day-to-day basis I am able to relate to them very easily."
Many of the calls she takes are about bullying and to a lesser extent other school issues such as exam stress, moving schools or coursework problems.
The charity's policy of anonymity for its counsellors meant she cannot reveal to callers that she is a teacher, but, she said, the day job definitely helps.
ChildLine, founded by Esther Rantzen in 1986, is trying to recruit another 500 volunteers to help on the 24-hour free helpline. Around 2,300 children a day speak to the charity but hundreds more cannot get through because it does not have enough counsellors.
Mr Brown said: "We would like to see more teachers volunteering. We think they have got excellent skills to offer and there is a lot they can get out of it to put back into the profession."
To find out more about volunteering with ChildLine call 0870 3362993 or visit www.childline.org.uk