Volunteering in education is incredibly rewarding and gives you a fantastic opportunity to help shape young people’s lives, and with them, the very future of your local community. And whether or not you have children yourself you can make a real impact by getting involved with schools and young people’s services in your area.
Whether you’re a governor working hard to make your school an inclusive environment, leading your own campaign against homophobic bullying as a Stonewall Youth Volunteer or a teacher being a positive role model in your school - all are deeply rewarding experiences.
There are many reasons why you might want to get involved with the education system – because you believe everyone should receive a good quality education, because you want to help support your local school or because you want to be involved in your child’s school community. You might also want to get involved to help tackle homophobic attitudes amongst young people and homophobic bullying in schools.
Research has shown that it is something that really needs to be addressed. Two thirds of young lesbian, gay and bisexual people experience homophobic bullying in Britain’s schools but only a quarter of schools say that it is wrong. In schools that do, young people are 60 per cent more likely not to have been bullied. Meanwhile pupils who are taught about lesbian and gay issues are 60 per cent more likely to be happy at school and 40 per cent are more likely to feel respected.
Whether you’re a parent, teacher, student or just someone with an interest in schools it’s easy to get involved. And there’s a range of opportunities to suit you - whether you want to make a regular commitment or you’re only able to volunteer for a few hours now and then. Why not take a look at the different ways you can get involved:
You may not have the time to volunteer for a specific role but there is plenty you can do to help improve schools, colleges and universities for everyone and to help tackle homophobia and homophobic bullying. You could:
Every primary and secondary state school has a governing body made up of school governors. A board of governors are responsible for all the strategic decisions of the school and hold the senior staff at the school to account – this includes hiring the head-teacher, setting policies, authorising budgets and more. Governors can therefore play a crucial role in schools tackling homophobia and homophobic bullying.
Whilst some positions on a board of governors are reserved for certain groups (such as parents or teachers) all boards have positions open to the local community – you don’t have to have children at the school, or have children at all, to be a school governor. As an openly gay school governor you can help challenge stereotypes and bring homophobic bullying onto the agenda at the school.
No qualifications are required, but you must be over 18. A governing body normally meets about four times per academic year. Governors spend around six to eight hours each school month on related activities including other events and preparatory reading.
For more information about becoming a governor visit:
Department of Education www.education.gov.uk/schools/leadership/governance/becomingagovernor School Governors’ One-Stop Shop: www.sgoss.org.uk National Governors’ Association: www.nga.org.uk/beagovernor.aspx
Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs) are groups that bring together parents and teachers to discuss matters relating to the school. PTAs are not a legal requirement – unlike a school’s board of governors – but many schools see them as a useful way to engage with parents.
If you have children you should take part in their school’s PTA, if there is one. This can involve everything from learning more about the school’s plans to tackle homophobic bullying to helping out at events or raising funds for the school.
If there’s no PTA at your child’s school you can take the initiative and set one up yourself. First you should meet the head-teacher to discuss your plans and gain their support.
For more information about PTAs and how to set one up, the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations represents all PTAs to ensure they have a national voice in political debates.
Schools always need volunteers to help as reading assistants and with breakfast clubs, sports teams, school plays and a wide variety of other roles. This type of volunteering can be very flexible and you can give as much or as little time as you feel able.
And of course as an openly gay person you would be a really positive role model to young people, challenging stereotypes and helping to make young people to feel more confident and comfortable.
You’ll have to undergo Criminal Records Bureau checks and become familiar with safeguarding issues if you are going to work with children. Safeguarding is about how organisations ensure that children and vulnerable adults are protected from abuse or neglect, and that their health and development is fully supported.
To find out about volunteering opportunities with schools in your local area contact your local council or school.
If you are a teacher you’ll know that positive role models are essential in helping young people to feel more confident and comfortable with who they are. Sadly, Lesbian, gay and bisexual role models are in short supply. As a result over 60 per cent of young lesbian and gay people feel there’s neither an adult at home nor school who they can talk to about being gay. If you feel able to be a visible LGB role model in your school this can have a huge impact on your LGB students.
It’s important to have support from your Senior Management Team as it can be hard to come out in any workplace. It’s also important that there’s consistency in the school’s approach to these issues.
Stonewall have produced a guide to Supporting LGB young people which you may find useful. We also have information about what to do if you feel you’ve been discriminated against.
The Stonewall Youth Volunteering Programme gives you the opportunity to lead change in your community.
If you want to make your area safer for LGB young people and other young people affected by homophobic bullying, or you want to help promote a positive environment for LGB young people where difference is valued and celebrated, then the Stonewall Youth Volunteering Programme is perfect for you.
All you need to get involved is to be aged 16 to 21, living in England and willing to make change by leading your own campaign! To take part you don’t need to be LGB and you can be studying or at work - the programme is open to everyone.
Homophobic bullying is rife in secondary schools but there are many ways that secondary school students can make a difference.
For the last few years Stonewall has been working with young people to develop their own campaigns to tackle homophobia and homophobic bullying in local schools. There are many different things young people have done which have really helped change the attitudes of young people and made schools better places for all students.
As a student there’s lots you can do including:
As a college or university student you can play a crucial role in making it better for all students, including lesbian, gay and bisexual students. You can get involved officially by standing for a position in your Student’s Union - see our Politics and Democracy page for more information.
If you’re at college or university there are other ways you can get involved without standing for election. You could:
The Education Department’s web-pages are here
The web-pages of the National Union of Teachers are here
The web-pages of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers are here