Mayor invests £550,000 to get schools and universities volunteering

25 September 2013

The Mayor of London Boris Johnson is calling on schoolchildren and students in the capital to give something back in a bid to create the next generation of volunteers and equip them with vital skills. Through Team London, the Mayor's volunteering programme, he is committing £550,000 to get every primary and secondary school volunteering in their local community, whilst also offering students the chance to boost their CVs by match-making them with targeted charity work placements.

The Mayor has joined up with the charity Free the Children UK to deliver the schools volunteer programme, through which schools will work with borough volunteers to deliver projects that make a real difference in their local community. The aim is to involve over 50,000 schoolchildren, with schools receiving teaching resources, presentations and workshops, in addition to hands-on support.

In a recent report, Ofsted found that well-managed volunteering programmes in schools support young people's learning and development, and provide a way for them to engage constructively in civil society.

Volunteering is also increasingly recognised as an asset for students, especially for those about to graduate and enter the highly competitive job market. It is more important than ever for students to gain relevant work experience and in a recent survey, 77 per cent of employers said they would favour employing someone with volunteering experience over someone without it.

The Mayor also confirmed today that he has teamed up with charity Selfless, to encourage university students to take up voluntary work placements during their studies, to boost their job chances while giving something back to London.

Selfless will receive £15,000 to bring their successful online match-making service to London universities. Students can post their skills on the site and be paired with a relevant organisation that needs their assistance. The charity has had resounding success across the UK with over 1000 successful placements to date.

The Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: 'Young Londoners have a huge part to play in the success of our city which is why we want to encourage them to volunteer in larger numbers, whether in school or at university. This will have fantastic benefits. Not only will volunteering help younger people give something back to their community – a boon in a vast city like ours – it will also enhance their future employability prospects by building self-confidence and developing new skills.'

Free the Children UK has been already successfully piloted the schools programme in twelve locations across London. This included St Saviours' School in Lambeth, where pupils got involved in a range of projects including a 'school council'; they also grew plants and decorated the pots throughout the term, before donating them to a nearby residential home, where they spent time talking and playing games with the residents. The project was so successful that the school will be run the project again and this year's council is already oversubscribed.

Flora Vidal, Higher Level Teaching Assistant, Pilot Primary School, St Saviour's C of E Lambeth, said: 'The response of our pupils to the volunteering project has been amazing. We've been able to raise awareness among the whole school community about the different types of volunteering taking place and all pupils have contributed valid input towards the project, taking responsibility to ensure it was a success.

'The scheme also helped to increase our school councils' confidence in expressing and sharing their views and opinions by preparing the first ever school council assembly, writing to the Mayor Boris Johnson and asking the school's Parents, Staff and Friends Association for funds to buy pots and plants. Its success has highlighted the importance of the school council involving other pupils, with more than half of the children in each class now volunteering to be school council representatives for 2013-2014. Parents and carers have consistently praised this initiative, telling us that their child thoroughly enjoyed being part of school council and that their confidence has grown.'

Marc Kielburger, co-founder of Free The Children, said: 'We are thrilled to be working with Team London to engage young people eager to make a difference. We have seen first-hand that involving students in their communities creates an atmosphere of caring and compassion, and over the years, we’ve seen the confidence and social conscience of hundreds of thousands of young people involved in our programmes grow and flourish. We know young people here are passionate about getting involved and I can’t wait to see the impact they have on their communities and the city.'

The Team London scheme targeting students is being delivered by the Selfless charity, which has also had success in encouraging graduates to get volunteering. Many of them are finding it an asset for potential employers.

Selfless volunteer and former graduate Abdul Mumin Khan, who now works at Barclays Capital, said: 'I registered with Selfless to do something useful in my spare time at university. I got involved and was soon bitten by the volunteering bug! I built up a positive reputation and was able to talk about the breadth of experience I gained through volunteering at my interview. I'm really happy to be working for Barclays Capital now and enjoy what I do.'

Naeem Ahmed, Chief Executive Selfless, said: 'Selfless began with a few medical students giving up their time to educate local community groups on leading a healthier lifestyle, but it quickly caught on. Team London have helped us grow as an organisation and we're thrilled we can now provide a London-wide service to meet volunteering needs of young adults.'

Veronica Wadley, the Mayor's Advisor on Volunteering, commented: 'Our new Team London schemes will make a huge difference to the lives of Londoners across the capital, but they will also make a positive difference to the lives of those young people giving up their time. In getting out into the community they will be acquiring new skills and building new networks, developing critical experience through their volunteering to support them when seeking job opportunities in the future. We know that potential employers are more likely to employ candidates with volunteering experience than those without in an increasingly competitive jobs market. The Team London schools programme has been made possible by the GLA Olympic underspend, which ensures there is a lasting volunteering legacy from the 2012 Olympics for young Londoners.'

Notes to editors

1. The new schools programme will be officially launched at the Team London Schools Volunteering Conference on 30 September 2013 with speakers including young volunteers, Veronica Wadley, Mayor of London’s Senior Adviser for Team London and Marc Kielburger from Free the Children UK.

2. Team London, the Mayor of London’s volunteering programme, was launched in 2011 to help ensure that volunteering and volunteers were having the greatest possible impact on London’s highest areas of need. The project was inspired by Mayor Bloomberg's Cities of Service model. Since 2011, 68 per cent of Londoners have been involved in some form of volunteering, from mentoring a young reader through to planting vegetables. More than 30,000 volunteering opportunities are available from over 400 organisations on the Team London website. http://volunteerteam.london.gov.uk/

3. Free The Children is an international charity and educational partner. Founded in 1995 by international activist Craig Kielburger, Free The Children believes in a world where young people are free to achieve their full potential, and empowers young people to remove barriers that prevent them from being active local and global citizens. The organisation’s domestic programmes—which include We Day, Free The Children’s signature youth empowerment event—educate, engage and empower two million young people across the UK, North America and around the world to become engaged global citizens. Its international projects have brought more than 650 schools and school rooms to young people and provided clean water and sanitation, health care and food security to one million people around the world, freeing children and their families from the cycle of poverty. The organisation has received the World's Children's Prize for the Rights of the Child, the Human Rights Award from the World Association of Non‐Governmental Organizations, and has formed successful partnerships with leading educational associations, foundations and organisations. For more information, visit www.freethechildren.com.

4. Selfless, established in 2008, began with a few medical students giving up their time to educate local community groups on leading a healthier lifestyle. The ethos is that students are inherently altruistic but lack avenues to channel that energy. Those involved in the charity found that first interview question friends struggling for work was 'do you have any relevant work experience?' Selfless was born as an online bridge for that gap; connecting students to worthwhile causes but also matching them to where their skills would be best used and their own time availability. Selfless now connects young people to volunteering opportunities at over 80 different charities. The website allows students to volunteer according to their skills, interests and availability. Selfless is currently supported by Team London, Big Issue Invest, LDC, Arnold & Porter LLP and Simmonds & Simmonds. http://selfless.org.uk

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