Our trained volunteers provide one-to-one support to children who have fallen behind in maths.
If you’d enjoy volunteering regularly for 1½ hours once a week during the school day, and would find it rewarding to help 6 to 8 year-olds, you could be one of our in-school volunteers.
As well as enthusiasm, you will need good numeracy. This means being competent with addition, subtraction, multiplication and division – and also being confident in explaining them.
By sharing your competence in numeracy, you will enable children to build key skills and confidence for their school years and beyond.
Before you start in a school, we will provide training on how to interact with children in a school setting, on the early years maths syllabus, and on creative ways to engage young children with maths games and exercises.
We have current and former teachers acting as mentors who deliver this training and provide on-going support to our volunteers. We also deliver training in safeguarding and arrange for DBS background checks for all our volunteers.
If you are interested in being an in-school volunteer, please have a look at our FAQs below, and then contact us and we can discuss or send you more information as appropriate.
We really value our in-school volunteers. We see them as a major source of ideas and advice, and listen to their suggestions for the wider development of the charity.
Currently we are active only in North London. Our plan for the next few years is to expand across London, and after that into other major UK cities. So if we are not yet in an area close to you, we hope that we will be in the medium term.
A one-to-one session with a child lasts 20-30 minutes, depending on the school. A volunteer will typically see three children per visit. So a weekly commitment would be 1 to 1½ hours if you only go into the school once a week (plus your travel time). However, some of our volunteers choose to see each child twice a week.
We normally ask our volunteers to commit for a full school year (September to July). If you apply to Number Sense after the school year has started, we would still love to have you if a vacancy arises – and the commitment would then be for the rest of that school year.
We very much hope that, having completed an initial year, you will wish to continue volunteering with Number Sense!
We – and the schools – appreciate that volunteers have their own commitments. So, if you are able to attend for most weeks during the school year and can also give advance notice of your unavailability, you can certainly volunteer and make a positive contribution to each child over the year.
Sessions are during the school day, with exact times depending on the school and on the volunteer.
Schools typically teach core National Curriculum subjects such as Maths and English in the morning. Some schools have asked us to take children out of morning maths class for their one-to-one sessions so that they do not miss out on other subjects, but most have asked for the sessions to start immediately after lunch so that the children do not miss the core subjects. Schools do offer some flexibility, but they generally want volunteers to commit to the same time each week.
We will do our best to twin ‘morning only’ volunteers with ‘morning’ schools and ‘afternoon only’ volunteers with ‘afternoon’ schools, but the feasibility of this will depend on how supply and demand works out.
We try to match volunteers with schools which are at a convenient location for them to travel to. We will arrange for you to visit the school before you start, so that you can meet the senior teacher who is acting as our coordinator and who can discuss with you the practicalities of the volunteering. You could certainly decide at that stage that the particular school was not for you, but in practice no volunteer has!
The actual location will depend on the particular school. You might be in the library, the dining room, a spare classroom, or perhaps in a quiet corridor area.
The volunteer fetches the child from the classroom at the start of each one-to-one session and accompanies them back to the classroom afterwards.
We deliver the initial training face-to-face in small groups. This is designed to give you the skills and confidence to work with children, to play relevant games with them, and to deliver simple counting and numeracy exercises.
As part of the training we supply a condensed version of the National Curriculum for maths, broken down into individual skills for easy understanding. For each skill, we give a link to a resource such as a video or a game which will help you understand how to communicate the skill to the child or how to give the child an opportunity to practice it. We provide this document online to our volunteers, and it is periodically updated with new resources.
We also have current and former teachers acting as mentors who deliver part of the training and who will be available afterwards to advise you by email or telephone, and, if appropriate, face-to-face.
We organise meet-ups of volunteers and mentors during the year so that you can exchange ideas and learn from one another. We are keen to hear what works so that we can pass on ideas to all of the volunteers, including adding the ideas as resources to our Curriculum document.
At least once a year, a mentor will observe one of your sessions and give you direct feedback. This will not be passed to Number Sense, although the mentor will give us an anonymised summary of the sessions observed.
We will give you a set of ‘props’ including dice, counters, cards, snakes and ladders, and various printed sheets with number lines and number squares, etc. Your training will show you how you can engage in various games and activities using such simple props.
Schools will usually make other teaching tools available, such as toy money and ‘Numicon’. Again, our training will explain how you might use these.
We do not expect you to buy equipment yourself, but for a specific session you might want to bring in items which you have available at home. For example you might bring a tape measure for a session on measuring lengths and heights.
It is likely there will be at least two volunteers at each school, although they may not necessarily volunteer on the same days. We will introduce the volunteers to each other so that they can share experiences and ideas.
We will pay reasonable travel expenses. We encourage volunteers to use public transport but we will pay car mileage and even parking costs if there is no reasonable alternative. We require evidence of expenditure, but there are circumstances where we can accept a log book rather than receipts.
An organisation with a strong physical presence requires people on the ground in each area where we operate. This means not just in-school volunteers, but also people to recruit schools and manage the relationships, and people to recruit and to support volunteers. Our strategy is therefore to focus on London while we grow to a suitable scale, after which we can open up in new areas, building a local support structure in each.
We have developed our intervention based on discussions with experienced teachers, incorporating ideas from existing literacy schemes which support children learning to read. We have also built on feedback from our first group of volunteers.
At the end of our first year, in July 2019, we asked the class teacher of each child we worked with to evaluate the child’s progress over the year compared to the rest of the class. This used a five point scale from ‘very much better’ to ‘worse’. (It turned out that nobody was evaluated ‘worse’!) The teachers rated 60% of the children ‘very much better’ or ‘noticeably better’.
These results are very encouraging, albeit they are for a relatively small group of children. In the school year 2019-20 we will be asking the same question to class teachers on over 100 children, and in addition we have asked the schools to carry out a before-and-after ‘attitude test’ with each child. This will help us build stronger evidence on the impact of our intervention.
Thus we have an intervention which professionals predict will succeed and which is already showing positive impact. However, we want to continue to improve the quality of our intervention and to get external validation of our results.
We have made initial steps towards establishing a partnership with independent academics who can evaluate whether we achieve improved outcomes for the children we work with. A statistically meaningful analysis will require tracking hundreds of children. Our goal is to achieve this by 2024-25.