How to discourage volunteers

We’ve just had a letter from our children’s school about volunteering. It is a very good government school at which parents are very involved in fundraising and managing after school activities. Apparently a lot of parents have shown an interest in volunteering at the school. My understanding is that these are people who would like to help in some way, probably mainly in the classroom. The letter states that this interest “coincides with new guidelines from our Human Resources Department… Accordingly we are now obliged to :

Request that you complete an application form
Invite you for interview
Request completion of a Criminal Conviction Form
Take two references
Put you through Enhanced Disclosure checks if necessary”

I know that we do have to be careful around children, but this just seems ridiculous. These are parents of children at the school who would just like to help. They don’t want a job. They’re not going to get paid. There may be some who could become troublesome but, I suspect, most just want to help with odd jobs at the direction of classroom teachers. I can think of very few, if any, reasons why the school shouldn’t be clamouring for this kind of volunteering rather than making these people jump through hoops as if the school is doing them some kind of favour. I appreciate that these rules are probably not actually coming from the school itself, but we really should be trying to stamp out these ridiculous processes that achieve very little and if anything discourage exactly the type of things that we should be encouraging in our society.

It’s possible that there are very good reasons for these rules and maybe the school (or some other local school) has had a problems with overzealous parents, but I haven’t heard anything to suggest that this is the case. My wife is also quite heavily involved with the parent’s council and apparently these types of processes are creeping in all over the place. It seems likely that it will become harder to get people to help with activities at the school, either because they haven’t completed all the necessary paperwork or because they don’t have the time or can’t be bothered. Since the parents raise quite a substantial amount of money every year, this could be, ultimately, quite damaging.

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2 thoughts on “How to discourage volunteers

  1. It’s a sad state our world is coming to. The screenings and concern make sense perhaps in certain circumstances. If an adult might end up alone in a room with children, or perhaps if the adult volunteer has no children or grandchildren in the school there might be a valid reason for a background check. But I think of the volunteer hours I’ve put into my children’s schools which were considerable and I can’t think of a single incident where I was alone with children or in the company of anyone who did not have a direct recognizable interest in being there. We want to protect our children but to what extreme should we take it?

    • Yes, this is pretty much my view. In my experience of helping out at my kids’s school, the risk appears to be minimal and I’m not aware of any situation when a parent has been alone with a child. I worry that if we check everyone then we will assume that everyone is safe and that we can start leaving children alone with parent helpers, which may end up being more risky than a common sense approach in which this generally doesn’t happen.

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