Social action: An educator’s experience

Nothing makes a superior CV-booster or stands young job-seekers in better stead to shine in interviews than valuable experiences. From community fundraising to volunteering, social action is a great way of giving students meaningful, enriching opportunities, as well as the chance to build a broad range of transferable skills for the workplace. We’ve already embedded a social action programme in my school and have seen massive benefits to the school and students.

Recent research supports this too, indicating that participants of social action are 27% more likely to find a job, and those with it on their CV are 10% more likely to succeed in an interview. Not only that, but when you look at the bigger picture, it can also help build on schools’ core values, strengthen links with the local community and businesses, and improve staff-student relationships, something we’ve certainly recognised.

We’ve all seen the statistics about what a competitive job landscape our students are facing and there’s added pressure on us to take charge of giving students access to different skills, situations and environments, so that they’re well equipped and confident when starting their career journey, particularly when out of the six main areas judged by Ofsted, careers learning now impacts on four of these. However, the lack of local work experience opportunities and the huge pressures on our time and resources means providing all of this can be a real challenge. This is where social action can play a key role.

At my school, Lister Community School, all age groups participate in several fundraising events throughout the school year, with proceeds donated to W.I.S.H. (We Intend to Save Humanity), a community organisation established by a former student. The W.I.S.H. board consists of staff and students at the school, who decide on which charitable causes to support each year. The W.I.S.H. Charity now operates in more than one local secondary school, and with a growing number of students involved in community groups and activities.

In addition to fundraising, Year 7 and Year 8 students take part in the WE Movement, to design small-scale programmes to help disadvantaged members of the local community. Then in Year 10, all students take part in a team volunteering challenge as part of World of Work Week. The students do this as part of a collapsed timetable, which facilitates greater staff involvement. Activities during the week vary from re-painting park benches to renovating athletics tracks and children's playgrounds. Through this initiative alone, students completed a total of 1,620 hours of volunteering in 2016.

These activities allow students to contribute to their local community, giving them valuable experience which they can draw on in interviews. Moreover, it helps them to nurture valuable leadership skills and gives them an opportunity to build relationships with a varied group of individuals.

All the programmes are managed by the Lister Careers team, with assistance from members of staff and senior students, and it is now largely the students who are driving new developments to the scheme. This has provided countless opportunities for student leadership, boosting students' self-esteem and confidence. The students see the end goal of their efforts, and come to understand that sometimes it’s necessary to sacrifice individual preference for the greater good.

At Lister, social action has allowed many of our students to shine and has benefitted our school by reflecting our core values in students who are selfless, compassionate and better equipped for the future world of work.

Inspired by Simon’s story and ready to kick-start your own social action plan, or build on an existing programme at your school? Login or sign up for free to access our new step-by-step toolkit which we’ve created in conjunction with the British Youth Council. It combines peer-to-peer advice from real educator case studies like the one above, a full series of activity ideas and engaging video content to enable you to deliver a holistic social action plan.

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