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Research Reveals True Value Of Volunteers In NZ Education

The full extent of volunteer activity in New Zealand’s early childhood education services, schools and kura has long gone unrecognised, but new research highlights the actual impact our volunteers are making - and why it’s so vital to support them.

“We know volunteers are often invisible, particularly in the education space” says PhD student Tania Jones, co-lead of the research. “We wanted to better define the groups of volunteers being relied on and recognise the impact and value that’s being offered.”

Jones says “the research showed more than 83% of respondents involve volunteers, particularly in primary schools, rural schools and early childhood centres, and Playcentres.”

“The benefits are so varied. We know volunteers are generally the driving force behind sports and other EOTC activities. They provide work experience opportunities for older students. Then you have Playcentres, who are governed and delivered entirely by volunteers, which simply would not run if volunteers were excluded”, explains Jones.

“One primary school captured the overall sentiment of volunteers in education as being ‘like gold, they provide us with rangatiratanga, kaitiakitanga and manaakitanga. They bring different perspectives, experiences or life skills, or simply become another safe person for tamariki to connect with. All of this is incredibly important.’”

Barriers to volunteering were also explored and respondents asked to share suggestions of the kind of support needed to address those challenges.

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“It’s no surprise that involving volunteers comes with challenges, but understanding the biggest pain points can enable us to find solutions”, says Jones, reiterating the value we gain from doing so.

Tania adds “National Volunteer Week (19-25 June) is the ideal time for us to be shining a light on the countless ways volunteers can - and already do - enrich the learning experience and outcomes for our tamariki.”

“It’s also an incredibly good time to be considering how we can better support those people. Especially as early childhood education services, schools and kura are again able to welcome volunteers back onsite and look to re-establish their relationships with local community.”

The report is by two Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington academics and lifelong volunteers: Tania Jones and Professor Karen Smith, Associate Dean Teaching and Learning, Wellington School of Business and Government.

A copy of the full report is available here: ‘Volunteers Enriching Education in Aotearoa New Zealand.

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