15 December 2022

The value of volunteering

Its tough out there - but volunteering can make a real difference, both to a child and to you!

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Like many organisations that depend heavily on volunteers, we were concerned by results from a recent survey by Oxfam showing that the cost-of-living crisis is a potential threat to volunteering. 44% of respondents said the crisis could impact their ‘ability’ and ‘willingness’ to volunteer with a charity. Our own recent polls show that fewer employees are making use of their paid volunteering leave due to increased workloads.

However, as the challenges for volunteering seem to increase, the need for volunteers’ skills and altruism is as high as ever. Although discussion of the pandemic legacy for children is receding in the media, the socio-economic attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers remains stubbornly wide after the pandemic, with reading particularly affected. The highly-respected Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) has shown that, in the typical Year 2 classroom, there will be three very low-attaining pupils for reading, compared to one before the pandemic. This creates additional challenges for schools and teachers, particularly those in disadvantaged areas with higher proportions of lower-attaining pupils.

Pupil wellbeing is also a significant concern. Pressures on school budgets mean that many schools are having to let go of support staff. One of our London partner schools has had to let go of nine support staff this term, reducing the support their teachers receive in the classroom from one assistant per class to only one per year group. As our senior programme manager Anna Blain says, “This is not the moment to let up in our efforts – without the work of our reading volunteers and those across society working towards a fairer education for all, children and young people in the UK would have fewer chances than they do today.”

It’s also vital to remember that volunteering, as well as impacting the lives of others, can play an important role in employee wellbeing and can even support recruitment, retention and productivity.

In our 2021-22 survey of Chapter One online reading volunteers, 50% said they had increased their sense of wellbeing, 45% felt their ability to empathise with others had improved, and 41% said their communication skills had been sharpened. An enjoyable volunteering experience permeates into increased positive feelings about their employer, colleagues, and sense of self in the workplace.

“It's fair to say we all have busy calendars these days but when you're in that moment - that 30 minutes of uninterrupted time to simply focus on your pupil - it gives you purpose,” says Laura Haigh, one of our returning reading volunteers and R&Co4Generations Project Manager, Rothschild & Co.

“It's fair to say we all have busy calendars these days but when you're in that moment - that 30 minutes of uninterrupted time to simply focus on your pupil - it gives you purpose”
- Laura Haigh, one of our returning reading volunteers and R&Co4Generations Associate Director, Rothschild & Co.

“It can be very difficult to find opportunities to volunteer with children because it's usually face-to-face and the safeguarding checks and school environments can make it more challenging to set up,” adds Hayley Blake, HR Director of Diversity, Inclusion and Employee Engagement at SUSE Software Solutions. “The virtual Chapter One model, and all the support it gives around administration and safeguarding, remove those issues for professionals who would like to use their volunteering hours in a school setting.”

The Chapter One Online Reading Volunteers programme offers a convenient and time-efficient, remote volunteering opportunity with measurable impact. Our bespoke online platform, allows employees to help struggling 5-7-year-old readers, for just 30 minutes a week, without leaving their desks. We have children waiting to start the programme, so do get in touch if you think your company could help.


Chapter One’s virtual, time-efficient, flexible model for volunteering will enhance your company’s employee value proposition, whilst fulfilling CSR or social value commitments around education, social mobility and inclusion. Employees can:

- volunteer online directly from their desks with no travel

- make a direct impact on the lives of disadvantaged children

- support local communities across the UK

- improve their own well-being by helping others

- reconnect with your company’s social purpose

If you’re interested in joining us, we’d love to hear from you! You’ll find out who we currently work with on our partners’ page. You can contact our business development manager sarah.taylor@chapterone.org.