Jess Phillips MP visited Yardley Primary School on Monday 19 June to see how City Year UK’s full-time volunteers help tackle educational inequality in her constituency.
Ms Phillips, whose mother attended Yardley Primary, met with Deputy Headteacher Melisa Louca to hear about City Year UK’s impact in the school before taking a tour to see the nine full-time volunteers in action. She also met with pupils to hear from them about how they benefit from the City Year mentors, and closed the visit with a roundtable with the volunteers to learn how the experience was building their professional skills.
As well as sharing the positive aspects of their experiences volunteering full-time at the school, the volunteer mentors also told Ms Phillips of some of the difficulties they face, namely the fact that they are classified as NEET (not in education employment or training) by the government and lack a legal status. The MP heard about City Year UK’s political campaign which aims to create a legal status for full-time volunteers to ensure they are fully celebrated and supported to carry out their role.
Ms Phillips said: “It was great to see the amazing work that the full-time volunteers at City Year UK have been doing in Yardley Primary School for the past two years. The charity’s commitment to helping our community and to developing the skills of local kids to make the most of their talents is brilliant.
“However despite the hours they have devoted to helping local kids at Yardley, and others like them across the West Midlands, they aren’t even receiving the most basic support they deserve from the Government. I look forward to working with City Year UK to put this right.”
Volunteer mentor Mariyam Bibi, 21, said: “It has been a privilege to volunteer with City Year UK. I’ve been able to improve my practical skills and provide the next generation with a better chance to fulfill their potential, which is an incredible feeling.
“The only negative is that I feel the type of volunteering we do is ignored by the Government. To be classed as a NEET and having no legal status is demoralising and has a practical impact on my life. It means I lose a year of my pensions eligibility and can’t receive expenses when I’m ill – which is an obvious consequence of serving in a school. Surely the Government should be doing everything they can do support young people who want to volunteer full-time to improve their community?”
Melisa Louca, Deputy Headteacher said: “This is the second year City Year UK has worked with Yardley Primary and we are extremely proud of what we’ve been able to achieve together. The City Year UK volunteers have played an integral part in the social, emotional and academic progress of our pupils and at the same time have grown and developed enormously while they’ve been in the school. We look forward to welcoming the charity back into our school again next year.”