When our volunteers first applied to City Year UK, we told them it would be a year like no other. 2020 and 2021 proved to be just that – in ways we could never have predicted.
The pandemic feels like one of those life changing moments that we, as a world and individually, will always remember but for those young adults who answered our call, it will be much more. It will be the moment that, when so much came to an abrupt halt, they stood up to give their time, energy and talent. They put aside their own anxieties to support pupils suffering most from the consequences of lockdowns and interrupted learning and, in the process, learnt not just essential skills for their future careers, but their own power to effect social change.
Over the last two years, we are proud to have recruited more volunteers, to support more pupils furthest from opportunity, in more schools, than ever before. The number of 18 to 25-year-olds who put on the red jacket in 2020-21 was up a third on the year before. They coached over 50% more pupils one-to-one, maintaining motivation, often through a computer screen, gave over 200,000 hours across 25 school communities and ran 473 in-school clubs or initiatives. The results are a testament to their dedication. Despite the barriers they faced, nearly 8 out of 10 focus list pupils improved or maintained their curriculum progress, while 79% of teachers agreed that City Year helped pupils engage better with school work.
Our teams have always been embedded in partner schools and that meant that when the first lockdown came, our model proved robust. In March 2020, 10% of volunteer mentors continued to serve in school – right through their Easter holidays – to support vulnerable children and those from key worker families. Schools told us that their ‘City Years’ have been a lifeline, supporting teachers as they juggled in-school and virtual lessons, helping pupils return after long absences, and tackling curriculum catch-up and growing mental health needs. This year, we’ve fully integrated social and emotional learning, including new measurement tools, to underpin academic achievement and re-emphasised the importance of a positive learning environment. In a year like 2020-21, we were delighted that more than nine out of 10 secondary pupils said City Year helped them enjoy school.
But what of our volunteers themselves? They have proved their resilience, adaptability and commitment on the education frontline and have invested in their own personal and professional development through our training programme, which we continued to deliver online and face-to-face, when circumstances allowed.
Research points to the importance of career preparation, to not only cushion young adults against the shocks of an uncertain labour market, but to enable them to navigate proactively through it. We believe that a City Year does just that and have prioritised improvements in our volunteer experience; recently rewarded with a Level 4 from the Skills Builder Partnership. We are one of only ten external organisations to have achieved this top level for our impact on young people’s essential skills.
We often cite the African proverb that it takes a village to raise a child. It certainly takes a village to deliver a successful programme. Last year, 370 staff members from our corporate partners gave a remarkable 2,500 plus hours, sharing expertise on everything from CV writing to interview techniques and giving ongoing career mentoring to our volunteer mentors. We would like to thank everyone for their engagement. We could not have got to the end of the last two years without you.
As we look ahead to 2021-22, we will continue to strengthen the City Year UK programme, to ensure its impact, whatever the future holds. By the end of the year, we expect to have completed the improvements set out in the first phase of our business plan and will move on to the second phase, to focus on growth. As one volunteer mentor put it: “The world needs what young people have to give.” Your ongoing support is vital to making that happen. Thank you for everything that you are doing.
Yours in service,
Kevin Munday – Chief Executive
Jonathan Beebe – Chair of the Board of Trustees