Liz Inchley, City Year Birmingham

Liz_Inchley_useI’ve always had a passion for helping others, and that developed more recently into an aspiration to work with children. City Year UK has provided me with the valuable experience I need to continue pursuing this career, as well as the opportunity to make an impact on educational inequality. Additionally, my studies in Psychology have sparked a great interest in helping individuals with special educational needs (SEN).

I have been lucky enough in my City Year journey to work with six SEN children in a spelling and language intervention. Each Tuesday and Thursday afternoon, I take the small group of Year 1 students into a room for focused learning and ask them to write some words and sentences that I dictate to them. This began, as suggested by the class teacher, with simple key words such as “sit”, “me”, and “pen”. However, I began to see major progress within a couple of weeks. Soon, I moved them on to words with more complex sounds, working around a different digraph or trigraph in each session.

As well as stretching and developing the children’s skills, the sessions provide them with a fun opportunity to explore words and sentences through the use of phonics and rhythm. The group is often encouraged to tap the rhythm of the word or sentence for the purpose of helping them remember which phonic sounds are needed and which order they should be written in.

Compared to when the intervention was first put in place, the children’s spelling has improved greatly, as well as their confidence and willingness to participate in class. When they call to me, it’s no longer “Miss, I don’t know how to spell it,” and more along the lines of “have I spelled it right?” or “look, Miss, I know this word now!” It’s fantastic to see such progress in children who are at risk of educational inequality, not only due to the area they live in, but also due to their SEN which may not be fully cared for or understood in a mainstream school. I stepped in to fill the needs of these children and aided them in an academic area that they would otherwise be struggling in.

My experience in volunteering has not only taught me that the right attention and support can help anyone succeed, but also that I can be the one to give that assistance and encouragement. I can make a difference; I am making a difference; I will continue to make a difference.