Start your own YESS group

If you would like to set up a YESS group at your school, here is some basic information about how we did it, how we operate and what we do.

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YESS tutor and student

Structure of YESS

YESS is not a very structured organisation; we are not incorporated and have no formal office bearers or constitution. Since we work exclusively as volunteers in schools, at least at present, we do not feel we need insurance, or other formal structures like incorporation. We have found this works very well, and prevents volunteers wasting their valuable time at meetings or complying with lots of regulation. Apart from coordinating with school principals and the teachers selected to liaise with YESS, volunteers spend all of their time helping students in the schools. 

Each YESS school group has a coordinator who is the principle point of contact between the school and their YESS group. The coordinator position can be rotated every term, semester or year. The coordinator, usually along with one or two other YESS volunteers, is responsible for initially liaising with the school principal or learning support teacher to determine what tasks the school would like YESS to perform, on which days and times. The coordinator then works with volunteers to develop a schedule for individual volunteers to volunteer at the school. During the term, the school contacts the coordinator to let them know when the school would like volunteers to start and finish for the term, and if an event or activity at the school will disrupt the normal volunteer schedule during the term.

We currently have from six to twelve YESS members at each school we assist, but numbers could vary depending on the tasks schools ask YESS to perform and the availability of volunteers. All volunteers have other commitments from time to time, including travel, family responsibilities, medical appointments, etc so ideally a YESS group will have one or two back-up volunteers – usually people who are keen to be involved but who cannot commit to tutoring every week. If a volunteer who is on the regular schedule cannot make a particular session at the school, we have found it best to make it that volunteer’s responsibility to ring the back-up volunteer to organise their attendance at the session, or arrange a session swap with another volunteer on the regular schedule. This minimises the burden on the coordinator.

Communication

We have found email to be a cheap and efficient communication method for coordinators and members, as most people now use email.  Members needing to organise a replacement can use group emails to ensure the session is covered by another volunteer, or to alert YESS members to any emerging issues. Once a member has joined they are emailed a list of all the other YESS volunteers at their school, with their phone numbers and email contact details.

Members occasionally organise get-togethers at a local café to discuss any issues arising in volunteering and to socialise with other members. We also occasionally have lunches and so far have had one short, two hour brainstorming session, about where to go in the future, followed by lunch. We don’t find we need formal meetings.

Joining YESS

Joining YESS is very simple. New members fill out a YESS Membership Form and return it to the YESS coordinator at their school. Before volunteering at a school, you will also need to complete a Prohibited Employment Declaration Form which you can either download or obtain at the front office of your school. Completed forms should be returned to the front office of your school. This allows police checks to be run if the school decides this is necessary. YESS members are our main source of new recruits as they often  recommend it to their friends. We have also had articles in the local newsletter, The Triangle, and local newspapers.

Schools Principals and Potential YESS Coordinators

If you are a local school principal, learning support teacher, parent or community member interested in engaging YESS volunteers at your school or setting up a YESS group, and would like some more advice, you can contact  Frances Perkins on (02) 6493 6486 or or any other YESS member you know. We are happy to come to your school and address a group of potential volunteers or your P&C.

What YESS can do

There are a huge range of activities YESS groups could undertake to advance the educational aspirations and achievements of local students and young people, from reading with children in schools to helping at homework centres and mentoring groups.

At present, YESS is running a tutoring program called MultiLIT (Making Up Lost Time In Literacy) at two schools where we volunteer, Cobargo Primary and Narooma High School. We have found this is a valuable activity for the children and a good fit with our skills and enthusiasm for helping local students.

MultiLIT, which was developed by Macquarie University’s Special Education Centre, is a structured program to help students who are not reading at their peer group’s level. Students who complete the 20 week program typically make significant improvements in their reading capacity. However,  the program is quite labour intensive, with each student receiving 2– 2½ hours of face-to-face tutoring each week (one 35 minute session, four mornings a week with a different tutor each morning). Not all schools have the resources available to help all the students who need this assistance, so have found YESS volunteers invaluable in implementing this program.

The local learning support coordinator for the region, employed by the NSW Education Department, runs one day MultiLIT training courses for YESS and other volunteers and teachers. We have a range of materials on the program we can bring along if we come to address your volunteers group.