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Volunteer class assistants at Rivers – we are employing parents

The Dutch Government wanted to support school leaders tackling workload.  “More than half of teachers’ time is spent on non-teaching tasks”

By Ms Gill Eaton, Head of Rivers International School Arnhem Primary

Action from the Government came in a monetary form and all schools were given in our words “stress relief money” as a lump sum to spend the way we saw fit to relieve workload stress.


Teacher and pupil wellbeing is our key principle;  the `river` that runs through the school . We wanted to find a way to reduce the time that teachers spent on non-teaching based tasks. After brainstorming together we came up with the idea of employing parents. We were using parent helpers in many ways already but it was quite random through the school and not as effective as could be.

Paying volunteers

In the Netherlands the Government has made is possible to work as a volunteer and receive a monetary payment of €4,50 per hour ( maximum €150 per month). This is exempt from tax and other employment regulations. 

We felt if you pay someone to do a job, this creates a different expectation and raises a level of professionalism amongst the employees.

Volunteer Class Assistants

Doing the calculations and conferring at Board level, we soon realised we could “employ” at least one volunteer per class for 8 hours a week. We could also have enough money left over to recruit extra staff for the library, reception desk and gym support. The Volunteer Class Assistants (VCA) posts were advertised and within a week 15 positions filled.

Volunteer Agreement

There is a volunteer agreement to sign and an expectation of a month’s notice. All VCA’s require a VOG (good conduct check). English is not a requirement and the days and times of work are negotiable with the assigned teachers. An induction morning was prepared with the learning support coordinator. 

They all wear a Rivers VOG key cord and this gives them free tea, coffee and cake in their allocated seating area in the school hall (there are perks!). There is a list of suggested tasks and also a ‘what the job is not list”.

How the VCA’s experience their job

The VCA`s have their own whatsapp group and are a community in the school; they are valuing this more than we expected. The VCA`s  come to work looking happy and purposeful.  

  • “We feel part of the school.” – Amrita.
  • ” It is great we can help the teachers.” – Pritty
  • ” In the beginning the teacher found it hard to let some things go but it is going really well now.” – Carina.
  • “The teacher is showing me more and I am learning a lot now.” – Jitke

The teachers collaborated about their experiences and gave each other suggestions on tasks that could be done. Some shared their VCA at busy times and had joint tasks going; book covering, laminating, wall displays , photocopying, cutting, sticking, tidying, sorting, the jobs are endless but essential for the sustained quality of teaching and learning. 

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