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“I can’t express in words how much I’ve gained”: Reflections from our corporate volunteers

27 Nov 2023

Since 2022, National Numeracy has worked with its corporate partners to develop and launch our corporate volunteering programme.

The programme trains and supports corporate volunteers to lead assemblies and support classroom sessions in primary schools, inspiring children to see the value of maths in the real world.

As part of National Numeracy's Number Confidence Week celebrations, four of our corporate volunteers spoke to National Numeracy's Chief Executive Sam Sims and Volunteering Manager Laura Hill about their experiences taking part. Thank you to:

  • Brogan Roache – Solicitor, Capital One
  • Richard Padley – Service Operations Manager, Experian
  • Sarika Jaiswal – Project Manager, TP ICAP
  • Xiaopei Lockwood – Group Senior Lawyer, Vanquis Banking Group

Why did you volunteer in National Numeracy's programme?

Brogan: I enjoyed maths at school, but struggled seeing how I would use it in a real-world context. But the more I’ve thought about how I use maths, I’ve realised that it really is an everyday, key life skill. I wanted to pass that on to children, to help them realise what I struggled to – that actually we use numbers all the time in so many different ways and often without even knowing!

“It’s massively helped my self-confidence and my presentation skills.” – Brogan Roache, volunteer

Sarika: I enjoyed maths growing up and thought this was the best opportunity for me to spread the word about how it can be enjoyable, and how unknowingly we use maths in our daily life. This volunteering opportunity came to me in an email at work, and I thought: “That’s bang on, I need to do this!”

Richard: I’m a big believer in the importance of maths and numeracy – to both children and adults I think it’s really key. My background is in maths and science, and I use maths significantly in my day job, and I’m really keen to see children get the benefits and an understanding of maths in the real world. So this was a really good programme that really resonated with me. 

Xiaopei: I thought it was a great opportunity to get into local schools, to see how maths is being put across to the children of today and get involved.

What have you personally gained by taking part?

Brogan: First and foremost, I’ve had so much fun! I’d like to think I have had a positive impact on the schools and children, and encouraged more positive attitudes toward maths amongst children who might be finding it more difficult. It’s not something I do in my day-to-day job, so going into a classroom has been nerve-wracking but really rewarding and has grown my confidence. And children can be a really honest and unpredictable audience at times!

“Seeing that real-world impact and hearing directly from a child how it’s already changing and shaping their approach to numbers, was really, really rewarding.” – Brogan Roache, volunteer

Sarika: I can’t express in words how much I’ve gained. I always wanted to become a teacher but couldn’t, so this opportunity to motivate and inspire children, and the sense of fulfilment and achievement, is incredible. I feel like I have given something to society and the community.

Xiaopei: I found the whole thing just really, really rewarding – leaving the daily routine and doing something different, especially because I work from home a lot, but also to see how schools differ from each other.

Sarika delivering an assembly

Richard: I think we get wrapped up in our day jobs and don’t often get a chance to give back, and this is a great way of doing it.

“Putting yourself in the children’s shoes, seeing something from the other side, and giving back to the community – it’s such a rewarding and enriching experience.” – Xiaopei Lockwood, volunteer

How was the training that National Numeracy provided in advance of the school visits?

Richard: I thought it was fantastic! National Numeracy did a great job of preparing us, giving context of why numeracy in the UK is important, as well as information on maths anxiety and boosting number confidence.

“It covered all the things you’d want to know before going into a school.” – Richard Padley, volunteer

Xiaopei: Finding time in the day to get ready for an assembly could be quite hard, but when the materials came through from National Numeracy I really did feel everything was prepared. And the notes were so useful that by the time you’re actually doing the session you feel like you’ve written the material yourself.

Sarika: Something really great was how to make it child-friendly. Being in a corporate for such a long time you use a lot of jargon, but the advice to use simple words and break things into points really opened my eyes. And the graphics were great – as soon as a slide came with one on, I could see the smile on every child’s face!

Brogan: Yes, I felt really set up for success. It was also the first time my eyes were opened to how prevalent maths is in my day-to-day life; I remember having a moment where I thought, “Wow, I use numbers all the time!” I take that for granted because I’m lucky that I am quite number confident. Things like budgeting or going to a shop and paying with a £10 note and calculating change doesn’t faze me, but for some people that could be really intimidating. So that was eye-opening for me.

How did you feel before delivering your first My Maths Story assembly?

Brogan: I was really excited because it’s a subject that I’m passionate about. After the training I felt confident with what I was talking about and that took the edge off the nerves, and I felt excited to get going.

Sarika: I was nervous; though I practised at home, I was anxious about the children’s questions at the end – you don’t know what they’re going to throw at you! But I went with the mindset that I needed to deliver a message and motivate.

Xiaopei: I felt very prepared, but I was nervous thinking about how many people it was. Also, I didn’t expect some of the questions they came up with! Like, “How much money do you earn? What do you actually do?” But I really enjoyed it, and it was excellent rehearsal for public speaking, which I haven’t done for years.

As Brogan knows, us contract lawyers are often in the office just looking at paperwork, so it’s been a really rewarding experience!

Volunteer delivering an assembly

Richard: I felt slightly more prepared than others. My wife and daughter both teach in primary schools, which is both a blessing and a curse because I knew what to expect – both good and bad!

How did it go on the day? What reaction did you get from the children and teachers?

Xiaopei: I really wasn’t expecting how the teachers came over to say thank you! They said it was refreshing to have someone different talk to the children. I felt very appreciated.

Some of the children also came up to me and said thank you and asked me more questions about what my work is like, so it was great to see they had genuine interest.

Sarika: Yes, one of the children came up to me and asked if I liked my job which brought a smile to my face – and he said, “Okay, that smile says it all!” Those children were amazing. The teachers and school were very well organised, and I didn’t realise how much they would appreciate it.

“The feeling was out of this world.” – Sarika Jaiswal, volunteer

Brogan: I’m always surprised by how engaged the children are; how positive their contributions and how interesting their questions are. It’s always a really rewarding experience.

One of the most rewarding parts for me after my first assembly was when the teachers came up to me and expressed how appreciative they were. They said it was well delivered, but also well-pitched for the different ages – I had four different year groups in one of mine and it was a great presentation for all ages. So really positive feedback from children and teachers.

Richard: Yes, the children were fantastically well behaved. The teachers had prepared really well and had all the tech set up. So although I was nervous, the children weren’t, and it wasn’t as daunting as I thought it’d be.

How did the Maths in the Real World classroom session go?

Brogan: I’ve done a few classroom sessions now, and I’ve surprised myself with how much I’ve enjoyed facilitating the discussions among students! It’s fascinating to hear examples of how children are using numbers outside of school and helping to draw those out with the assembly and classroom session together.

To hear students start to talk about maths more positively is wonderful – one student told me she didn’t like maths, but now she was thinking about it in the context of her hobbies and the job she might do in future and was starting to realise it’s important.

Richard: I thought it went really well. I think teachers always appreciate a well laid-out teaching plan that they can pick up and get into.

And it’s great to get down at the desk-level and have a chat to the children, explain what the purpose is and help them fill in the blanks, but also see them interact and come up with great ideas themselves. I really thoroughly enjoyed it and I think the children got a lot out of it too.

Posters made by children during a classroom session

Xiaopei: It was interesting because I sat in two sessions, and the teachers led the task in different ways. So it was nice to see how the children engaged slightly differently but that the end result was the same. It was also nice just to be in a different environment, because normally I’m in the office all day. It was refreshing for myself as well as the kids. 

"The children really responded to the information and could see links in the real world. The scenarios in the teaching session helped break stereotypes. It was excellent, the children enjoyed it. A great activity!" – Joe Turner, Deputy Head, Milford Academy, Nottingham

Sarika: I haven’t taken part in a classroom session yet, but after hearing all this I really want to!

What do you think the schools and children gained from taking part in the programme?

Richard: I think there’s a perception that maths is only for the classroom – it can be disengaging for children. What this showed is that even the most basic of maths is useful; what you learn at primary school is invaluable and used throughout the rest of your life.

100% of teachers surveyed agreed that the sessions enabled the children to make the link between the maths they learn and the world of work, and inspired the children to see maths in life beyond school.*

Sarika: When I started the assembly, I could see some of them thinking I was there to teach them times tables or something. But when I started talking about maths in daily life, one boy talked about how they have construction work at home and how that uses maths. Another spoke about how he plays cricket. That was so nice because it showed they were listening and already motivated.

They might be finding maths in the classroom difficult, but in real life they’re already using it.

Xiaopei: Some of the children were interested in my job, so that opened doors for them to think about what they want to be when they grow up. One girl asked me if you need much maths to be a criminal lawyer, and I told her it might not be really maths-focused but if you have to travel to court you’ll have to figure out travel timings. Little things like that open up a thought process.

What has been the highlight for you?

Xiaopei: How the children reacted, and how it’s helped with my presentation skills – but also I’ve got younger children myself, so it was nice to see what’s to come when they go to primary school!

Brogan: For me the highlight was the conversation with the student I mentioned earlier – when she first walked in and saw it was a maths class you could almost hear the eye roll! But then after the exercises she told me about how she uses maths in cheerleading.

“To see somebody who didn’t want to engage in a maths class move towards, ‘Actually, I use numbers a lot more than I think, and in things I enjoy’ – that’s why I do this.” – Brogan Roache, volunteer

Sarika: It’s how this is a give and take session. When I entered the room everyone could probably see I was nervous. But something I wasn’t expecting was how the children made me feel comfortable – they were Year 5 and 6, and my son is in Year 7 so I’ve seen that age, and wasn’t expecting good behaviour! But they made me so comfortable and gave me as much as I gave them.

What would you say to other individuals and organisations, who are thinking of joining the programme?

Richard: Absolutely get involved! It’s brilliant. It’s a real chance to maybe change a life, nudge it in the right direction. The training is fantastic, you’re set up for success. It’s not as nerve-wracking as you think it’s going to be, and I would absolutely encourage any organisation and individuals to get involved.

Sarika: Yes, go ahead and do it! My own number confidence has also grown from this volunteering, and I’m definitely going to share what I’ve learned with everyone, not just in the schools!

Xiaopei: There are lots of different types of volunteering opportunities out there, but I’ve always found working with children in schools the most rewarding.

“You’re influencing the future.” – Xiaopei Lockwood, volunteer

Brogan: You’ve all summed it up perfectly! This has been really eye-opening for me, and I now feel very passionately about the importance of good numeracy skills and how that helps people succeed in life. Thank you for letting us get involved with this amazing programme!

*statistic from feedback forms completed by 36 teachers, October 2022 - July 2023

If you are a primary school based in Nottingham or London and would like to take part in our Numeracy Corporate Volunteering Programme, please complete the form to request an activity, or email [email protected] for more information.

Activity request form

If you are a business or organisation wanting to know more about the Numeracy Corporate Volunteering Programme and working in partnership, please email [email protected].

If you are a colleague in one of the partner organisations involved in the Numeracy Corporate Volunteering Programme, and would like to volunteer, please contact your CSR Lead or email [email protected].