A multi-academy trust in Suffolk has a distinctive approach to creating educational opportunities for children.

Taking inspiration from the African proverb "It takes a village to raise a child”, ASSET Education launches its ASSET Village at the end of April with a series of volunteer recruitment events.

“There’s a lot in the news about education at the moment – worries about children’s attendance since the pandemic, about funding and teachers’ workloads,” says Clare Flintoff, CEO of ASSET Education. “But our 14 schools firmly believe that none of these challenges are too great if we harness the goodwill, skills and expertise in our communities.”

Based in the Waveney and Ipswich areas, ASSET schools have always engaged families, community groups and businesses to create opportunities for children.

“Many of our schools have community members who come in to read to our children on a regular basis,” says Clare. ”Parents and local business people will come in and talk about their jobs, and will often support schools in a range of ways.

"At Wenhaston Primary, volunteers gave their time over a weekend recently to clear the pond, craft planters, repurpose old pallets to create outdoor tables, construct bug hotels and install bird boxes, alongside children and their families. The collective effort resulted in a significant transformation, and such a wonderful learning opportunity.”

The trust recently appointed Ben Gough as partnership and engagement manager to develop more opportunities for local people to volunteer – and for local businesses and charities to work more closely with local schools.

Ipswich Star: Ben Gough has been appointed as partnership and engagement manager at ASSET EducationBen Gough has been appointed as partnership and engagement manager at ASSET Education (Image: ASSET Education)
Ben is keen to ensure that each school supports and is supported by the community it serves.

“It’s an important relationship,” he says. “Families show up at our schools everyday with their children, so the schools themselves are a great place to provide support and signposting for challenges that parents and carers might be facing.

"We think carefully about what families need and then approach partners to provide that – whether it's making holiday activities available to working families, or providing cooking demonstrations and workshops for parents who want advice on feeding a family on a budget.”

The trust’s philosophy is based on the writing of the late author and educational leader professor John West Burnham, who was ASSET’s chair of trustees until December 2022. His penultimate book 'Flipping Schools' acknowledged the important role communities play in children’s outcomes.

Individuals looking for volunteering opportunities – from listening to children read to mentoring, becoming a school governor or Trustee, or sharing skills or hobbies to help with gardens, allotments and craft clubs – are welcomed to ASSET's volunteer information sessions on April 24 at Hope Church, Ipswich from 12pm and St Helen’s Primary from 6pm, and on April 25 at The Cut café in Halesworth from 12pm and Bungay Primary from 6pm. 

Businesses and organisations are also encouraged to come along to discuss partnership opportunities, projects, staff volunteer days and sponsorship.

For more information, visit the ASSET Village website at village.asseteducation.co.uk