Teachers Handbook 2018


Our Purpose
To connect volunteers who want to make a difference with young people in school who need extra help. We are harnessing the wisdom and skills of older generations to enrich the learning experience of young people who are at risk of falling by the wayside in an often-overburdened school system.

Our Vision
Our community helping young people to succeed.

Our Mission
To prepare and connect inter-generational volunteers with children who have been identified by a school as likely to benefit from engagement with a mature role model.

Quick Facts

The School Volunteer Program ACT Inc.  is an Association incorporated in the ACT which recognises the unique place of volunteers in schools. School volunteers are mentors, confidantes and communicators.

The School Volunteer Program ACT (SVPACT) currently has more than 130 Mentors, volunteering in over 40 ACT schools.

All SVPACT mentors hold a Working with Vulnerable People card, and two references are obtained for each mentor prior to commencement.

SVPACT mentors include people from all walks of life including former teachers, engineers, economists, tradesmen, homemakers, lawyers, bureaucrats and business managers.

Mentoring using Meccano

Mentoring through Meccano building is a significant part of SVPACT. Participating mentors work in teams of four or more and meet at the school to work one to one with students, but in a group environment. The involvement of an individual student is generally for a ten week period, which matches the time usually taken to complete a model. This activity has proved very successful in enhancing the self esteem and confidence of participating students. 

About the School Volunteer Program ACT

SVPACT is based on the successful Western Australian program and was first introduced by the Rotary Club of Canberra Weston Creek in 1997.

This program was subsequently combined with a trial activity at Charnwood Primary School and the “STYLE” program to cover the whole of the ACT.

SVPACT was formally launched by the former Governor-General, Major General Michael Jeffery, at North Ainslie Primary School, in October 2005. General Jeffery is now the Patron of SVPACT.

All SVPACT mentors and Committee members contribute their services on a voluntary basis.

SVPACT works in partnership with the ACT Education and Training Directorate and is supported by Teachers Mutual Bank (major financial supporter), the ACT branch of the Australian Education Union ACT, Rotary and other community organisations.

Individual mentors work one to one with students, under the guidance of teachers, and within their line of sight.

It is expected that schools will seek parents’ approval for their child to participate in the Program.

Prior to Commencement

All volunteer mentors are briefed by an SVPACT Committee Member with direct mentoring experience, prior to his/her attendance at a mentor Orientation/Training Seminar.

A Committee Member will then contact the Principal of the preferred school to arrange a meeting to introduce the mentor.

When appropriate, schools will consider the experience and expertise of the mentor, and his/her preference regarding age and gender in selecting a student.

Once assigned to a school, a mentor is expected to liaise closely with the nominated SVPACT School Coordinator, and/or the Classroom Teacher. Mentors operate under the direction of school staff at all times.

Your mentor may want to know specific details about your school. Some issues to cover in your initial meeting with your volunteer mentor include:

  • School sign-in procedures;
  • A plan of the school showing location of toilets and available car parking spaces;
  • School evacuation procedures and safety rules;
  • Relevant school policies including the Code of Conduct for Volunteers in Schools;
  • Expectations of the mentor;
  • Procedures for when you and/or the Classroom Teacher are absent;
  • Procedures for when the student is absent; and
  • Opportunities for liaison between the mentor, SVPACT School Coordinator, Classroom Teacher and Parents

The SVPACT Committee arranges regular meetings and professional learning events for mentors, which cover the development of mentoring skills, and their responsibilities as mentors of students on a one to one basis in schools.

Specific workshops are also directed at familiarising mentors with techniques for assisting students with basic reading and numeracy tasks and interacting with disadvantaged children.

Getting Started

The SVPACT Mentor Coordinator will introduce new mentors to the SSC and/or Principal, and/or Classroom Teacher.

A meeting at the school between the mentor and the SVPACT School Coordinator will enable the needs of the student to be discussed, and a mentoring strategy agreed.

The first meeting of the mentor with the student will generally be used as a ‘getting-to-know-you’ session. Subsequent sessions will focus on tasks assigned by the Classroom Teacher, or the SVPACT School Coordinator.

The program is designed to benefit students in both their social and academic development. 

Selection of Students

The selection of students for participation in the program is the responsibility of the school. Students can be selected through a referral process, which may differ from school to school. A Classroom Teacher, Learning Assistance Teacher, ESL Teacher or a parent may recommend a student for participation in the program.

Once a student has been selected, the SVPACT School Coordinator should contact the SVPACT Mentor Coordinators.

In consultation with the Classroom Teacher, the SVPACT School Coordinator will select appropriate tasks for each student, and monitor his/her progress via the communication strategy that was agreed at the initial school briefing session.

This may involve the use of feedback forms, communication books, regular emails, face-to-face meetings and/or telephone conversations.

The SVPACT School Coordinator provides feedback and advice to the volunteer mentor as needed.

Effective communication between the student, the mentor and SVPACT School Coordinator is essential for the success of the program.

It is expected that schools will seek parents’ approval for their child to participate in the program.

It is important that the whole school community welcomes the involvement of SVPACT mentors. Recognition such as entries in school newsletters is very welcome. 

The SVPACT School Coordinator’s Role and Responsibilities

This is a pivotal role that ensures the student and mentor have a productive relationship.

Your role is to ensure that:

  • Work tasks, materials and games are ready for the mentor and student when it is time to commence the session.
  • There is a work area available within line of sight of a staff member, but quiet and separate enough to allow activity without disturbance.
  • Regular, effective communication is maintained throughout the program

If you need to change your mentoring arrangements, or if you identify more students interested in participating in our program, please contact the relevant SVPACT Mentor Coordinator

The SVPACT School Coordinator’s Duties

  1. Introduce the mentors to school administration staff, the facilities (toilets, sick bay), Principal’s office, staff room, and library.
  2. Contact the mentor, as soon as practicable, if the student is absent or (The  Mentor Contact Sheet may assist).
  3. Ensure that tasks are appropriate to the time available, and are appropriate for the mentor-student (For example, the teacher may expect homework to be completed during the session, but the mentor may feel that he/she needs to develop rapport with the student first, perhaps through games, or other shared interests).
  4. Provide relevant advice to the mentor, and communicate with the School Principal, Teachers, and the school community about the various roles and responsibilities of SVPACT mentors.
  5. Ensure volunteer mentors feel valued and  

The Classroom Teacher’s Role and Responsibilities

Classroom Teachers should be aware that SVPACT mentors have widely differing formal and informal qualifications and backgrounds.  To promote a positive structure, your role is to:

  1. Welcome the SVPACT mentor
    Introduce your mentor to relevant school personnel e.g. Principal, Office Manager, etc.
  2. Select work tasks for each session
    Bear in mind that the mentor generally will need to allocate some time for chatting with the student, and undertaking “fun” activities such as board games, drawing, etc. as a way of building a rapport with the student.
  3. Inform the SVPACT mentor if the student is absent prior to his/her arrival
    The  Mentor Contact Sheet may assist.
  4. Communicate regularly
    The mentor will provide feedback about tasks undertaken, additional activities, or other information as it arises.
  5. Termination of mentor-student relationship
    The Classroom Teacher can also communicate with the mentor to provide feedback. On rare occasions it may be necessary to terminate the mentor-student relationship, and a new pairing initiated.

What volunteer mentors can offer?

Mentors bring a wealth of knowledge and experience from both their professional, and family lives. They provide opportunity for inter-generational learning.

They have an appreciation for, and make a commitment to, mentoring children and young people.

SVPACT links students with the wider community and provides them with mature role models, demonstrating what it is to be a caring member of society.

The experience so far

The SVPACT commenced in October 2005 with 16 volunteer mentors at 10 schools. In 2018, there are more than 130 mentors, volunteering in over 35 ACT schools.

Students generally respond positively to their mentors as mutual respect develops. Students tend to work well on a one to one basis with their mentors, and look forward to the weekly visits.

Mentors are not required, or expected to have special skills or teaching experience.

SVPACT strives to match the specific skills of mentors with the needs of individual students. They successfully provide mentoring in a variety of areas such as literacy and numeracy, helping with class work and/or homework, and conversation for children from non-English speaking backgrounds. 


Since SVPACT commenced over ten years ago, the Program, the Committee and individual mentors have received community recognition through several Children’s Week Awards for Excellence.

In 2015, the School Volunteer Program ACT was named the Volunteer Team of the Year, in the category Education, Science and Technology.

 SVPACT Committee

A committee of 12 volunteers recruits, trains and manages the team of over 130 mentors. Members include former school principals and teachers, business managers and service club members. Contact details are available at the SVPACT website

ACT Education Directorate Policy

The school should ensure that each mentor has completed a ‘Working With Children and Young People Nomination’ in which he/she undertakes to comply with the Code of Conduct which inter-alia, states, for volunteers you must “ observe confidentiality in respect to all information gained through your participation as a volunteer.” The Working with Children and Young People Policy.

Further Information and Assistance

The SVPACT Mentor Coordinators can answer queries or assist in the implementation of the mentoring program. Please refer to the SVPACT website for contact details.

Always remember that you are appreciated! At times we get caught up in the day-to-day operations of the SVPACT, and we may forget to say thank you. You are certainly appreciated and we value the time that you give.

Your ideas and feedback on all aspects of the program is welcomed. 


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