Youth & Under 30s - Special Schools

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Special Schools

Volunteer Now is working with SEN Schools across NI who encourage and support their students in volunteering. We have supported schools to overcome any potential barriers as well as offering flexibility. For example, the ‘Schools Certificate’ which requires 35 hours of volunteering in order to achieve, we have agreed with individual schools a more manageable amount of hours depending on circumstances, resources and abilities.

The following schools are currently working with us to give their students Millennium Volunteers recognition:

  • Ardmore House Downpatrick
  • Beechlawn School, Lisburn
  • Castle Tower School, Ballymena
  • Glenveagh School, Belfast
  • Hilcroft School, Newtownabbey
  • Knockevin Special School, Downpatrick
  • Parkview Special School, Lisburn
  • Rathore Special School, Newry
  • Rossmar Special School, Limavady
  • Sandelford Special School, Coleraine
  • Tor Bank School, Belfast
  • Willowbridge School, Enniskillen


To explain further and give you some more encouragement take a look at the case study of Glenveagh Special School below:


The Millennium Volunteers (MV) programme was initiated in 1999 with the aim of recognising the sustained commitment young people make to volunteering.  The programme is supported by the Department of Education in Northern Ireland.  Certificates are presented for the hours completed: 50, 100 and 200 Hours and the programme is open to young people aged between 14 and 25 years.  In 2007 Volunteer Now piloted the Millennium Volunteers programme within post primary schools and the experience led to the development of a Schools Award which recognised the young person’s commitment to their studies as well as to their volunteering.  The Schools Award is equivalent to the 50 Hour Certificate. In 2011 the programme was introduced within Special Educational Schools and this case study outlines Glenveagh Special School’s experience.

The MV Model within Special Education

This model is based on the practice of Glenveagh Special School Belfast.  Their practice highlights ways in which barriers to involvement can be overcome as well as the flexibility of delivery which MV offers.

Age Range

Due to the large numbers of 14-19 year olds in Glenveagh they decided, for logistical reasons, to only involve pupils who are in their final or penultimate year (18 &19 year olds).  This makes things much more manageable and could be an idea and an incentive for other schools to get involved.

Experience and Recognition

Glenveagh see MV from the point of view that because it is an external accreditation it is of particular benefit to their pupils in relation to future employment prospects, as pupils do not leave with many accredited qualifications.

It can also be promoted to the school as a post-school option for pupils to explore.  SEN school leavers look for a '5 day leaving package' which nowadays can be difficult due to lack of services.  Volunteering could be something which they continue doing after leaving school to help develop employability, increase self esteem and provide a social outlet. 

In the case of Glenveagh, activities they have identified at school which can be classed as volunteering include... helping out at a school open day, helping in the set up/planning and running of school plays, fundraising at Christmas time, singing at a nursing home, Christmas hampers, school grounds maintenance, helping in the nursery, break or lunch time prefect duties etc.  As well, of course, as any volunteering the pupils do outside of school.

* Just to note, many SEN pupils in their final years will partake in regular work experience/work placements and the school may ask if this can be counted as MV hours because many of them go out to do this at disability organisations which are registered charities. However it would be mostly viewed that these placements are work experience rather than volunteering.

Hours Gained

It has been agreed that the schools award can be achieved by doing whatever the young people are capable of; there are no set numbers of hours which they must achieve.  Glenveagh feel that their pupils should achieve 10-12 hours throughout the school year.

Record Books

It is also beneficial to explain to the school/teacher that the MV record booklets can be used in whatever way the school feels appropriate for their pupils.  For example, every section does not necessarily have to be filled out and completed as this may not be feasible for certain pupils and could be off-putting to a teacher due to the extra work required helping pupils with it.


Glenveagh Special School have had a positive experience of the programme with the young people responding to their roles, their recognition, responsibility and the experience that they have gained.  It has also provided the School with a mechanism for encouraging students and their parents to identify future roles and options for post school life.

Volunteer Now have also developed relationships with other Special Schools and each School has adapted the programme to meet their own School needs as well as the needs of the young people.  Volunteer Now supported in house volunteering for young people in one school where the students participated in a regular hour or two of volunteering once a week in order to support a Charity in the run up to Christmas.

Volunteer Now is willing to work with Schools to find a model which best works for them and to ensure the young people are encouraged to volunteer, recognise the benefits of volunteering and to provide them with recognition for their efforts.


For more information on how we can support you and your students contact the Youth Team.