Cadent volunteers join forces with Coventry school to boost reading standards

helping our community

  • Gas company volunteers help pupils boost reading standards
  • All Year 2, 3 and 5 pupils reach the expected standards – and some have exceeded
  • Scheme boosts reading achievements among children with special educational needs
A partnership between Holbrooks-based gas company Cadent and Coventry’s Courthouse Green School has boosted reading standards among pupils, a report has revealed.
In a pilot scheme that started in January this year, eight volunteers from Cadent each gave up an hour a week to listen to pupils read and talk about the books they were looking at.
The scheme aimed to improve standards and encourage a love of books amongst youngsters who were finding reading difficult and not meeting the expected standard for their age.
However, an end-of-year assessment by the school revealed that not only did most of the children met the expected reading standard for their ages but some had gone on to make even better progress than expected.
Headteacher Sarah Malam said: “We have been delighted with the volunteers themselves and the impact of the programme on the children’s progress, wellbeing and confidence.
“The relationships the volunteers have worked to form with their assigned children has been wonderful to see and it is this, as well as the volunteers’ tenacity in ensuring the absolute best for each child they work with, that has resulted in such positive impact on the children’s academic progress.
“As well as their reading progress we have also noted a fantastic improvement in children’s confidence and self-esteem. This has, without doubt, been supported and nurtured by the volunteer programme and the relationships built.”
The scheme was the brainchild of Laura Barnes, Cadent’s Corporate Social Responsibility Adviser and a volunteer herself. Laura said: “These results are fantastic. As a company we work to support our local communities but these results are beyond anything we expected when we started the scheme.
“It was a joy to see the children progress in their reading and really begin to enjoy the books. It is so rewarding to do something potentially life-changing for a child.
“We hope to run the scheme again in September.”
The report by the school found that:
  • all the Year 2, 3 and 5 pupils on the scheme had reached the expected standard for their academic year.
  • All the Year 2, 3 and 5 pupils made expected progress but 100% of  the Year 3 pupils and 25% of Year 2 pupils actually made better than expected progress
  • the scheme also boosted the reading skills for Year 4 youngsters with special educational needs. Twenty-five pupils per cent of pupils on the scheme reached the expected standard for their year – exceeding expectations – and 75% made expected progress.

The scheme offered spin-off benefits too, helping to improve the children’s conversational and social skills, and the pupils enjoyed it too.
One youngster commented about their volunteer: “She helps me read aloud better. She puts a smile on my face.”
Another said: “She has helped me not to be shy and let me know how to read”
Cadent volunteer Rachel Slater said: “I have really enjoyed volunteering on this scheme. It is lovely to work with the children and very rewarding to see them progress. The school has been so supportive and the scheme has been very well organised.”
The scheme was facilitated by leading volunteering charity Volunteering Matters, who helped organise the recruitment and training of the Cadent volunteers.
Val Brittin of Volunteering Matters said: “This scheme shows just how beneficial, impactful and rewarding well-organised employee volunteering programmes can be.
“Not only have we seen a significant improvement in the children’s progress in reading but there are other, less obvious benefits  for pupils, such as widening their conversational skills and having different role models.”

Volunteer case study - Rachel Slater

Rachel Slater has worked for Cadent for over three years. She works in Cadent’s RIIO2 Capex Investment team, looking at asset investment. Before she joined Cadent, she spent seven years working as a family support worker for Birmingham City Council.

Rachel is one of eight Cadent volunteers involved in the reading volunteer scheme at Courthouse Green School. Each volunteer gives an hour a week to listen to up to four children read. Cadent allows staff to take that time during their working day.

“I’m new to Cadent’s volunteering programme. I got involved because I wanted to work with children again, as it was an element of my old job that I missed”.

“I love it; it is so rewarding to see the children progress to higher stage books or try and sound out longer words that they wouldn’t have attempted before. You can really see the difference you are making.”

“The school have been made us feel so welcome and included. The teachers have been really supportive, and you feel like you are part of the team”.

“Most of the time, the children are willing to engage. I had one little girl who didn’t want to stop reading most weeks!  If they are a bit reluctant at first, I just try and talk to them about things that interest them; get them engaged.

“Having previous experience of working with children has helped but it’s not essential.  You just need to be committed and to have patience, understanding and empathy.”




Cadent is the UK’s largest gas distribution network with a 200-year legacy.  We are in a unique position to build on strong foundations whilst encouraging the curiosity to think differently and the courage to embrace change.  Day to day we continue to operate, maintain and innovate the UK’s largest gas network, transporting gas safely and protecting people in an emergency.   Our skilled engineers and specialists remain committed to the communities we serve, working day and night to ensure gas reaches 11 million homes from Cumbria to North London and the Welsh Borders to East Anglia, to keep your energy flowing. 

Future of Gas: Here at Cadent we support the Government’s plans to reach Net Zero by 2050. That means we’re backing the introduction of hydrogen as a low carbon alternative to natural gas for the future. We know people love the controllability of gas and, with our network already in place, it makes sense to switch to the lower carbon alternative offered by hydrogen, which we believe can keep homes and businesses warm for generations to come.

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