About Nesta

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

Beanstalk: It's not just about reading


At Beanstalk, we recruit, train and support volunteers to give one-to-one literacy lessons to children in primary schools across England.

We currently place volunteers in schools where children have fallen behind with their reading and are struggling with their confidence and self-esteem.

Volunteers give three hours per week, supporting three children over two 30 minute sessions.

Through consistent support, our reading helpers give children the assistance they need to improve their reading ability and confidence. Volunteers are trained to recognise what challenges each child faces and tailor their sessions to support that child.

Teachers have told us that a lot of these children don’t get one-to-one time with their teacher, so having someone that comes in twice a week and sits with them, is hugely beneficial.

It’s not just about reading, one teacher told me, it’s about emotional support as well

Time spent with a volunteer is very special to children; and teachers see the benefits in the emotional well-being as well as the reading attainment of the children.

We don’t just measure literacy results, we measure the softer skills as well.

Our work as part of the Give More Get More fund

Through the fund, we plan to test whether intensive volunteering can support children who are in Year 6 - in the year before they move from primary to secondary school.

To do this we plan to develop two intensive volunteering roles:

  1. Intensive Reading Helpers – volunteers who give eight hours per week (two hours per child per week) for one academic term, supporting four children a week.
  2. Mentors – volunteers who give support to new trained reading helpers.

By introducing these additional roles we feel that intensive volunteering will not only accelerate the children’s learning and help them with their SATs results, but also with their entry into secondary school, which can often be daunting.

Our hopes for the new volunteering services

The need has always been there, we just haven’t been able to grow with it.

We know that there is huge demand across the UK and that there are pockets of deprivation that we currently aren’t in. There are a lot of ways we know we can reach those children and one of them is looking at flexibility within volunteering.

At the moment, we work with around 3,000 volunteers, but we know that we can work with more.

The Nesta funding is really going to help us trial the idea that maybe people can’t commit for a year, but maybe they could commit more intensely for a term.

We are hopeful that this intensive model will have a positive impact on children, schools and volunteers – thus benefitting the wider community as a whole.

We know that there are more children that need our one-to-one support; that's why, by 2020 , we'll be supporting over 30,000 children aged from 3-13 years thanks to the support provided by partners such as Nesta.

To find out more, contact [email protected]

Photo Credit: Beanstalk


Kate Dolleymore

Kate Dolleymore is Philanthropy Manager at Beanstalk, where she works on the fundraising team, focusing on building relationships with trusts, foundations and individuals.

Lynette Lucas

Lynette Lucas

Lynette Lucas

Programme Coordinator

Lynette worked in the business support team, providing practical support across a number of programmes. This includes organising events, managing processes and making sure that program…

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