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Graduate honoured for helping children to learn

26 November 2009

James Ashton-Bell (BSc 2009) has received the Inspire Bristol 2009 Enterprise and Innovation Award for his volunteer work on a primary schools outreach project that is making a significant difference to the lives of children across the city.

Politics graduate James, 24, received the award for his efforts in managing and developing the University’s Student Community Action Group Primary Schools Project. The project sends PGCE aspiring volunteers into schools to help hundreds of children with reading, writing and numeracy skills.

When James first became involved with the project, he spent a couple of mornings each week as a teaching assistant, running one-to-one workshops with children at a local primary school. 'Where you have varying levels of ability in classrooms, teachers simply don't have the time to give individual attention to every child,' he explained. 'The best thing you can do as a teaching assistant is to provide support for those groups that are either falling behind or are bored because they are ahead of the rest of the class.'

James has since become more and more involved in the project. Under his management, the scheme - which began with a handful of volunteers in three schools - now encompasses more than 100 student volunteers in 30 schools.

In addition, he is attempting to create a pilot of the project in the University of the West of England to expand the programme even further across the region.

James said: I feel very honoured to have been given this award. The project aims to prevent children from being left behind at that crucial primary stage and has proved to be a great success so far.

'I am a strong believer that students in Bristol make a positive impact on their community through their volunteering activities. University of Bristol students gave over 100,000 hours to volunteering projects last year.'

Young people often receive little or no public recognition for the valuable part they play in the community. The Inspire Bristol 2009 Awards presentation, supported by Barclays, publicly recognises the achievements of young people. The event included the presentation of the Duke of Edinburgh Awards and the Young People of the Year Awards. The awards are an opportunity to thank these young people and inspire others to take up the challenge and become involved in their communities.

The award is one of five ‘Young People of the Year Awards’. The winners in each category were selected by a panel made up of young people supported by youth workers. James' award, a Building a Better Bristol Award Certificate and Bristol Blue Glass trophy, was presented to him by the High Sheriff of Bristol on Saturday 21 November at the Elim@Bristol venue.