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This was a little odd and please excuse the long ramble following the precis but I'm really interested in what others think about this...

The short version is we've had an unreliable and pretty lazy (sat on chair doing pretty much nothing) volunteer at preschool for 4 out of a possible 9 sessions over the past 5/6 weeks. We have now received a reference request for her from a nursery nursing agency. She didn't ask me first, which to be honest, I thought was rude and I also don't feel able to write her a good one. Thoughts? Am I being unreasonable?

 

The full story... I had an unsolicited request for a job via email that was literally 'Do you have any jobs?' and the woman's first name - let's call her Polly. We will be needing a L3 soon so I replied asking for some info about her and what she was looking for. She replied that she had no experience or qualifications at pre-school but had done some babysitting and wanted more experinece. She also said this which I didn't really get..

 

I am in the process of speaking to NCMA re doing the unit of the level 3 Diploma, so that i can get my CRB and my paediatric first aid certificate, which then means i can go on the voluntary ofsted register.

 

Well as we don't have any unqualified positions I suggested she considered coming in as an unpaid volunteer to get some experience, not expecting her to really as she was looking for paid. On the other hand I was thinking if she was good and looking to train we could consider taking her on and supporting her in that - you never know do you?

She replied that she was interested and I gave her our administrator's (let's call her Patsy) email so she could arrange a CRB with her and that was that. A week or so later Patsy appeared with Polly and said she was doing the CRB and proceeded to show her round. After a while Patsy called me to ask if I had any preferences to when Polly came and before I answered Polly asked when we were open and when I told her she blanched and said 'Do I have to come for all of that??' :( I said that as a volunteer it was up to her how much time she could give us but if she wanted experience it would be best to see whole sessions. So she asked to do 2 sessions a week starting the next day.

Patsy assured me that she had gone over things like confidentiality, child protection, not going in the toilets with the children, not discipling them etc etc. Polly stuck to one child the first session and as I always find, I was so busy I barely had time to speak to her during the session. When I went to speak to her after the last child went, she had gone!!

The next week she came in and was in the other room to me and again had gone before I had a chance to speak to her. The staff reported she did very little and sat on the same chair at the dough table for the whole 3 hours - even when the children did group time and nobody was at that table. xD

The next session, although I tried to speak to her and suggest things she could do she was really uncommunicative and to be honest I gave up as I felt the children were more important :( So that was another 2 days sat on a chair :wacko:

The following week I was on admin and had loads to do so didn't see her but again staff said she did nothing and they also told me that she said she couldn't come on her set session so would come the next day. Now it probably wouldn't have mattered but I felt I should make a bit of a stand here so emailed and said that we had other volunteers that day (true) and it would be better if she could stick to her set days and she replied that she had prior arrangements and would be in the next week. That was fine I thought.

The following week she emailed to say she was ill and wouldn't be in. Then it was half term. On Friday of last week I suddenly realised she hadn't been in xD (I need a blushing one!!) I was felt a bit bad that I'd only just realised!! I commented on this to staff and one said they didn't think she'd back as all she wanted was the CRB and reference... Well the CRB won't transfer so doubt that was her motive but they then told me that Patsy had received a reference request!!!

I asked her and she gave it to me... 5 pages to fill in :o

It's actually a really good format which I might pinch :( as it does cover everything that a person just writing a ref might forget... HOWEVER... she never mentioned she was putting us as a reference and I really don't feel I could recommend anybody after 4 sessions - even if they'd been fab.

Well I then opened my emails to see if she had sent me anything about this week and got this. Now I am a total grammar and spelling pedant and the type that bins poorly written applications straight away so I do apologise in advance if you think I'm being a cow but what do you think - this is from someone who wants a reference from us...

 

Hi

Sorry i havnt been in this wk. iv not been well.

Not sure if 'Patsy' mentioned that iv been off work over 3 yrs as iv been ill. N this volunteerin was me getting back into things.

So its a little hit n miss atm. Which im sorry for

Hope to be back next wed

 

First I appreciate she may have been doing this on her phone but you can still write properly on a phone and secondly Patsy had no idea about this illness for 3 years...

 

LOL this is so long I do apologise! Well speaking to a colleague about it (not in a preschool) who was up in arms that we didn't give the volunteer a thorough induction and training programme (She was talking weeks of training before she even came to us...) I wondered what you lot do as I've never had this before. We have mums who come in and just kind of muck in and we have students who come with a set of learning intentions as it were but I've never had someone coming to us to build up experience before a job...

Edited by Hello Kitty
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I have had this for the first time this year as well.

She was quite good with the children but would not speak at all really to any of the staff which got a bit oppressive in the end and I had to say that there was a limit to how long it went on. After that she made an excuse and never came back.

Pretty sure I wouldn't do it again unless there was more reason to be confident they could be a bit of the team. Luckily she did not ask for a reference though.

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We always asked such a lot when we took on this sort of volunteer that I often wondered if we were over the top, but seems not.. there is a reason I am now sure we did the right thing.

 

we always asked for them to complete an application form with all the usual details on it, including 2 references, and they did not start until we had both of them and the CRB cleared.. then there was an induction and a probationary period for us to say sorry it is not working.. usually 2-3 months.. must admit once they realised what we were asking many did nto apply..

 

Now from the view of applying for a volunteer post...

 

I have been in the process of applying as a volunteer in a children's centre since October... yes you heard correct I applied that long ago and it has taken this long to get all the paperwork etc done and I am now waiting for a call to ask when I can start..

 

I had an introduction meeting... this was followed by me sending in a full application form with 2 referees, what sort of role I felt I could do, and all the usual questions like experience, and why I felt I would be good at the role, and what would I bring to the setting..

 

at this point I began to do things a bit out of sequence.. as I did an induction meeting covering the usual confidentiality, CP, what was expected of me and them etc..(this is usually after the interview!) next I had an interview of 30 mins at the CC with the manager and the leader for the stay and play I was hoping to join.. they then had a discussion and offered me a volunteer post, with a 2 month probation period .. then I had to do the CRB, and they got references.. which is where I am now waiting for them all to return.. I did however fit in an update to my CP training while waiting for them to come back.. again very out of order!

 

and this is for a one day a fortnight volunteer in a stay and play where mums are all present all the time and responsible for their own children..

 

I did wonder if our procedures were too much but now I realise they were what was expected to check that we have suitable person with the children at all times..

 

as to reference I would say if you feel you are unable to comment on a lot of it as they were with you for such a short time, and be honest..

 

now I will apologise for the long post- but felt perhaps a perspective on applying somewhere may help.

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Thank you for the replies! It's always a bit soul destroying when you kind of open your heart and get lots of views and no replies! I was a little worried that I was going to be 'flamed' :o

 

I'm going to put 'I don't feel I've known her long enough to comment' on the areas I feel that - such as can she maintain confidentiality... There is a grid with not known, poor --> excellent along the top and attendance, rapport with children, initiative etc down side. The thing is if I filled it in on what I've seen I would honestly have to put poor for every single one except satisfactory with children xD I feel bad doing that but honestly if an agency sent her to me I would not be happy at all, especially if they said she had had references...

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I had a similar experience with a student on placement who was less than enthusiastic and, in hindsight, more of a hindrance than a help! She, too, sent me a text message to ask for a reference and she'd already passed on my contact details and email address as it was urgent :o I was lost for words ....

 

A parent I work for sent me this

 

"Almost everyone is asked to write a reference letter at some time during their career. Whether it's for an employee, a friend, or someone you've worked with, it is important to be prepared to write an effective letter of recommendation. It's equally important to be ready to say "no" if you're not comfortable recommending someone for employment.

 

When You Have Nothing Positive to Say

 

It's actually in the person's best interest for you to politely decline writing a reference letter if you can't provide more than a wishy-washy endorsement. A less than positive reference can cause as much harm as a negative reference. Employers are usually good at reading between the lines and will pick up on what you're not saying.

 

If you decline, the person can move on to another reference who may be able to provide a glowing recommendation. A simple way out is to say that you are not familiar enough with their work or background to provide a reference. That way you can minimize any potential hurt feelings."

 

When the email request arrived I sent a short reply just saying that in view of the short time that X had been with me I was unable to supply a reference.

 

Hope that helps.

 

Nona

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I had a similar experience with a student on placement who was less than enthusiastic and, in hindsight, more of a hindrance than a help! She, too, sent me a text message to ask for a reference and she'd already passed on my contact details and email address as it was urgent :o I was lost for words ....

 

A parent I work for sent me this

 

"Almost everyone is asked to write a reference letter at some time during their career. Whether it's for an employee, a friend, or someone you've worked with, it is important to be prepared to write an effective letter of recommendation. It's equally important to be ready to say "no" if you're not comfortable recommending someone for employment.

 

When You Have Nothing Positive to Say

 

It's actually in the person's best interest for you to politely decline writing a reference letter if you can't provide more than a wishy-washy endorsement. A less than positive reference can cause as much harm as a negative reference. Employers are usually good at reading between the lines and will pick up on what you're not saying.

 

If you decline, the person can move on to another reference who may be able to provide a glowing recommendation. A simple way out is to say that you are not familiar enough with their work or background to provide a reference. That way you can minimize any potential hurt feelings."

 

When the email request arrived I sent a short reply just saying that in view of the short time that X had been with me I was unable to supply a reference.

 

Hope that helps.

 

Thank you Nona, that's how I feel too.

 

Nona

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We have a short application form for volunteers, asks for name & address & contact number, why they want to volunteer & evidence of this (local college gets people wanting to do various childcare courses to volunteer first, & this tends to be why they want to volunteer with us) names & addresses of 2 referees; & makes it very clear that the references & CRB have to be in place before they can start. Now, if someone's already known to us, we will let them start while processing the CRB, but they are watched.

 

We put this into place after having a volunteer who it transpired old manager had taken on with no details - no even a phone number to contact her on... Not good!

 

We had 3 students from college last year, & 2 of them were good, but the last one was awful & we ended up telling the college who were so shocked at her behaviour that they wouldn't let her come back - I will do the same for volunteers, as I am super mean person, and we don't have the time to be running round after a student or volunteer. If I give someone an induction and they know what is expected of them but choose not to do it, they don't want to be in childcare, so don't be in my setting!

 

That sounds very harsh, and anyone who wants to be working with children I will support, but make allowances for people who want to sit around all day doing nothing but interacting with chosen children (& my student was clearly discriminatory in who she interacted with) and rolling their eyes & loudly sighing when asked to pick puzzles up off the floor to put back on the table when no-one's playing with them rather than sit at the puzzle table with no children there interacting with no-one and doing nothing, I won't! (Oops, I guess your volunteer rang a bell with me as being like my annoying student - now I need the blushing smily!)

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