News and views Looking forward to 2016-17 By Amelia Shaw, Beanstalk Area Manager It’s the end of the school year, a time of the year which provides us with a moment of reflection on all of our successes over the past 12 months: all the times when a headteacher recommended us to another school; the time when one of our volunteers organised a party with the most wonderful cake for us; when one of our supported children went on the radio to talk about his reading sessions. But it’s also a time to consider how we can improve on our work and to plan our successes for the next school year. I love the way Beanstalk is ambitious and professional whilst still striving to ensure that what we do is fun. I feel it’s an enormous privilege to be working at an organisation where all the staff and volunteers are driven to provide the very best support that they can to children who need it. Over the past year my role has expanded quite considerably since January. Previously I was the Area Manager for London, working three days a week. Since then Somerset and East Midlands have also come under my remit…needless to say I’m now working full-time. This has given me great insight into how each of the different areas operate. It’s amazing how different all the areas are, and how we respond to meet their needs depending on whether it’s town, country, remote or well-connected, large or small. Despite all these differences, there are similarities which run through each one: a belief that all children should develop a love of reading, and how everyone is involved in building the most amazing relationships which are the crux of our successes. Just before the end of the school term, I saw a very touching example when one of our Area Relationship Executives accompanied Mrs Reddy – a reading helper who has been volunteering with us for 17 years – to an event where she was announced as one of the winners of a Love Local Hero award! On receiving her award Mrs. Reddy said: “I will treasure this award for a lifetime. I dedicate it to my parents and four daughters. I couldn’t have done it without them.” Mrs. Reddy pictured (far right) with the Mayor of Hammersmith and Fulham and the other winners and nominees. Even though the schools are closed and many volunteers are on their holidays there’s plenty to do. Having seen some differences in the way that our various offices have been working, I’m looking at how we can draw together the good practices to streamline our systems to make us more efficient and effective in our work. I’m also working hard at building the new relationships needed to enable us to grow and succeed next year and towards 2020. We have three new members of staff starting working in the area on 1st August, and there are external partners that I’m engaging with too: other charities, education leaders and potential funders, supporters and volunteers. Next week, I’m picking up my surfboard and a bundle of books and am heading down to Cornwall, but know that I’ll be back to Beanstalk soon all invigorated and ready for what is ahead.