What is a Timebank?
A timebank is a ‘bank’ in which volunteers can make ‘deposits’ which can be redeemed in due course to be used to pay for ‘services’. In our school context it would mean that parents who have some free time, could use this time to volunteer in specific projects in the school, and have this time recorded and noted formally as ‘deposits’ in a ledger called a ‘timebank’ and then use this credit as part-payment against services offered by the school which normally would cost money.

An example would be:
The internal school walls are in constant need of painting. It would cost the school money to pay for this to be done by a contractor. Instead, if a group of parents were to undertake to give their labour and expertise for free, the hours they spend doing this would be noted/recorded and ‘banked’ in a ledger. Next Autumn, when the After-School Clubs cycle comes around again, this ‘banked’ credit could be translated into vouchers which could be used to part-pay for a selection of clubs for your children.

Another example might be:
The school needs a series of books to be scanned into digital computer files for future classroom use by the teachers. Any parent who has the skill to do this, in the school premises, using school facilities, could have their time/labour recorded and ‘banked’ in the timebank-ledger. In due course, this ‘banked’ credit could be redeeemd as vouchers and used in part-payment for your child to participate in a Summer Camp in the school.

The particular projects that are suitable for this, from the school’s perspective, are those projects which would otherwise cost the school money; so a saving to the school’s finances has to be made ( i.e. it is not something that should normally be expected to be done, or is done, on a voluntary basis in keeping with normal parental-involvement protocols in the school). For this reason only specific projects will be called ‘Timebank Projects’. An initial list of these might be some gardening, building-maintenance, IT projects.

Also, all of our extra-curricular projects for children must self-fund, so the ‘vouchers’ that accrue from hours of voluntarism can only ever be part-payment for these services and cannot replace fully the cash needed to meet the overheads of these initiatives.

I am grateful to Tom Moriarity from Adamstown Educate Together for his presentation on ‘Timebank’ at our recent Principal’s training weekend.

Is there an enthusisasm amongst our school parents for this kind of project? What do you think might be the strengths and weaknesses of a project such as this? Would this kind of project be of benefit to Balbriggan ETNS? Please leave a comment.


12 Responses to “Timebank”

  1. 1 Helen Usiomwanta June 21, 2011 at 9:22 am

    The TimeBank is a very good idea,this way a lot of parents have different Skills and Experiences would help out with School projects.

  2. 2 Lavinia June 15, 2011 at 8:56 pm

    I think this is also a great idea, and for parents who are not able to commit to something on a regular basis may be able to complete one off task which link in with their preferred area of expertise/knowledge. As others have said it would be a route for involving more parents.

  3. 3 Emma Dunne June 7, 2011 at 10:23 am

    I think the ‘Timebank’ is a very innovative idea and has the possibility of becoming another great success of the school.

    I think Mary has raised some very good points. It will be interesting to see how some tasks are quantified against others and how parents react to the differentiation of tasks.
    Will parents feel the work already being done is less important as there is no monetary value attached?

    The theory sounds great, how has it worked in practice at other schools?

    It seems that this idea will generate a new list of parental volunteers. Hopefully this will get people in the door and enjoy the experience enough to offer help whether the reward is a voucher or just self-satisfaction.

    Or, will these new volunteers only help if there is a voucher in return? For example, bag-packing is not an enjoyable experience, but does raise funds needed for the PA to help support the school. Will parents be less likely to help with this task if no voucher is exchanged for their time?

    I’m looking forward to your pilot project and of course, saving a few pennies!

    • 4 balbrigganetns June 7, 2011 at 10:57 am

      Yes, Emma. Indeed these are the issues.

      There is no school in the country in which this is operational, but a cluster of ET schools in Lucan are a bit further down the road in terms of organising it. Teachers from these schools have visited Wales to observe a pilot project ( in Port Talbot I think). But here the Timebank is very broad in scope and involves many many organisations ( not just schools) and the vouchers are for many many services ( including shops and municipal services such as Leisure Centres etc.)

      There is a balance to strike that will be very difficult to do, but not should necessarily deter us all the same.

      Off the top of my head: the work that is being currently undertaken by the Parent Association should, philosophically, be seen as the valuable voluntarism that all civic-minded citizens should for some period of their lives be willing to do for their children’s school. Similarly, other school projects such as parental involvement in some teaching programmes ( eg Maths for Fun, or parental assistance with school teams etc. ) are very much in keeping with the Educate Together ethos of parental involvement in the education of their children. I would be anxious to maintain the ethos of voluntarism in both these crucial areas.

      But there are other projects that need to be done that, if not done ‘for free’ would have to be paid for by the school. For example, the upkeep of the school grounds requires hours that are over and above what the school’s caretaker is currently paid for…. so an option facing the school is to either (a) pay the caretaker more hours, thus eating into the school’s budget that could be better spent elsewhere or (b) finding parents willing to do this task who will get some remuneration so that it is not entirely voluntary . Similarly, perhaps the another cold- snap where the clearing of pathways of ice/snow is beyond the current part-time caretakers hours. Similarly for ‘indoor’ chores such as covering all school texts with clear-contact, or scanning books into digital format for use by teachers on interactive whiteboards. Similarly for painting/decorating the school interior. These are all projects that the school might otherwise have to ‘pay for’ but might be welcome to some parents for some form of remuneration.

  4. 5 Colette Maguire May 30, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    I think “Timebank” is a fantastic idea and there are a lot of prents who will gladly help out with various tasks/jobs that need doing in the school with the added bonus of recieving vouchers redeemable against school activities. I do agree with Mary’s suggestion that there is a worry that it may undermine the work which carried out by the parent groups on a regular basis but I do believe that anyone involved in “Timebank” will do so for the same reasons that the parent groups volunteer their time i.e for the good of the school and the welfare of their children attending the school.

  5. 6 Mary McGrath May 30, 2011 at 9:37 am

    I think this is a great initiative on the part of the school. Anything that saves the school money and also increases parental involvement can only be positive. I would suggest, however, that some clarification is needed as to the kinds of projects that contribute to the ‘Time Bank’ and those that constitute ‘normal parental involvement.’ I think there is scope for confusion and possibly resentment if some tasks that parents do for the school have a monetary value attached to them while other work does not. Lack of parity can be very corrosive of the volunteering spirit within any organisation, especially when this is expressed through remuneration.
    Parents getting involved in, say, Maths for Fun or helping out at the school photos day are performing a valuable service for the school and you cannot put a price on that work. Parental involvement in the school serves many purposes, one of which I think is to demonstrate real life volunteerism to children. This isn’t in any way undermined by the ’Time Bank’ idea as the tasks involved would have a clear monetary value, were the school to hire people to do them. Nevertheless, I think it might be helpful to expand on the distinction between ‘Time Bank’ work and ‘normal parental involvement’ and why the latter will always be important and necessary.

  6. 8 Samana May 27, 2011 at 8:59 pm

    I really liked this concept of TIMEBANK. I would support this idea fully. Once this idea gets approved and is implemented i would suggest that it should be cleared as in how many hours deposited in the time bank will be substituted for what amount of vouchers.
    Would you have a list of projects Fintan?
    I think this idea is mutually beneficial for parents and school.

  7. 9 Suzanne Reeves May 26, 2011 at 7:24 pm

    This is an excellent idea. Perhaps a list of projects could be posted and when enough volunteers sign up it could start. I feel each project would need a leader/co-ordinator also to keep track of what time was put in and so what was “banked”. There must be lots of parents with skills and experience that would benifit everyone.

  8. 10 Natalie Johnson May 26, 2011 at 8:45 am

    I think that ‘Timebank’ could be positive for the school especially these days when we need to be more cost conscious. I think we could all lend a hand where skills and time permit.

  9. 11 colleen mckenzie May 16, 2011 at 6:51 pm

    This is a great idea and also serves as an innovative way to recruit new volunteer parents. I’m sure many of us have skills and resources we could lend to the school.

  10. 12 Rama kumar May 12, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    Dear principal,

    I think the TimeBank is a great idea. I feel so happy about this idea.Because I m doing volunteer work last 2 years. I m fully satisfaction with the volunteer work. now I feel very happy to hear the Timebank idea. It will help my children to learn something. so I think this is the best idea ever. Thanking you.

    Rama kumar

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