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Pioneering scheme for University staff juggling work with isolating children

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Published on 19 October 2020

working parents
working parents

Experts at a North East university are proving a lifeline to staff and students after devising an innovative way of supporting them if their children are sent home from school.

Since the start of term, many parents have found themselves struggling to keep working in the event of children having to isolate as classrooms across the country try to control infection rates.

When staff and students from the University of Sunderland found themselves having to drop their work at a moment’s notice to pick up affected pupils, they approached the Faculty of Education to see if there was a possible solution.

Now an innovative new project has been devised that will see the University’s trainee teachers providing online schooling to isolating children of staff  – with 75 trainees already signed up.

The initial idea came from Professor Debs Patten, Professor of Anatomy in the School of Medicine.

Professor Patten said: “When my son, Adam, was asked to self-isolate just a few days after restarting school in September, as parents we found ourselves juggling home-schooling, parenting and full-time work responsibilities again.

“School supplied work for Adam and my husband and I took turns to help him. He clearly missed the presence of a knowledgeable and supportive teacher who knows the curriculum and also, he was not always able to work independently on some of the planned activities.

“As we juggled work around a home-school day, I wondered if my colleagues in education had ideas for bringing the teacher-presence into the home for parents home-schooling and if our own PGCE students could help out as part of their learning experiences too.”


Professor Patten approached Professor Lynne McKenna, Dean of the Faculty of Education and Society, who worked with the Initial Teacher Training Team on an innovative plan.

A scheme was quickly developed that saw the University’s trainee teachers develop their skills, while at the same time supporting the University’s working parents.

Mikeala Morgans, Initial Teacher Training Team Leader, said: “‘This was an excellent opportunity for our fabulous trainees to develop their teaching abilities while delivering sessions online. 

“We are living in a world where teaching is taking place using a hybrid model and it will be excellent experience for our trainees to look further into online provision. 

“We are the largest provider of Initial Teacher Training in the region and offer 29 Initial Teacher Training programmes across the range of Secondary subjects and Primary phases so are really well placed to give pupils working at home excellent schooling.”

Professor McKenna added: “This project will not only support University staff with home schooling for primary and secondary children during periods of school closures and instances of self-isolating; it will also provide our trainees with opportunities to enhance their CVs and support future employability, provide evidence against the Teachers’ Standards, and will support their upcoming assessments. 

“Our trainee teachers are fast becoming experts in delivering remote teaching and learning and these newly developed skills and attributes will be very attractive to schools.

“The programme of delivery for home schooling pupils will cover a range of year groups and key curriculum areas which pupils can sign in to via Microsoft Teams. The first sessions will take place the Thursday after half term.”

Justine Gillespie, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Manager at the University, added: “This initiative was developed through an idea that came from CAPS, our carers and parents network, whilst discussing the impact on parents due to having to home school whilst working. 

“The Faculty of Education responded so positively and with great speed to be able to bring this project together. We know that this will provide support to our staff who are parents along with providing real work experience for our students. 

“A fantastic example of how staff networks can influence and how a faculty team can bring it to life and bring positive change to inclusion.”