Uni of Sunderland launches project to provide online schooling for isolating children of staff

The innovative initiative will see the university’s trainee teachers deliver online education for those in need

The University of Sunderland has launched an innovative project to provide quality online learning for children of staff forced to isolate due to suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19.

With many parents struggling to balance work life with homeschooling amid the ongoing pandemic, staff and students from the university approached the Faculty of Education (FE) to see how they could help.

The brand-new initiative, led by the university, will see trainee teachers from the FE deliver quality digital lessons to the isolating children of staff – with 75 trainees already signed up to the programme.

The concept originated from Debs Patten, professor of anatomy at the school of medicine. Of the project, 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 her and husband continued to grapple with the balance of work and homeschooling, Professor Patten questioned the prospect of bringing the university’s PGCE students on board to bring “the teacher presence into the home for parents homeschooling”.

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“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” – Professor Lynne McKenna, University of Sunderland

After approaching Professor Lynne McKenna, dean of the faculty of education and society, for advice and assistance, Patten worked with the Initial Teacher Training Team to form a plan of action, and a scheme which saw the institution’s trainee teachers develop their skills and experience, while simultaneously supporting the university’s working parent community, was quickly developed.

“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,” said Professor McKenna.

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.”


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