• Mon. Apr 15th, 2024

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Talented young women empowered to reach children most in need


The legacy of Sir Tom Cowie, a north-east champion of education for all, is being kept alive, empowering two young trainee teachers to reach those children who are most in need.

Primary Education students Lauren Coxon, 20, and Millie Herron, 22, are both in the final year of their studies at the University of Sunderland.

The trainee teachers have won this year’s Sir Tom Cowie Sunderland Award, receiving £10,000 each to support them in their final year.

The award was set up in memory of the Wearside-born entrepreneur who died in 2012, aged 89. Sir Tom Cowie was a long-term supporter of the University and believed passionately in its principles of affording those with talent, regardless of background, the opportunity to enter higher education.

As part of his legacy, the Sir Tom Cowie Sunderland Award was set up to support students to achieve their full potential.

As well as carrying on Sir Tom Cowie’s legacy, student Lauren Coxon, from Washington, is also carrying on a family legacy – as her mother and grandmother both graduated from Sunderland.

“I decided to study at Sunderland because of my mother and grandmother, but also because of Sunderland’s reputation as a university. I also wanted to study close to home, it was the perfect combination.”

Lauren’s mother studied Business Management and Leadership, graduating in 2022, and her grandmother graduated in 1994, also from Business Management.

Lauren has very different career aims, and hopes to become a primary school teacher, teaching students with special educational needs and disabilities. She currently works for Vision for Education as a Teaching Assistant in special needs schools, alongside her studies. Lauren is also a carer for a little girl who has Batten Disease, a genetic neurological disease which is congenital, progressive, and terminal.

She applied for the Sir Tom Cowie Sunderland Award to open up her opportunities while she studied, without the pressure of having to work in her final year.

“I applied for the scholarship as I am keen to take up various courses such as Makaton, a language used to communicate through speech, signs, and symbols which supports people with disabilities and learning disabilities so they can communicate, and paediatric first aid. I also wanted to be able to focus on my final year of studies and not worry about how I can support myself financially.”

Fellow award-winning student Millie Heron, from Sunderland, is also hoping to help support vulnerable primary school students, but is taking a very different approach, thanks to the support of the Sir Tom Cowie Sunderland Award.

“I am planning on staying and working within the local area once I graduate, so it is great being able to gain experience working in local schools during my placement time at the University,” says Millie.

“After I graduate I want to complete a Forest School training course which will allow me to be fully qualified to lead forest school sessions within schools and promote the benefits of outdoor learning around other schools.”

Professor Lyyne McKenna MBE, Dean of the Faculty of Education and Society at the University of Sunderland, said: “I am absolutely delighted that this year our recipients are Primary Education students. 2023-24 has certainly been a year where we have been able to celebrate the achievements of our staff and students in initial teacher training.”

David Gray, FRICS, Chairman of Trustees of The Sir Tom Cowie Charitable Trust, added: “Sir Tom would have been absolutely delighted to see the Sir Tom Cowie Sunderland Award develop into what is now its 14th year.”

The Sir Tom Cowie Sunderland Award is now open to applications from full-time undergraduates at the University of Sunderland studying either Arts, Business, Education or Engineering programmes, who are at the end of their penultimate year (second year for standard programmes or third year for four year programmes) of their studies. You must be from the City of Sunderland in order to apply.

For more details on the Sir Tom Cowie Sunderland Award, a full list of eligible courses, and how to apply go to: The Sir Tom Cowie Sunderland Award. Applications close on Friday 24 May.