With schools not expected to fully reopen until at least early March, extending months of online teaching for many pupils, the University of Sunderland is coming to the rescue of struggling parents.

An innovative new project has been set up, which sees the University’s trainee teachers provide online schooling to isolating children of members of staff – with 130 trainees already signed up.

Fifty staff members have joined so far, which is 70 pupils in total.

Mikeala Morgans, Principal Lecturer: Team Leader, Initial Teacher Training, said: “As we continue into our third lockdown, parents are once again balancing the demands of supporting children with learning remotely whilst also working themselves.

“The recent government announcement that schools will not start to return until at least March 8th means that this way of working is set to stay for some time.

“We are now into phase two of the Twin Tutoring project where trainees are trained as online tutors to deliver and support online working with the children of staff at the University across our London and Sunderland campuses.

“The project has evolved from phase one and focuses on carefully considering pupils’ current curriculum and how the tutors can support that with additional teaching and learning input.”

Last week, the trainees taught 20 lessons for Year 2 to Year 10 pupils, covering a range of subjects, including Geography, Science, English and Maths.

Children are also being encouraged to step away from their computer screens and take part in crafts and yoga activities.

The scheme is also an opportunity for trainee teachers to develop their skills, while supporting the University’s working parents at the same time.

“The trainees who are involved in the project are fantastic and we have had amazing feedback about the relationships they have built with pupils as well as the quality of their provision,” Mikeala added.

“The project supports our trainees with developing their skills of delivering teaching and learning online and they will be a very valuable commodity for schools moving forward, as I feel sure there will be an element of this way of working for some considerable amount of time to come.

“One of the new developments that has come from the trainees is the creation of a wellbeing curriculum. This is a really beneficial addition to the project with the tutors providing a range of different activities to support pupils’ wellbeing during the lockdown through sessions such as craft, languages for fun and yoga, and I am led to understand that some of the parents have even joined in!”

Professor Lynne McKenna, Dean of the Faculty of Education and Society at the University, said: “The University of Sunderland is a solution-focused institution and when staff reported the challenges of juggling working from home alongside home-schooling their children, the innovative Initial Teacher Training team were quick to respond.

“The benefits of providing this support are two-fold, not only are we are supporting the children and our staff during the lockdown, we are providing our students with the opportunity to get valuable teaching experience. This is really important as placement opportunities in schools are proving challenging this year.”