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Education students support learning during lockdown


Students from the Institute of Education at the University of Wolverhampton have been using their skills to provide support and essential services for key workers and vulnerable children and adults during the recent pandemic.

Alice Mackenzie-Martin is studying on the Foundation Degree (Arts) Supporting Children in Primary Education course at City of Wolverhampton College, a partner college of the University.  Working in a special needs school, Alice is ensuring the children she supports can contribute to their community by encouraging them to decorate the school gates showing their appreciation for the NHS.  As well as ensuring they have lots of crafts to make Alice and the rest of the staff have been using sign language and singing songs for the children.

As well as continuing their work in education and supporting their community, other students are directly supporting the work of the NHS Trusts and are working at hospitals across the region. 

Desharn Langley-Muir is studying on the BA Hons Young People, Family and Community course and is working on the wards at Birmingham Children’s Hospital supporting the communication and education of a child with a tracheostomy.

Final year Early Childhood Studies student, Jenny Carver, jumped at the chance of supporting NHS staff by looking after their children.  The project is running for 12 weeks paid for by the NHS and has a school nurse on site to support children who are showing signs of anxiety.

Jenny said: “I'm currently working on a really interesting project running the 3-5 pre-school room and usually have around 4 children every day. 

“The nursery has put lots of safety measures in place for us and the children, their parents drop them off at the gate and the manager brings them in after washing their hands and sanitising their belongings to lessen any risks.

“One little girl in my care is the daughter of an Accident and Emergency doctor who can’t live at home due to the risk of spreading COVID-19, it can be quite challenging as understandably she sometimes comes in quite upset.

“I have also supported families with their child’s behavioural issues, liaising with others to gain support for the family.

“It’s an interesting journey for me because I'm in charge of my room, the children and their learning, as well as lesson planning.”

University of Wolverhampton Senior Lecturer in Childhood and Family Studies, Dr Helen Perkins, said: “I am overwhelmed at the support that all these students, and more, are giving to their communities. 

“As well as enhancing their studies, it is also making such a positive impact to the lives of others.”

Student, Haleema Shakeel, is currently working for the NHS with young adults who require autism and mental health support.  The Master’s Health and Social Care student said: “I support my patients throughout the night, reassuring them when they are unsettled because they can’t see their family due to COVID-19.

“I love my job and it is especially nice to come to work on a Thursday evening and hear the community clapping to show their support.”

Whilst some students have continued to work on the frontline in schools or supporting the children of keyworkers, others have been volunteering in their community.

MA Education student, Ingrid Turner, worked in a nursery until it closed due to the lockdown.  Out of work, Ingrid decided to venture out amidst the sparse shelves at the end of March and help her elderly neighbour who was required to isolate due to COPD and other underlying illnesses. She said:  “I’m usually too busy with work and home life to spend time with her so I’m grateful for the lockdown.

“It’s been really hard on her as she usually meets with friends and her daughter and she also struggles with going out in public if she's been in the house for long periods.”

Ingrid has been helping her neighbour by doing her shopping once a week and baking her goodies every weekend.  “Last week she had Victoria sponge style cupcakes and today she had a mini strawberry cheesecake to have with her tea and a mini salted caramel cheesecake for tomorrow.

“I'll be making a chicken pasta bake for her in the week as she has never tried pasta before.”

The Institute of Education supports students at a number of partner colleges across the country, enabling them to study closer to home. 

The London Early Years Foundation (LEYF) is one of these partners.  LEYF is a charitable social enterprise and has been working hard during lockdown to keep 15 hub nurseries open across the capital for the children of key workers and vulnerable children, including one at the House of Commons.  Their team have also been reaching out to vulnerable children and their families, delivering home learning bags and running two food banks. 

LEYF offers their staff the opportunity to complete a degree as part of their partnership with the University of Wolverhampton.

Mandy Cuttler, Pedagogy Mentor at LEYF, who leads on the degree programme says: “All of LEYF’s degree students have been working tirelessly to balance the demands of academic study with continuing to provide care for the children who are still attending nursery.

“They are also supporting the children and families who are not at nursery during this time.  They have risen to the challenge admirably and we are all very proud of them.”

Runak Hamnad is in her first year of BA Hons SENDS, Special Educational Needs degree, based at the University Centre Telford.  As a practitioner at Low Hill Nursery School, Runak is supporting children of key workers. 

She said: “I support children through play based learning pedagogy, children are drawing, painting and creating rainbows with special massages for the community (be kind, stay home, stay safe), especially our school gate.

My role is to contact my families in my key group to ensure of children's safety and also emailing the activities to meet children's needs at home and I proudly use the knowledge that I have learned through my study in practice.”

Low Hill Nursery school has set up a food bank for most needed families at this crucial time and senior leaders have been contacting families as well as the wider community to offer support.


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