New helpline offers support for parents struggling with home schooling

Parents and carers struggling to teach phonics to one child and physics to another at home during the coronavirus lockdown will now be able to call up expert help.

A group of schools in England have set up a national helpline operating six days a week to allow parents to find someone who can explain the mysteries of trigonometry, oxbow lakes and the Schleswig-Holstein Question if they cannot.

Justine Roberts, the founder of Mumsnet, is one of those backing the StarLine service, which aims to offer confidential advice to families from qualified teachers and parenting experts, including advice on behaviour and timetabling as well as help for those looking after children with special educational needs or disabilities.

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“On our forums we’re seeing thousands of discussions, covering everything from anxiety about the impacts on GCSE and A-level pupils, or questions about key stage one literacy, to worries about children’s socialisation and mental health, to frustration about having to make one laptop stretch between three kids,” Roberts said.

Hamid Patel, chief executive of the Star Academies schools trust, which is behind the helpline, said: “We understand that this is a time of additional pressure for many parents and carers. The combination of working from home, caring for our loved ones and trying to educate our children is a difficult juggling act.

“Together with our partners, we want to use our educational expertise to support parents and carers who are grappling with the challenge of trying to maintain their children’s learning.”

StarLine said its advisers will share techniques and resources with families, to help children follow good study habits, and practical steps to take with specific subjects such as algebra or English, or tips on how to manage the learning of several children.

The helpline, to be officially launched on Friday, is supported by a group of multi-academy trusts and Oak National Academy, the new digital platform created by teachers since the start of the lockdown to help schools and families access relevant learning materials and online classrooms.

Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, said the service was a welcome addition to the support available to help children learn from home. “StarLine represents another inspiring example of teachers and education experts working together to share their knowledge, resources and expertise with schools and families,” he said.

The StarLine group says that no external or additional funding has been received for the project, with all costs being met by the project’s partners. Calls to the helpline use a local rate number, 0330 3139162, from anywhere in the UK.

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