Let Teachers SHINE winner 2021: Victoria Wilson – Learning Links

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A Teesside teacher has been named as one of the winners of a national competition for her idea to help young children learn at home.

Victoria Wilson, from St Paul’s Catholic Primary School in Billingham, won £5,000 in this year’s Let Teachers SHINE contest.

The competition, which is run by the education charity SHINE and supported by Tes, awards funding to teachers with brilliant ideas to help disadvantaged students succeed in English, maths or science.

Victoria’s award will fund Learning Links, a set of inspiring home-learning activities for children in the early years.

“I was massively shocked to have got the funding. I couldn’t believe it,” Victoria said. “It was just an amazing feeling because, as a school, we’ve put a lot of work into it this idea and I think that it’s going to make a big difference. I was pleased that other people could recognise that as well.”

The inspiration for Learning Links came to Victoria while she was on maternity leave, during lockdown. “I could see my, my little boy was struggling with the some of the things that were going on and that sparked the idea,” she said.

Learning Links will support parents and carers through hands-on activities that do not require any additional materials or technology.

We need hope in these uncertain times, and we need to stand up and support one another and that’s just what I’m going to do. I’m thinking big, because I want to make a change.

Victoria Wilson Let Teachers SHINE winner

Victoria said lockdown had shown the importance of learning resources that were not based on computers, because many parents from low-income homes had limited access to internet and computers. Also, young children struggled to navigate screen-based apps.

“Parents wanted a practical set of resources that they could just pick up, and they could use anywhere,” she added. And I do believe that this will help with their communication and development a lot more than sitting, playing on a game on a tablet or on a computer.

“Also, unlike paper-based worksheets, the Learning Links pack can be reused many times, little and often. And that’s key for children in the early years – allowing them to play for just five minutes at a time, on a regular basis.”

Victoria hopes her idea can make a big difference to families from disadvantaged backgrounds, who have been through a tough time lately.

“Over recent years my local area has had a great deal of bad news with families suffering due to the shutting of many of our key industries such as the steel works and most recently the COVID-19 crisis.

“We need hope in these uncertain times, and we need to stand up and support one another and that’s just what I’m going to do,” Victoria said. “I’m thinking big, because I want to make a change.”

Helen Rafferty, Interim Chief Executive of SHINE, said: “Congratulations to all the winners of this year’s Let Teachers SHINE competition. The awards were held during some of the most challenging times teachers have ever faced, making the quality of the applications all the more impressive.

“Each of the teachers who took part in the competition demonstrated their innovation and commitment to really make a difference to the futures of children from low-income families.

“We look forward to working with the winners to help them develop their ideas and help hundreds of children to succeed at school.”

As well as financial support, SHINE provides Let Teachers SHINE winners with free access to a range of development workshops and coaching opportunities to help develop their ideas.

For a full list of this year’s winners, click here.

Since August 2000, SHINE has invested more than £31 million in projects benefiting almost 1.4 million children from over 20,000 schools.