The Covid-19 pandemic has been a huge challenge for schools this year as parents, teachers and pupils found themselves adapting to online lessons.

Teachers across the county have stood out for their dedication and effort and this years Pride of Cumbria Award will be celebrating the work they have done.

The three teachers nominated for the Education Hero of the Year award, include Head Teacher of Warwick Bridge Primary School near Carlisle, Mark Ashton; biology teacher at Lime House School in Dalston, Carrie Ann Both; and Head Teacher at Parkside Academy in Barrow, Caroline Walker.

Mark Ashton of Warwick Bridge Primary School said it was a “great honour on behalf of the school” to be nominated for the award, but insisted that it was a “team effort” that got the school through the pandemic.

“It’s been a tremendous challenge for everybody at the school,” said Mark.

“Teachers were working doubly hard because they were preparing work for children at home, they were often teaching their own children at home, and at certain times they were coming into school to work in the hub.

“People were getting frazzled.

“Hopefully in September it will be nice to get back to some sort of normality.

“People go into teaching because they are adaptable. One minute you’re teaching maths and the next you’re teaching art, PE or science.

“There are some very solid and professional people working, not just here at Warwick Bridge, but in all schools.

“We do this job because we have a love for learning and helping children and young people move on.

“Everyone here at Warwick Bridge really has stepped up to the plate.”

Community has still be at the heart of the schools thinking despite the challenges they have faced.

In December 2020, a food bank was set up at the front of the school for members of the community to help themselves.

More recently, the school delivered footballs to every child at the school to lift their spirit and encourage them to keep fit and active over lockdown.

To keep doing work in the community despite the challenges is “incredibly important”, said Mark.

Mark added: “The school is like the church or village pub in some ways - it’s the heart of the community.

“The children have so much affinity with the school. Perhaps their parents and their grandparents came here as well.

“It has a long-lasting staying power in the memories of all the people in the local area.

“When we have new parents coming to visit the school, I always say that the maths, English and science is very important, but the overall all-round growth of the children and their mind-set is important as well.

“We try and nurture a love for learning and a love for the outdoors, sports and music.

“There’s more to life than just academia.”

On being nominated, Mark said: “This is has been a whole school effort and I just happen to be the head teacher who is leading the school effort.

“I can’t do this without the support of my wonderful staff and everyone at school.

“Loads of people around Cumbria and across the country have been going beyond the call of duty to be able to provide the best for children.

“I know that at Warwick Bridge School that we have staff that do that all the time.”

Lime House School biology teacher, Carrie Ann Both, was the other teacher from north Cumbria to be nominated for the Education Hero Award.

Her free online science home-schooling resources offered through the Facebook group, ‘The Science Booth @ Home’, has been inspirational for children across the country, and even the world over lockdown.

“It was something that I thought was needed for parents,” said Carrie.

“I’m a secondary school teacher, but I’ve got a five-year-old daughter and it’s a whole different board game.

“If you haven’t got a science background, its a lot more difficult and I think a lot of parents were frustrated at the amount of screen time that their children were having.

“It was a solution to have some easy, hands-on science that just needed kitchen equipment or things you could get from the super market to engage children aged five to seven.

“It was a helping hand to parents from a fellow parent.”

Carrie has been running interactive science shows and workshops since 2017, but her free science group was a first for her.

Classes have include themes like ‘Microscopic mayhem’ and ‘disgusting digestion.

Children were even treated to a live heart dissection, which they could join in with alongside parents using lambs and pigs hearts from the butchers or supermarket.

Carrie added: “It’s gone down really well and grown as a result of that. To get a bit of recognition was lovely.

“I wasn’t doing it for pay or recognition. I was just doing it as a tired and stressed out mum.”

Despite the difficulties of posed by lockdown, Carrie said it is the passion for making science fun and encouraging kids that has driven her onwards.

She said: “The excitement and passion that I have is getting the kids to choose those science careers, and when I get people who have just finished university getting back in touch saying their a doctor, vet, or they’ve gone into research, it’s great.

“They’re not my own children, but I still feel so proud for what they have achieved.

“It is really quite nice to see that I might have had a little bit of impact in that choice that they make.”

Barrow Parkside Academy headteacher Caroline Walker was praised for the care and devotion she gave to her pupils before and during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mrs Walker is described as someone who is known to have made a “really important difference” in the lives of her pupils.
She has been an “inspiration” and always made sure that children had laptops and a steady internet connection for online lessons, during what has been a disruptive time for schools.
In 2016, Mrs Walker also helped arrange a free breakfast club for young children at the school.
The program helped improve concentration, and improved work in literacy and numeracy as a knock-on effect.
In 2018, under the guidance of Mrs Walker, Parkside GGI Academy received an excellent report from Ofsted.