Northern Gas Networks and HEY Children’s University take their partnership on the road!

Van design created by BENDOWSON.COM

Hull and East Yorkshire (HEY) Children’s University and Northern Gas Networks, the gas distributor for the North of England, have teamed up on an exciting new project which will help inspire a love of reading for children living in care

HEY Children’s University is a charity that aims to raise the aspirations, self esteem and resilience of disadvantaged children. The charity works with more than  7,000 children a year, providing them with experiences and interventions which they otherwise wouldn’t have access to, such as supported reading.

Northern Gas Networks (NGN) has been one of the charity’s Platinum corporate partners for the past seven years and has been instrumental in helping the charity to grow over the years and reach a greater number of children.

HEY Children’s University applied to NGN  for a grant from the energy industry regulator Ofgem’s  Vulnerability and Carbon Monoxide Allowance with a proposal to fund a reading camper van. The idea is that the van would be able to solve the issue of reading space in some schools being limited to one-to-one sessions. HEY Children’s University delivers a reading intervention programme called the Letterbox Club in which children in care receive a monthly letterbox parcel filled with books.

The HEY Children’s University Letterbox Tutors visit the children at their school and hold reading sessions with the children to help them to progress and develop a love of reading. The tutors work specifically with looked after children in year groups 3 to 7 and visit them on a weekly basis. Sometimes it can be difficult to find a quiet spot to sit and read inside school when there are many distractions, so the van (kitted out as a perfect “reading corner”) provides a space to do this. The children can even choose to read outside the van on one of the beanbags!

Natasha Barley, Director of HEY Children’s University, said: “We have such an amazing partnership with NGN.

“NGN identified that literacy and employability were key issues to address in Hull and the East Riding. The reading van will help us ensure that children in care are able to access their reading sessions. The sessions take place for up to three years and children finish the programme at expected reading age or above which in turn helps them to achieve academically and go on to gain qualifications and employment. It’s also very important for children to be educated about the dangers of carbon monoxide and the sessions delivered in schools across Hull and the East Riding will ensure that children are educated about this important issue. We’re very excited about this new initiative and look forward to seeing the van in action changing lives.”

The van will also be used for HEY Children’s University to deliver carbon monoxide awareness sessions in schools. NGN supplies gas to 2.7 million homes across the North of England, and ensuring children and their families stay safe and know about the dangers of carbon monoxide is one of their key priorities. The HEY Children’s University tutors will travel around Hull and the East Riding to deliver these important sessions to schools.

Jill Walker, Social Strategy Project Manager at Northern Gas Networks, said: “NGN colleagues live and work in the communities that we serve, and it is important to us that we make a positive contribution to those communities. We work with our community partners, including HEY Children’s University, to support charities and volunteers who are making a difference. Literacy skills are an important building block for achievement in later life, so it’s great to see such a fantastic project as the reading van coming to life; especially after a year when it has been difficult for some of our most disadvantaged children to access educational support.”

HEY Children’s University and NGN hope to have the van on the road by the autumn, for the start of the new school year.