As thousands of younger pupils are set to return to school this week, staff based out of Chertsey Make Ready Centre are paying forward an idea to support children locally who may struggle emotionally returning to school after the lockdown by donating pairs of fabric hearts.

Paramedic, Jodie Nutley-West, from South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foudation Trust, (SECAmb), noticed the emotional struggle families had saying goodbye to each other when patients were unable to accompany their loved ones to hospital during the COVID-19 outbreak.

To help ease the pain, Jodie put out a plea for volunteers across SECAmb to make pairs of knitted or fabric hearts, the idea being that the patient would keep one heart with them in hospital and the family the other, to then be reunited in the future as patients returned home.  The idea proved popular and hundreds of hearts were lovingly made and donated by SECAmb staff and volunteers – thankfully more than were required.

On hearing this, Nicola Buchan, an Emergency Care Support Worker at SECAmb, came up with the idea that some of the hearts could be donated to local primary schools and will work in a similar way with children being given one heart and the child giving the other to a family member they are finding it tough to leave when they arrive at school after half term.

Aware that schools across Surrey had been working so hard to keep their doors open to ambulance staff children and other key workers for the last two months, Jodie said: “It’s lovely to be able to pay the hearts forward and to see them help promote emotional well-being. It has been a tough few months for so many people in so many ways, so being able to pass on such a simple idea from the ambulance trust to schools just feels right.”

Stoughton Infant and Nursery School, part of the Athena Schools Trust based in Guildford, received pairs of hearts this week for their Home School Link Workers to distribute.  Sarah Carrington, Headteacher of Stoughton Infant and Nursery School, commented:

“A big thank you to Jodie and the ambulance staff and volunteers at SECAmb for thinking about us.  Staff here at the school are always looking for ways to promote the emotional well-being of the children here at Stoughton and this is one small way we can begin to support pupils coming back to school.  We are proud of our team here and how they have kept the school open over the last two months for the children of key workers and some of our most vulnerable pupils.  Having this recognised by key workers means so much.”