WHAT started out as a support group for a small group of friends has since become a network of 10,000 parents and teachers reaching as far afield as Australia.

Andover-based teacher Stefan Pearmain, and his partner Jessica Bridges, recently set up the Teaching Guides for Parents group on Facebook to give help and advice to parents who suddenly found themselves home schooling their children.

Within a week the group had more than 10,000 members and is now helping to keep thousands of children from far and wide entertained during the coronavirus outbreak.

“Initially it was something to help my friends really,” said Stefan. “We were told that we couldn’t go back to school last week and a few friends of ours on Facebook had posted things and were anxious about home schooling.

“So I set up this group and it just got shared and shared and shared and before we knew it we had people from all over the world.”

“We haven’t really pushed it at all. Between Jess and I we posted it on a local Picket Twenty area page, because that’s where a lot of our friends live, and from that it just escalated.”

“But the great thing is it’s bringing lots of parents and lots of teachers together. And there’s lots of people sharing questions on there that we can answer.”

Stefan stresses that the group is less about teachers explaining what schools are doing, and more about being there to offer support, advice and answers to questions from parents who are unsure what to do.

Ideas for activities to keep families occupied are also being shared on a daily basis to help stave off the boredom.

“It wasn’t a case of; ‘I’m a teacher, this is what you should be doing’,” said Stefan. “It’s about being a teacher and being there to help and just making parents feel a bit less anxious.”

“The schools are setting the academic stuff, which they are all doing fantastically as far as I’m aware, but parents are saying, ‘what else can I do to entertain the children?’

Some of those ongoing activities include daily challenges, such as getting in the garden and making a natural art sculptures, and an ongoing 30-day Lego challenge, plus a whole host of ideas supplied by other members of the community.

“It’s just giving parents those ideas,” he added. “Because that’s what we do at school – we teach them academic stuff, but we also teach them to ask questions and just be children, really.”

To find out more about the group or get involved yourself, search for ‘teaching guides for parents’ on Facebook.