With schools closed and parents juggling working from home with attempting homeschooling, the utilities sector has stepped up to keep us educated, as well as connected.

Companies in the gas and water sectors have remained focused on their educational mission during the coronavirus outbreak, which halted school visits.

Online resources on gas safety and how the water networks operate have been made available to children and parents for homeschooling opportunities.

Cadent, Northern Gas Networks, SGN and Wales & West Utilities designed resources with young children in mind to introduce them to life-saving information about gas safety in a fun way with a bear from outer space called Safety Seymour.

Activities include storytelling, origami, cartoons, classroom-style activities, drama and yoga to make children aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide in the home something that seven-year old Jaydee-Lee Dummett used to save the lives of her family. Pictured with Safety Seymour, Jaydee-Lee spotted the early signs of carbon monoxide poisoning and remembered the emergency number to call.

With schools closed, the programme was developed for online use to enable learning from home.

Phil Burrows, customer vulnerability social programmes delivery manager at Cadent, said:
“We are all learning to live our lives in new ways, and it is hoped that these materials will give parents and teachers a free resource to offer education whilst children can’t be in school.

“We are proud to partner with the other UK gas networks to develop these Safety Seymour resources to make sure children can keep their learning going at this challenging time.”

Meanwhile, Thames Water launched a series of science experiments that families can recreate at home to show what happens to household waste when it enters the sewerage system. The ‘Home Lab presents’ series includes making electricity from poo and how waste is filtered back to drinking water.

On a similar theme, Affinity made videos called Explore Water and Nature with accompanying activity resources for children and families to do during lockdown.

Hannah Battram (pictured), Affinity’s education services manager said the videos were designed to help educate primary aged children about the water and the environment while stuck at home in lockdown.

Severn Trent created a complete lesson called The Journey of Water within its online KidsZone, a service that began with weekly activities but has grown into a fully digital activity centre.

Dave Cork, senior education officer at SVT, said: “We’re firm believers in education, and we’re passionate about making sure that the kids don’t miss out during this time. Just because we can’t go into schools at the moment, doesn’t mean we can’t educate and inspire the next generation all about our favourite topics, and have a bit of fun at the same time!”

Elsewhere Wessex Water, which works with students from key stages 1 – 4, has uploaded home-schooling videos with activities including how to recycle toilet rolls into seedling pots – perfect for anyone who over-stocked on paper last month.

From 11 May SES Water will be launching an educational microsite called Flow Zone that teaches children about world of water and support their home schooling. It will follow the story of water from the water cycle through to treatment, supply to the customer and its use in the home. The company said it is aimed predominantly at primary school level students but will include interactive games, activities and competitions for the whole family to get involved with that highlight water efficiency and show the benefits of using water wisely.

Flow Zone is the first time SES has provided a dedicated online learning platform and forms part of the company’s wider education programme.

For older students considering the future, engineers and scientists from Northumbrian teamed up with Education Development Trust to give career advice over Zoom. Staff from Northumbrian took part in the programme while traditional opportunities for careers advice have been put on hold to get school leavers interested in a career in water.

Northumbrian’s director of wastewater Richard Warneford (pictured), who was one of the first to take part, said:  “The session I took part in was a great way to engage with young people at a time when physically welcoming them into our business simply isn’t possible, and this is a brilliant example of people thinking differently at a time when we are all having to be more innovative in how we do things.”

Last week Drax Group said it was investing £200,000 in laptops for students at schools local to its sites to let them study remotely during lockdown.