Sir Tom’s UoS award gives a boost to student teachers Heather and Lucy


Sunderland University students Lucy Almond (left) and Heather Bowman, recipients of the 2021 Sir Tom Cowie Excellence Scholarship Award.
Picture: David Wood


TWO Sunderland students with a passion for education have been selected to continue the legacy of a champion of the North East.

Primary Education students Heather Bowman, 26, and Lucy Almond, 21, are both in the final year of their studies at the University of Sunderland and both live in the city.

And now, the trainee teachers have won this year’s Sir Tom Cowie Excellence Scholarship Award, receiving £10,000 each to support them in their final year.

Heather Bowman, from Roker in Sunderland, studied at Monkwearmouth School and then at Queen Alexander College, North Shields, before she came to the University of Sunderland.

Before receiving the award, Heather had been running fitness classes and struggling to support herself while juggling her studies – a situation which became impossible when the pandemic struck.

“I worked every single night teaching fitness classes in Newcastle and on a Saturday and Sunday, as well as a part-time Saturday job. My fitness classes were postponed, adding to the worry over how I would have been able to afford third year on placement in a school.

“Winning the Tom Cowie scholarship made an absolutely unbelievable difference – immeasurable!

“The scholarship allowed me to have a much better balance, which will in turn, hopefully, allow me to achieve even more. I am 1% off a First Class degree in all of my assignments this year and, without the pressure of work commitments, hope I can take this up to a First.

“I don’t have any relatives who can support me financially, as my dad is unemployed and my mum has a spinal injury and only works part-time. I have no ‘safety net’ and so I have had to work tirelessly to be able to fund my degree as a mature student. The scholarship massively relieved this pressure.

“Friends who were mature students, like me, recommended Sunderland. Sunderland is a supportive university for mature students, and they get to know students on a far more personal level.

“I’m now looking forward to being a teacher. I don’t want to run before I can walk, but I would love to be a headteacher in a school in Sunderland one day.”

Lucy Almond is from High Barnes in Sunderland and studied at Thornhill secondary school and Bede College before coming to University.  The scholarship has helped Lucy realise her dream of teaching children with special needs.

She said: “After I graduate, I hope to get a job teaching children with social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) needs.

“I applied for the scholarship to try and receive extra funding so that I can further my knowledge and experience when working with SEMH children.

“Winning the scholarship enabled me to reduce my part-time working hours, so now I can focus solely on my degree. It will also allow me to take part in some extra- curricular courses that will help me teaching children who need support and understanding.”

Both Lucy and Heather are studying Primary Education at the University of Sunderland’s Faculty of Education and Society, and will both graduate this summer.

The award was set up in memory of the Wearside-born entrepreneur who died in 2012, aged 89.

Sir Tom was a long-term supporter of the University and believed passionately in its principles of affording those with talent, regardless of background, the opportunity to enter higher education. As part of his legacy, the Sir Tom Cowie Excellence Scholarship Awards were set up to support students to achieve their full potential.

Professor Lynne McKenna, Dean of the Faculty of Education and Society, said: “Our Initial Teacher Training students know that training to be a teacher is going to be a challenge. However, no one could have predicted that they would have the added challenge of completing it during a global pandemic.

“This year, more than ever before, is the year to celebrate the achievements of our initial teacher training students who have shown such professionalism, resilience and adaptability to complete their studies.”

David Gray, FRICS, chairman of Trustees of The Sir Tom Cowie Charitable Trust, said: “I’m delighted that this year’s recipients, Heather Bowman and Lucy Almond, are both involved in education.”

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