A lesson in life as school staff sleep rough

November 16th, 2014

Susan Dawson (back row, far right) with Norton Primary Academy staff who are joining her on the Big Tees Sleepout on November 21. Back from left: Laura Storey, Liam Corby, Rachel Frost, Mandy Taylor. Front from left: Hayley Smith, Leanne Glindon, Amy Marshall and Rebecca Gilhooley.

A primary school head has inspired her staff to swap the classroom for a night on the streets as part of the Big Tees Sleepout.

Norton Primary Academy principal Susan Dawson will lead a 10-strong team of staff for a cold, uncomfortable night sleeping rough outside Middlesbrough College on Friday, November 21.

It will be the second time Susan has taken part in the Big Tees Sleepout this year but on this occasion her efforts have prompted members of her school team to join her.

Susan said: “The idea that anyone can live here on Teesside in that sort of poverty is really shocking and my staff and I really want to do something about it.

“I did the Big Tees Sleepout in April with my teenage niece and that was quite a baptism of fire. It was a very wet but worth it because I’m passionate about supporting people who are in that sort of need.

“The school staff were incredibly generous and helped us raise an awful lot of money. I said thanks for the money but next time I would like people to come along with me!”

Teachers, office staff, learning mentors, teaching assistants and an apprentice will join Susan when they leave behind their home comforts and head into Middlesbrough for a night of sleeping rough.

“In a funny way we are all quite looking forward to it and I just hope that we don’t get the rain that we had to put up with last time,” Susan said.

“It is a great atmosphere at the Big Tees Sleepout and it is only a few hours of your own life so it will be well worth the trouble whatever happens weather-wise.

“Homelessness is such a passion for me because it is outrageous that we live in a very wealthy society but some people still manage to fall through the cracks.

“Myself and all the people I know are so incredibly fortunate that even if you do have tough times you have people to fall back on. For me it is only right that you help those people who aren’t so lucky.”

As well as raising money for the homeless, Susan is aiming to raise the profile of homelessness on Teesside through the academy.

She has alerted parents to the Big Tees Sleepout and will also help children who attend Norton Primary Academy understand more about the plight of homeless people.

“We will talk to the children about the Sleepout because while raising money is an important factor so too is raising awareness,” Susan continued.

“Not everyone is as lucky as ourselves and could be someone just around the corner who does not go home at night to the luxuries we take for granted.

Three previous Big Tees Sleepouts have helped raise around £35,000 for local people in desperate need.

This time organisers Middlesbrough and Teesside Philanthropic Foundation are raising funds for a range of local homeless charities and food banks, whilst helping to significantly raise the profile of homelessness and poverty across the region.

Among the causes set to benefit include Middlesbrough Homeless and Recovery League, the Salvation Army’s Christmas appeal and the Stockton-based Moses Project that puts on Christmas Day lunch for addicts, homeless and struggling families.

To sign up for the Big Tees Sleepout, visit www.bigteessidesleepout.co.uk and start fundraising via the justgiving link. Participants be aged 16+ and must register online in advance.

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