St. George's Students' Union

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Student Parents and Carers Empowered (SPACE)

Hello!

A very warm welcome from SPACE! We are a group dedicated to supporting all student parents and carers throughout their studies at St George’s. The group is run by student volunteers who fully understand the fabulous and not-so-fabulous aspects of caring for a family whilst at university. We're here to help each other make the most of our time at St George’s. 

We aim to offer a support network of students juggling similar responsibilities. We’re here to listen, share advice and provide advocacy for student parents and carers. We’re also here to provide socialising opportunities! Alongside regular meet-ups in Tooting, we also host a couple of family-friendly events each year. 

Here you can find out more about us and what we offer - as well as some useful guidance. As always, drop us an email if you have any further questions: space@su.sgul.ac.uk. 

You can also keep up-to-date by Liking our Facebook page. (This page is also accessible to students who are not members of Facebook).

 

 

How to become a member

We are a student welfare group overseen by the student union. All students at St George’s are welcome to join; whether you’re a parent, expecting a baby, or thinking of having children during your course. We also welcome anyone balancing other carer responsibilities with their studies. Membership is completely free of charge.

If you would like to join, please send details of your name, your programme of study and your university email address to: space@su.sgul.ac.uk

Members will receive an invite to all SPACE meetings, any future events and will also be eligible to vote on all SPACE matters. You will also be given access to our private Facebook group, where you can message other members and alumni.

 

How SPACE works

We usually hold monthly lunchtime meetings. These meetings are an opportunity for student parents and carers from all courses to share experiences, information and ideas. We also make time to chat and socialise - and organise a couple of child-friendly events during the year (e.g. picnics in Central London).

There is also a private Facebook group for members, used by both current student parents and alumni to pose questions and seek peer support.

Behind the scenes, we meet regularly with the student union and the university to address any issues that have been raised by our members, and to ensure St George's remains a university supportive and inclusive of all its student body. Where you are having difficulties, including those you would like to resolve with the university directly, it is often helpful to notify us so that we are aware of any barriers parents and carers are currently facing, and we can address these matters formally to ensure appropriate systemic changes are being made.

 

Meet the Committee (2018/19)

Lola A: President/ Welfare Officer

I’m a second year medic on the MBBS5 course. I’m also a wife and mother to 2 gorgeous boys that are 3 and 1. I started the course when my youngest was 8 months old and having access to an onsite breastfeeding room was a Godsend. Applying for medical school while pregnant and then having interviews with a one month old was hard. I remember staying up late reading through online forums searching for parents in medicine and their experiences. I just wanted proof that it was possible, and not a pipedream! Although I found the email to contact SPACE on the SGUL website, I kept putting off sending an email and I really wish I had as the help, advice and support that this group can and does provide is amazing. Having spent time with my predecessor the amazing Marie J, I know that she would’ve helped allay my fears and set me firmly on my path knowing I had a network ready and waiting if I gained admission. 

Therefore, as the new President of SPACE, I want to encourage any parents and/or carers considering returning to university that have any questions to get in touch regardless of the stage of your application. Also all current student parents and carers yet to join, please know that we are all here to help. We know your concerns, your fears, your needs and even though we won’t have all the answers, we are committed to giving you all the support we can.

Sofia H: Treasurer

Sofia is a final year medical student and parent. 

Marie J: Secretary/ Welfare Officer

Some years ago, I was in tears driving down the M40 to my interview for medical school. I’d very recently given birth and it was my first time away from my son. I went through the interview stations, trying my best to look fresh-faced and hoping I wouldn’t leak milk through my new shirt. I’m currently a final year student.

Medical school is a big enjoyable part of my life, but not my first priority. There are hard days. Children like to get sick around the time of deadlines. Breakfast has a habit of sticking to your clothes when you’re already late for ward round. Your placement supervisor is seemingly determined to prove that you cannot get through university as a parent. And your partner is angry that you missed parents’ evening…for a lecture that was cancelled anyway. We’ve all cried into a textbook at some point. But we pass our exams - and I have seen that we become knowledgeable and empathic graduates.

This is my seventh year on the SPACE committee (formerly the SPA - Student Parents' Association). My overriding aim is to provide an active peer support network, and I’m still very keen to advocate for student parents and carers. I am currently editing a blog of advice for medical students with children, and am conducting research into the maternity support available at medical schools nationwide. It really helps to know students who truly understand the challenges you face - and can be the encouragement you need to get through!

Gabrielle M B: Events Officer

I am a mother of a beautiful little boy, Oliver, who was 3 months old when I started my Masters in Physician Associate studies at St. George’s (2018-2020). Stumbling upon the breastfeeding and wellness room was the best detour I ever made in trying to find my class for the day because it not only helped continue my breastfeeding journey but introduced me to the wonderful support network that is the SPACE group. I am originally from the US and moved over here with my husband in 2017 not knowing a soul so to be able to say I am part of a group that helps parents and carers is very comforting, especially knowing the adage “it takes a village to raise a child.” I am always here for a listening ear, shoulder to cry on, or a coffee break and will strive to support all members in any way I can.

Ayesha J: General Committee Member

Hello! My name is Ayesha and I'm a third-year Midwifery student. I have a little girl aged 4 and a little boy aged 5. Being a student and a parent or carer has unique challenges, especially on vocational health-related courses with high contact hours and shift work. It's really important to have a place to troubleshoot problems and get support, such as SPACE, which is inclusive of medics and non-medics alike.

Cliona M: General Committee Member

My name is Cliona and I am a fourth (P) year medical student. I have a three year old son. Before starting graduate entry medicine I worked in pharma and medical devices. I really enjoy being part of the Space Community and am free for a coffee and a chat for anything I can help with. I’m also an anatomy demonstrator and a clinical skills tutor.

Vani S: General Committee Member

I am a third year medic with two daughters, one born 8 months ago! Seems like a dream: 5 years back I was a Project Manager building IT solutions to companies, and here I am today, a non-science student who is going to be a doctor (hopefully soon as I have already taken too much time out already!). SPACE is an excellent resource, to find answers or get guided in the right direction. It is a safe platform for your queries. If you are a student parent or have caring responsibilities, need a rant or have some serious questions, we strive to answer them or help point you in the right direction.

Zoe B: General Committee Member

More Support

 

Support from the Student Union

Our main contact in the SU is the Vice President of Education and Welfare, Annabel Strachan. Annabel meets with us regularly to discuss matters affecting student parents and carers, and represents all students at various meetings. You can find her in the Student Union office (second floor, Hunter Wing) for a chat. She also has contraception and sanitary towels to take, and breastfeeding room keys to hire. The SU also has a webpage with information for studying parents.

For details of all the other Executive Officers, their roles and contact information - you can peruse the SGSU website.

 

Support from the University

 

  • Gavin Taylor, the Student Centre manager, is keen to advise and support all student parents and carers. He can be visited in the Student Centre, or emailed at studentcentre@sgul.ac.uk/ gtaylor@sgul.ac.uk. He is also the main contact if you are expecting a baby or have recently become a parent via adoption. He can also signpost you to appropriate staff members.

 

  • The Finance Team are there to offer guidance on managing your money throughout the course. The Student Finance Manager Jude (jobrien@sgul.ac.uk) can provide guidance on complex circumstances, e.g. when taking maternity leave or an interruption of studies. Student Finance Advisor Helen (hwilliam@sgul.ac.uk) can provide advice on seeking financial support, and manages applications to the Access to Learning Fund (essentially a hardship fund).

 

  • If you have a disability or are having medical problems which are making studying difficult (e.g. problems with anxiety, back pain due to pregnancy)- the university’s Disability Adviser can be very helpful in suggesting practical solutions to St George’s to help you with your studies. Email disability@sgul.ac.uk to discuss this. 

 

  • It can sometimes also be helpful to contact academic lead tutors or administrators directly. Their contact details will be in your student handbook (MBBS handbook for medical students).

 

  • Your personal tutor will be able to listen and advise on any problems you may have that are affecting your studies or your experience at St George’s. The head of personal tutoring is Suman Rice (srice@sgul.ac.uk). 

 

  • The university has a free counselling service. Everything you discuss with the counsellors is confidential and completely separate from your academic work.

 

Other Support

The national support website for Student Parents can be accessed for general information, and there is also an NUS student parent webpage with some useful information.

 

Citizens’ Advice can be helpful for a range of problems, for example, if you are struggling to understand which benefits you are eligible for or if you are facing discrimination for being a parent. They provide telephone advice or face-to-face appointments at your local office.

 

Remember also, if you're a member of career-related organisations/ professional bodies, such as the BMA, they often offer free counsellors or advisors who you can get in touch with. 

 

Practical Information

Expecting a Baby

If you are pregnant, it is strongly advised that you contact Gavin Taylor (Student Centre Manager) as soon as possible. He will ensure that your risk assessments are completed, and that appropriate support is put in place. SPACE can help you understand your rights and guide you through the Student Maternity Policy. The policy also covers partners expecting a baby, as well as students who become parents via adoption. SPACE Welfare Officer Marie has a special interest in the maternity rights of students and is very familiar with the policy and current legislation. Do feel free to contact her to discuss your pregnancy. This will be kept confidential from the university, until you choose to formally inform them. 

Breastfeeding Room

There is a Breastfeeding/ Welfare Room on the second floor, outside the Counselling Department. There is a fridge in there for storing expressed milk (please label and date to avoid bottles being disposed of). There is also comfortable seating suitable for having a doze on! (Unfortunately there are no handwashing facilities - but there are nearby toilets). To access the room, Bethany (Vice President Education & Welfare) or Michelle (Student Union Office Manager) can unlock the door. Out of offiice hours, you can contact Security.

More conveniently, you can rent a key from Bethany for a £30 deposit. If you are accessing the room out of hours, it is always recommended that you sign-in with Security (to the left of the St George's Reception desk). 

Emergency Supplies

We have spare nappies, formula milk, breast pads, etc. in case you find yourself short whilst at the university postnatally. These can be found in the Breastfeeding Room. If we are running low on something, please inform us so that we can stock up.

Children On-Site

Children and babies are permitted in public areas of the hospital/ university. When bringing accompanying children to areas of the university that require card access (e.g. to personal tutor meetings, the library, the student union etc.), please sign them in at Security. Naturally, any children on-site remain your responsibiility. And common sense should be applied so that they are not taken to hazardous areas or places where they may disrupt studying students. 

Children are welcome in the Student Union unless the bar is open and serving alcohol (usually from 5pm). Unfortunately, the bar's license extends to all of the SU rooms - and so children are not permitted into the games room or other rooms from this time. On occasions where the bar plan to open early, they will inform us in advance. 

Baby-changing can be found in the Accessible Toilets on the ground floor of the university (Hunter Wing).

Miscarrying or Having a Stillborn Baby

Life doesn't stop when you come to university - and unfortunately such traumatic life experiences can and do affect students. Members of our committee - and the group - have been affected by the loss of a baby. We are here to talk to you and offer support. If you prefer not to disclose the events affecting you, we hope the following information offers practical guidance:

Do I need to tell anyone if I've suffered a miscarriage?

This depends on whether anyone knew you were expecting a baby. 
We support universities' requests to inform them as soon as you learn that you are pregnant, so that appropriate support can be put in place.

Naturally, this support needs to be changed if the pregnancy has ended. You are advised to contact Gavin Taylor (Student Centre) or another member of staff you feel comfortable talking to. SPACE are also able to inform the relevant staff on your behalf if you would like us to.

If no one was aware of your pregnancy, then you do not need to inform the university. If you require time off university, you can simply advise your course administrator that you are absent due to 'medical reasons' and your GP can provide a similarly vague sick note.

We would, however, urge you to let the university know that you're affected by the loss of a pregnancy. Even if they had not been aware of your pregnancy, the university are still able to put support measures in place to help you complete your study and meet relevant deadlines. Miscarriage is likely to affect students physically and emotionally. You may need extra time to attend appointments and testing, as well as to rest and recover your strength. The university cannot support you if they aren't informed.

What support is there for students affected by miscarriage?

We are here! Get in touch with SPACE if you would like someone to chat to, either virtually or face-to-face.

The university has a great counselling service experienced in supporting students with grief, as well as numerous staff who are understanding and happy to communicate with relevant course staff on your behalf. You can either approach your personal tutor or another staff member you feel comfortable speaking to, or we can recommend staff who are keen to provide empathic pastoral support.

With regards to practical support, you would be eligible to apply for extended deadlines on assignments or alternative assessments. You may also apply for special exam arrangements (e.g. rest breaks) if you feel these would help. Either approach the Disability Adviser directly, or we can assist with your application.

Consider that you may also need postnatal risk assessments if you are in pain or are having other symptoms relating to the end of a pregnancy. You may be entitled to rest breaks, for example.

You may wish to take leave from university, or some students prefer to take a 12-month Interruption of Studies. Either speak to your personal tutor or we can chat to you about the pros and cons of taking leave.

There are also couches in the Breastfeeding Room, which can be used for students requiring them for a much-needed rest.

Please also visit the Baby Loss Awareness website for details of organisations supporting parents affected by loss:
https://babyloss-awareness.org/charities/

Do I need to tell anyone if my child was stillborn?

Similarly to miscarriage, this depends on whether the university knew about the pregnancy. If so, they'll need to update their records and adapt the support you were receiving.

Under UK legislation, parents of stillborn babies are entitled to the same rights had their baby been born full-term.

You would therefore be entitled to an interruption of studies (in lieu of maternity/ paternity/ partner's leave), maternity pay (if in receipt of NHS Bursaries, for example), and postnatal risk assessments. The interruption of studies would *not* be included in the maximum duration you have to complete the course.

In order to receive your entitlements, we would urge you to contact us and/ or a member of staff you are comfortable approaching. You are likely to need some time off, and perhaps academic support.
Allow the university to help you and give you the space you need to grieve and re-strengthen physically and emotionally.

What support is there for partners of non-students who have had a miscarriage or stillbirth?

Much of the support available to student mothers can be extended to partners, for example the time to attend essential appointments or take leave. It is advised that you talk to us so that we can advocate for relevant support on your behalf, as these are not prescribed in policies in black and white.

The ability to extend assignment deadlines is easily applied for.

If you have been affected by stillbirth, you may choose to take the two-week 'paternity leave' had the baby been born healthy, or indeed take a full 12-month interruption of studies.

If you require additional support, always ask for it. 

 

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  • Student Parents and Carers Empowered (SPACE) Standard Membership£0.00

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