A FULWOOD woman has gone back to school to extend a helping hand to youngsters, teaching them to read and bake cakes as a surrogate grandmother.

Gwen Hurst, 60, gives up her time two days a week at St Matthews C of E Primary School, in New Hall Lane, as part of a Grand Parenting Scheme set up by Age Concern.

Grandmother to eight-year-old Emma and Katy, six, Gwen wanted to give something back to the community and keep busy after Dawson, her husband of 44 years, died suddenly last May.

She said: "It has been very difficult, especially when I'm at home at night. We were together for a long time, since I was 16.

"It was a case of sink or swim and, after about three months, I began volunteering for Age Concern."

Gwen has not looked back since and began 'grandparenting' at St Matthews, where she reads to the youngsters, helps with drama productions or teaches them how to ice cakes.

"Sometimes it's a case of picking a child up off the floor and giving them a hug," she said.

"I brought up three children and now have two lovely granddaughters. I like having my hands full.

"I have a very good family, but some children don't have grandparents. This gives them the chance to experience that kind of relationship." The project, financed by the Neighbourhood Renewal Fund in Inner Preston, recruits and trains older people to work with children in a safe environment.

Schools in the Central, Fishwick and St Matthews Wards are taking part in the scheme and are hoping more volunteers will step forward.

Specific skills, such as computing, cookery, knitting or craft are also an added bonus.

Gwen has since taken up computer classes at night school and is now familiar with the worldwide web.

"It's been very interesting," she said. "I can now download pictures for Emma and Katy to colour in."

To find out more contact Age Concern on 01772 253079.