Children’s universities set to come to Preston

BUDDING SCHOLARS: Young graduates from the Childrens University

BUDDING SCHOLARS: Young graduates from the Childrens University

Youngsters across the city may soon be able to graduate while at primary school thanks to a new project.

Children’s University is already up and running in West Lancashire, and is now set to be introduced in other areas across the county.

Designed to encourage young people to take part in extra curricular activities, the national project allows children as young as Year Two to graduate, in gowns and mortar boards, at real universities.

The project is in its initial stages in Lancashire, but bosses say the potential is “absolutely huge”.

Children’s University Manager for Sefton, Lancashire and Warrington, Laura Grigsby-Blackburn, said: “Anything where they are learning something voluntarily, they are given points towards their Children’s University - one hour of learning is one credit towards it. The whole idea is that all the activities should be something they could progress in up to degree level if they want to.

“It is about raising aspirations and trying to expand young people’s opportunities.”

Laura said the project tried to encourage a “love of learning”. She said: “There are a lot of students who school isn’t the right thing for, but they have got hobbies and interests that really capture them. It is trying to get them to understand that learning isn’t something a teacher tells you to do - it can be walking around a museum, going to a library, learning to swim.”

Children are issued with a passport to learning, which they take with them when visiting “learning destinations” and collect stamps from each place.

Laura said: “It is a bit of a journey of learning, and then the school is able to place all of the credits they have achieved through their after school clubs and lunch time clubs, and what they have done in their own time.”

If children from Lancashire reach their targets, they will then graduate at Lancaster or Edge Hill University, with real gowns and mortar boards. Laura said: “They get certificates for all the hours they have done, from 30 hours to 1,000, which is our doctorate level.”
She said the project used the language of universities to encourage youngsters to think about their future and possibly studying for a degree.

She said: “We are trying to widen the participation of people going - it should be accessible to all so it is trying to get young people thinking ‘I can achieve that’.”

The project works with children from age seven to 14, and also with younger children with more family involvement, and graduations are held at the end of key stages.

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