Junior graduates celebrate Children’s University successes

It’s a typical Cardiff University celebration – after months of learning, mortar boards are thrown in the air by fresh-faced students dressed in formal gowns while proud parents look on and smile.

There’s something rather different, though, about this graduation scene – all the youngsters are Cardiff primary school pupils who’ve taken part in a new scheme designed to encourage and develop a love of learning.

The Passport to the City programme is a key commitment in the council’s Stronger Fairer Greener strategy. Its aim is to ensure young people from all backgrounds can enjoy all of Cardiff’s amenities.

It is delivered through the council’s new Cardiff Children’s University, a new partnership between the council’s schools, the Children’s University charity and Cardiff University.

Today’s graduation event will formally launch the Cardiff programme and celebrate the success of more than 400 children from St Mary the Virgin CiW Primary in Butetown, St Fagans Primary, Peter Lea Primary in Fairwater and Windsor Clive Primary in Ely who have taken part in pilot schemes over the past year.

These gave pupils access to more than 90 different activities, such as fitness classes, art and music lessons, science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) modules as well as cultural and graphics design courses. As the children took part, their activities were recorded in a Passport to the City and led ultimately to a graduation ceremony held at Cardiff University’s new Centre for Student Life, attended by the top 20% of participants in each school.

Nicki Prichard, the head of St Mary’s, said the scheme had been a great success. “Around 100 of our Years Three to Six pupils took part and it has gone really well. We had some amazing visits from Professor Paul Roche who showed us telescopes and infra-red cameras and gave our children a new understanding of space.

“Just as importantly, the Children’s University sessions helped our children learn about creativity, teamwork and the importance of collaboration.”

The school, which is among the most ethnically diverse in the city and has 75% of pupils with English as an additional language, has recently been awarded School of Sanctuary status, in recognition of its work with refugee children. “All the parents welcomed the opportunity to take part in the Children’s University scheme,” said Nicki, “and we fully intend to continue with it next year – this is just the beginning of the journey. We’re opening our pupils’ eyes to so many new things.”

Professor Les Baillie, of Cardiff University, said he was delighted to be part of the scheme: “While Cardiff University represents our city on the world stage, it also has a role to play supporting the young people of Cardiff,” he said. “The Children’s University provides opportunities for local children to gain academic skills which could one day allow them to study at their university.”

Cllr Sarah Merry, Cardiff Council’s Cabinet member for Education, Employment and Skills, said: “I’m thrilled that the schools have embraced the scheme so whole-heartedly and we now intend to extend it to give every school in Cardiff a chance to take part from September. We’re also extending the range of activities that children and young people will be able to access, utilising the growing network of partners via the Cardiff Commitment.

“Making sure that Cardiff is a great place to grow up remains high on our agenda and by optimising use of the city’s resources and the fantastic opportunities available we are able to engage with children and young people through a wonderfully diverse range of provision, some of which they might not usually be able to access.

“This scheme also makes a perfect contribution to the council’s bid to become the first Child-Friendly City in the UK.”