The Children’s University of Manchester
The Children's University of Manchester is an interactive website aimed at sharing the knowledge and expertise of a research-intensive university with its wider community, and particularly primary schools. The website provides learning materials that schools can use on whiteboards and computers, as well as educational games and video clips that bring the university into the classroom. All the content is aligned with existing web-based materials for students at Key Stage 2, the seven to 11 age range.
“It’s important to reach out to children before they go to secondary school. At the age of seven or eight they are starting to make decisions about their future based on their immediate environment,” says Alison Gregory, student recruitment and widening participation officer at the university.
A key aim is to give children an idea of what university life is like by introducing them to students, staff and graduates via profiles and video clips. These show that the University of Manchester is a welcoming, accessible and exciting place. By introducing young children to the idea of university, and by raising awareness of the benefits and opportunities that higher education can bring, particularly for students from traditionally unrepresented sections of society, the project also aims to raise children’s aspirations for their own future.
If they go to secondary school with the idea that they could go to university in the back of their minds, they are much more likely to keep it there as they get older.
Widening Participation Officer, University of Manchester
The website’s teaching and learning materials are designed to be used for group and individual work, in the classroom and for homework. Importantly, the website is also designed so that parents or carers can use it to encourage and support children in their own homes.
The Children’s University is just one strand in a number of programmes for children at Key Stage 2, including school visits to the university and outreach work in schools. The programmes support one another and are all aimed at children and families in Manchester without a history of attending university.
All the strands present information about university in colourful material and use quizzes and other activities to help engage children. Student ambassadors also play an important role as positive role models. This approach enables children to see that students are ordinary people – and being able to ask them questions in person helps them to imagine university life and ultimately aspire to going to university themselves.
Within half a mile of the university there are pockets of significant economic and social deprivation. The university is working hard to reduce the barriers faced by young people in these most disadvantaged areas and is determined to make a difference to the local community.