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The starting point for the Children's University learning journey

Become involved as a school

celebrating wider learning

Research shows that around 80% of the difference in how well children do at school depends on what happens beyond the school gates*

(*Rasbash et al, 2010)

Enjoyable and exciting activities beyond the classroom can support children to develop their talents and interests. But the cost and limited availability of activities means that many children are unable to take advantage of non-formal learning opportunities outside school.


We work with partners to improve access to and participation in affordable, high quality out-of-school learning that raises aspirations, boosts achievement and helps each child fulfil their potential. 


Get in touch

Raise aspirations and boost skills

Help to raise pupils’ aspirations and motivation and promote positive attitudes to learning

Support transition

Child membership bridges the primary-secondary transition, supporting children through a challenging time

Aligned with the CfE

Helping develop successful, confident learners, responsible citizens and effective contributors

Improve Attendance and attainment

Proven to increase attendance at after-school activities — shown to boost the results of target groups

Children's University for schools

Children learn better when they are engaged and excited by activities that challenge and inspire them. Different sparks make learning vivid and real for different children, but when there is joy in what they are doing, children develop a love of learning. 

Our programme enables children aged 5-14, and their families, to find and take part in enjoyable learning at home, in school and within the community.

Children track progress, gain credits and unlock awards using our innovative online platform Aspire, helping inspire a love of learning that will stay with them throughout their lives.

Children’s achievements are celebrated at bespoke events in school and with partnering institutions such as a local college or university.


We offer training, resources and ongoing support to schools so that they can adopt Children's University for their pupils. Get in touch to join our growing network.

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"The motivation, confidence and self-esteem of our pupils was really enhanced by their participation in the Children’s University, especially for our more practical and additional support needs pupils. It recognised their wider skills, engagement and achievements. Significantly, it also had a positive impact on learning both inside and outside of the school classroom. But above all, it was great to see our pupils so happy and positively recognised when presented with their certificates by our university partners"


Children's University School Co-ordinator

About school involvement

Find out how Children's University works for schools.

How does Children's University work for pupils?

We provide a children with a Passport to Learning book and a login for Aspire, our online platform for schools, pupils and parents. Pupils use Aspire to search for exciting activities that take place outside lesson time.

The Passport to Learning is children's own record of their CU learning journey. When they take part in an activity, they write it down in their Passport to Learning to keep track of it.

Once children have recorded their activity in the passport booklet, they can log the activity on Aspire to unlock their credits coins and skill points.

The credits build into awards at key milestones, celebrating children's achievements. The skill points build into a skills profile, helping children understand the value of what they're learning.

Our awards are presented at Children's University celebration events, which bring together parents, siblings, friends, teachers and others to recognise the children's achievements.

How does Children's University work for school staff?

Each school should have one or more members of staff who are nominated as their school's coordinators' for Children's University Scotland. School coordinators are usually teaching staff or support staff. The coordinator(s) will be trained by Children's University Scotland during the set-up phase. 

When the programme is launched in school, the coordinator(s) will then be able to take some simple steps to build momentum and maximise engagement and impact. This might include:

  • running a 'CU club' lunchtime session in school, giving pupils a chance to log into their Aspire accounts, log their activities and ask questions,
  • regularly checking Aspire to track pupil progress,
  • for pupils who gain our awards, celebrating their progress and achievements in school
  • encouraging and supporting pupils to take part in specific activities - having conversations about what might suit them, where they could go, and what they might be interested in trying. 


We can tell you more about what's involved during our initial conversation. We can also put new schools in touch with existing schools if you'd like to talk to some teachers with experience of running the Children's University Scotland programme in their school.

What is the process for school engagement?

For new schools looking to join our network, it all starts with a conversation. We can arrange a call or visit to tell you more about how it works, and to find out about your local priorities and requirements.

If we decide to work together, we would then take the following steps:

1. Formalising the partnership - we'll agree to work together and plan the next steps to set up the programme in your school.

2. Training - we will train your nominated school coordinators, either through a face-to-face session or via webinar. This will provide them with all the knowledge and tools they need to go forward.

3. Activity set-up - we'll support you to gather some information around the kinds of activities that should be included in-school. (And we'll discuss how we can work together to build a network of local activity providers beyond school, too).

4. Engaging parents and pupils - we'll provide templates, tools and guidance to help you engage your pupils and their families with Children's University, and show you how to gather the information required to create their Aspire accounts.

5. Launching the programme - we'll be on hand to help you launch the programme in school, and provide lots of guidance and best practice around what works.

6. Ongoing support - as part of our network, you'll have access to a range of support tools to help you deliver the programme in your school.

What’s the cost of involvement for schools?

We provide Children's University Scotland to individual schools, across school clusters or across whole authority areas.

We charge a small set up fee, which meets some the cost of the training and support we provide to get a school set up. If school clusters come together for the training, this can help to reduce the set-up cost.

Thereafter, we charge an annual licence fee per school, which provides each school with access to Aspire, the ability to download reports around wider learning, and the ongoing support that comes from being part of our schools network.

We are currently reviewing our cost structure, but we can explain more when we visit your school.

How is the learning captured?

There are two ways children taking part in CU in Scotland capture their extra-curricular learning:


1) The Passport to Learning - the passport-style booklet children can take with them to school and as they visit learning venue. This is their very own record of their CU learning journey.

2) Children also update their Aspire account online. This allows them to log their activities, rate and review their activities, build a skills profile and unlock awards.

For teachers, Aspire can work alongside the school’s management information system and generate reports of students’ activities and wider learning. Teachers can see which children are most engaged, and those that need extra support.

Aspire provides valuable data to schools around wider skills development and participation in learning beyond school.

Where do the learning activities take place?

Children's University recognises extra-curricular learning activities that happen at home, in the community and during school break times. The individuals and organisations who create or facilitate these activities, are called 'learning providers' (sometimes referred to as 'learning destinations').

When these activities happen in a physical venue, children can visit with their Passport to Learning to take part in high quality learning activities and experiences. They can be large educational centres, small local venues, and within the school environment itself. The key? Learning must take place outside of normal school lesson hours, and must be voluntary.

Other learning providers include museums, art galleries, science centres, sports clubs or music groups, brownies and scout groups, parks and learning festivals, and organisations that provide learning worksheets and activities children can do at home with the family. The list is almost endless.

We have a process to recognise Children's University activity providers, to make sure the activities they provide are enjoyable, safe, voluntary, affordable and open to all children. New activity providers can register using our online form, and we'll get back to them to check the details as part of this process.


Who can join Children's University Scotland?

Any child in Scotland aged 5-14 can become a member, as long as their school is already involved. Right now we work with a wide range of local authority (state) schools.

Schools decide whether to offer Children’s University membership to all their pupils or whether to target specific year groups within the school.

What is the impact?

External evaluation of the Children’s University model reflects positive impact on participants’ attendance, attainment, attitudes to learning and self-confidence. See: Evaluating provision, progress and quality of learning in the Children’s University (2012). Professor John MacBeath, University of Cambridge. Available here (pdf, 1Mb).

Other studies have found evidence that participation in extra-curricular activities is a significant factor in improving the attainment of children from the most deprived backgrounds. See this report (pdf, 2.2Mb).

We're also working with research institutions in Scotland to conduct further research into the effect and impact of our programme upon the young people involved. The results of this research will be published in due course.


What are the benefits for schools?

  • Children's University Scotland is a recognised partner in the Scottish Government's Raising Attainment Programme.
  • Supports the Curriculum for Excellence, helping children become successful and confident learners, responsible citizens and effective contributors.
  • Helps to raise pupils’ aspirations and motivation, improving attendance, achievement and attitude and supporting successful transition from primary to secondary.
  • Provides an overarching, coherent framework for all extra-curricular activity and wider achievement.
  • Actively engages parents in their child’s learning.
  • Empowers children to experience the excitement, enjoyment and satisfaction of gaining new skills, exploring and taking part in activities in different environments.

Quality-assured learning

We want learning to be fun, but we also want it to be relevant, high-quality and age-appropriate. That’s why we set out minimum standards for our recognised learning providers, and validate each venue, event and activity.

Our criteria includes:

  • Offer activities to children (P1-S2) on a voluntary basis, outside school hours
  • Host activities with clear, formalised learning outcomes, allowing for different styles of learning
  • Offer exciting, inspirational, enjoyable learning activities that (where applicable) allow children to interact, collaborate and work with others
  • Provide a safe, secure environment for learning with properly trained staff
  • Be low cost or free, so there is no barrier for children to take part
  • Open to all children regardless of religious, cultural or financial background

It all starts with a conversation.

Take the first step to school involvement and get in touch

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