Each Monday morning at 9am, as the Children’s University Scotland team settle down to a new week, an email pops into our inboxes to tell us about the Scottish school children who have achieved Children’s University Awards in the last week. It’s the perfect boost for a Monday morning, because it's a little reminder of the children we're reaching through our work.
Each award is about recognising young people's achievements beyond the school gates: the activities, clubs and visits they’ve been part of outside school lesson time, from coding to cookery, taekwondo to storytelling. And it’s all been captured and rewarded through our new online platform to promote learning beyond the classroom: Aspire.
We’ve been developing Aspire for the past two years, and we’re about to complete the second phase of work as we continue to shape it into an engaging, user-friendly and user-focussed digital platform and mobile app that serves the needs of children, schools and families.
Children use Aspire to seek out new, exciting learning opportunities outside class time. Aspire captures their experiences and rewards credit coins and skills points as children take part. Children can unlock awards and celebrate their achievements as they learn. Aspire encourages children to develop their talents, interests and skills, whilst boosting their confidence and aspirations for what they can achieve in the future.
Schools use Aspire to track their pupils’ wider learning and achievements. We know that opportunities beyond the classroom - at home and in the local community - are of vital importance in the drive to close the achievement gap between the most and least deprived children in Scotland – but, understandably, teachers often struggle to keep track of which pupils are engaged in which activities (and which pupils are experiencing barriers to engagement) outside the school gates. With Aspire, schools can encourage, capture and celebrate their pupils’ achievements all in one place.
Parents can use Aspire to find out about new opportunities for family learning. We know that, for lots of families, it can be hard to access affordable, local activities and experiences – especially during the weekends and holidays. Aspire makes this easier for parents by helping them seek out learning activities that take place at home, in their communities and nearby cities. It provides a space and framework within which they can support their child’s out-of-school learning.
As an organisation, we are immensely proud of what we have achieved so far with Aspire. As the number of pupils listed in each Monday morning awards summary email grows, it’s inspiring to watch an increasing number of school children across Scotland use Aspire to support and reflect on their skills and personal achievements.
Children’s University Scotland is a charity with a focus on learning at its core, and it’s safe to say we’ve learnt a huge amount throughout the digital development of Aspire. It’s certainly not been plain sailing all the way, but we’ll continue to learn from the challenges, strengthen the site according to the feedback and needs of the children we aim to reach, and work to build a platform that inspires a love of learning for children that will serve them well in later life.
Go to Aspire: www.cus-aspire.com
Roseanne Smith, Quality and Innovation Manager.
Roseanne has worked for Children's University Scotland since September 2015. She oversees the quality and delivery of our core schools programme, working closely with teachers across the country to support them in running Children's University in their school.
For the past two years she has been leading the development of the digital platform Aspire. She's seen Aspire through from the initial ideas phase to the present roll-out of the platform across our partner schools, and has worked with teachers, parents and children along the way to ensure Aspire is user-focussed, user-friendly and fun to use.