54 school pupils from four schools across Midlothian gathered at Queen Margaret University (QMU), Edinburgh, as part of the first Children’s University graduation ceremony for Midlothian schools, on Friday 26th June 2015.
The junior scholars were dressed head to toe in traditional gowns and mortarboards. Family, friends, teachers and supporters were welcomed to the ceremony to help celebrate the children’s achievements.
Newbattle Community High School, Danderhall Primary, Kings Park Primary, and Woodburn Primary were the first Midlothian schools to take part in the Queen Margaret Children’s University graduation ceremony.
QMU is the first higher education institution in the east of Scotland to host the Children’s University, which aims to help school children, aged between seven and 14 years of age (and five and six year olds with their families), become confident learners and broaden their horizons.
The initiative strives to raise children’s aspirations, encourages them to learn in different ways, and rewards them for taking part in a wide variety of learning activities outside of school hours. The Children’s University ethos is clearly aligned with the aims of the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence in terms of helping children become successful and confident learners, responsible citizens and effective contributors.
Queen Margaret University has taken the lead in establishing the Children’s University in the east of Scotland by working in partnership with schools via Midlothian and East Lothian Councils.
The children build up credits the more they engage in learning activities and they can work towards bronze, silver and gold certificates.
Each child from Midlothian was presented with a special certificate at the Queen Margaret Children’s University graduation ceremony on 26th June.
The ceremony was attended by Mary Smith, Director of Education, Communities and Economy at Midlothian Council; Mary De la Peña MBE, Chief Executive of Children’s University Scotland; Professor Petra Wend, Principal of QMU; Alan Gilloran, Deputy Principal of QMU and Callum Maguire, Head of Outreach & Community Engagement at QMU and Coordinator of the Queen Margaret Children’s University.
Commenting on the first Queen Margaret Children’s University graduation, Callum Maguire, said: “After over a year of hard work, we’re really excited to have now staged the first QMU Children’s University graduation ceremony for Midlothian schools and celebrated the pupils’ achievements. This valuable initiative is already helping to encourage young children across Midlothian and East Lothian to get involved in different methods of learning, whilst boosting their achievement.
“We’ve always believed that children need a range of different opportunities and that not all learning needs to be school focused. The Children’s University offers a different approach and encourages children to foster a love of learning. It also creates a unique way of recognising and rewarding individuals for learning and getting involved in new things. It’s an inspirational way of engaging with the younger members of our communities and will hopefully motivate them to continue being active learners as they move through their teenage years.”
Mary De la Peña MBE, Chief Executive of Children’s University Scotland, explained how the initiative works. She said: “We provide an accreditation framework which rewards children for learning outside of normal school hours. Children can gain credits by taking part in a whole range of fun, interactive activities which can be school based or in the community - from drama to hip-hop dancing or from cooking to sports. Each child will get a ‘Passport to Learning’ which helps record their participation in activities.
“The most important aspect of the Children’s University is that it’s a voluntary experience”, said Mary De la Peña. “Children work towards building their credits in their own time which means that their success, as part of the university experience, is a more personal achievement. Above all, it should be fun!”
Professor Petra Wend, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Queen Margaret University, said: “Queen Margaret University is fully committed to widening access and supporting learning in the community. Our involvement with the Children’s University allows us to help develop and provide opportunities for young people from wide ranging backgrounds. We look forward to implementing the scheme in many more of our primary and secondary schools in Midlothian and East Lothian.”
Midlothian Council’s Director of Education, Communities and Economy, Mary Smith, said: “I am delighted to support the Queen Margaret Children’s University and honoured to be part of the ceremony by celebrating the achievements of children in Midlothian. I would encourage all school children graduating from the Queen Margaret Children’s University to use this achievement as a platform to continue aiming high and achieve your dreams, irrespective of ‘challenges’ along the way. This is the beginning of anything you want.”
Over 2,000 pupils from across Midlothian and East Lothian have signed up to the Queen Margaret Children’s University scheme since 2014. 60 school pupils from across East Lothian graduated from the first Children’s University graduation ceremony to be held in the east of Scotland in January 2015.
There are now over 400 accredited learning destinations across Midlothian and East Lothian, including Butterfly & Insect World in Lasswade and the Scottish National Mining Museum in Newtongrange. 1,200 learning activities include everything from dancing, and painting, to cheer-leading, modern languages and gardening.
A new film about the Queen Margaret Children’s University, which features elements of the first graduation ceremony held in January this year, is now available to view online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qr_bHaHTYKA
For more information on the Queen Margaret Children’s University and to sign up, contact Callum Maguire, Head of Outreach & Community Engagement at QMU and Coordinator of the Queen Margaret Children’s University on 0131 474 0000 or email CMaguire@qmu.ac.uk
Notes to Editor
Children’s University funding and support
- Queen Margaret Children’s University is supported by the Scottish Funding Council through Regional Coherence Funding.
- Children’s University Scotland is supported by the ScottishPower Foundation and Brodies law firm.
Children’s University Scotland
Children’s University Trust Scotland was registered as a charity in April 2013, set up to oversee the strategic development of Children’s University in Scotland. Children's University Scotland was the first project to be awarded funding by the ScottishPower Foundation, established to reinforce the energy company's commitment to charitable work throughout Britain. The Foundation was launched by Glasgow school children from member schools of Glasgow Children's University at an event held at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in June 2013.
Strathclyde University established the first local Children’s University in the West of Scotland earlier in 2013.
Children’s University Scotland is also supported by Brodies law firm, providing pro bono legal advice and the time and expertise of one of its consultants, Jock Brown, who chairs the Board of Trustees of CU Trust Scotland. The other trustees are:
- Ken Cunningham, General Secretary of School Leaders Scotland, and former head of Hillhead High School, Glasgow
- Doug Wilson, UK Director of General Services and Health & Safety at Scottish Power
- Gillian Hastings, Principal of Polar Horizons, accounting and tax consultancy
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