By Press Office 09 January 2015

60 school pupils from across East Lothian gathered at Queen Margaret University (QMU ), Musselburgh,  East Lothian, today (Friday 9th January 2015), as part of the first Children’s University graduation ceremony to be held in the east of Scotland.

The junior scholars were dressed head to toe in traditional gowns and mortar boards.  Family, friends, teachers and supporters were welcomed to the ceremony to help celebrate the children’s achievements.

The East Lothian schools that took part in the Queen Margaret Children’s University graduation were Pencaitland Primary, Yester Primary, Ross High School, Sanderson’s Wynd Primary and Stoneyhill Primary.

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.

QMU has taken the lead in establishing the Children’s University in the east of Scotland by initially working in partnership with schools via East and Midlothian Councils.

The children build up credits the more they engage in learning activities.  They can also work towards bronze, silver and gold certificates.  The more the children engage in learning activities, the more credits they build up.

Over 1,400 pupils from across East Lothian and Midlothian have signed up to the Queen Margaret Children’s University scheme in 2014.  One hundred of these pupils have already achieved a minimum 30 hours of learning activities outside of school hours, including dancing, painting, cheer-leading, modern languages and gardening.  Each child was presented with a special certificate at the Queen Margaret Children’s University graduation ceremony.

The ceremony was attended by Fiona McLeod - Acting Minister for Children and Young People;  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 nine months of hard work, we’re really excited to have now staged the first QMU Children’s University graduation ceremony and celebrated the pupils’ achievements.  This valuable initiative is already helping to encourage young children across East Lothian and Midlothian 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 East and Midlothian.”

Children’s University Scotland is supported by the ScottishPower Foundation and Brodies law firm.

For more information about the Queen Margaret Children’s University, contact Callum Maguire, Head of Outreach & Community Engagement at Queen Margaret University and Coordinator of the Queen Margaret Children’s University on T: 0131 474 0000 or E: CMaguire@qmu.ac.uk.

Acting Minister for Children and Young People Fiona McLeod said: “A graduation ceremony is always a time for celebration and all of the graduates from this inaugural ceremony deserve huge credit for the work they have put in. This is an impressive milestone not just for Queen Margaret University but for the five schools involved so far.

“From meeting the pupils who have participated and their teachers, parents and even some grandparents, it is clear the learning opportunities being delivered through the Children’s Universities are engaging young people in new and innovative ways. The Scottish Government is proud to support this as one of several means to improve attainment prospects in schools across Scotland, which is why we recently committed £90,000 to widen access to Children’s Universities to an additional 2,600 young people by the end of 2015-16.”

Children’s University Scotland is supported by the ScottishPower Foundation and Brodies law firm.

A new film about the Queen Margaret Children’s University, including the first graduation, is now available to view online:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qr_bHaHTYKA

Notes to Editor

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

For further media information please contact Jonathan Perkins, Press and PR Officer, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, tel: 0131 474 0000, Email: jperkins@qmu.ac.uk

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