The success of a world leading scheme which formally recognises participation in out-of-school activities by more than 50,000 school children across Wales has been celebrated in Cardiff.
Jane Hutt AM, Minister for Children, Education, Lifelong learning and Skills, was among the keynote speakers at the 2009 Children and Young People’s University Cymru conference in Cardiff City Hall.
The initiative, established in Wrexham by Glyndwr University and Wrexham Council, awards university-style credits to children for taking part in activities outside school, for example at holiday clubs or through work in the community.
Since 2001, when it was first setup, Children and Young People’s University Cymru has grown from a pilot scheme involving 34 children in Wrexham to almost every child of school age in Wales.
As well as an address from Ms Hutt, Wednesday’s conference featured talks from some of the young people who have benefited from the scheme, as well as businesses and voluntary organisations involved with the Children’s University.
Dr Phil Bassett, Head of the School of Education and Community at Glyndwr University, who founded Children and Young People’s University Cymru, said: "The success has been overwhelming really. The Welsh Assembly Government set out its vision for a credit-based reward system for learning back in 2001 and in many ways we have achieved that through the Children’s University.
"The benefits of the Children and Young People’s University Cymru are quite straightforward. As children and young people we’ve all attended clubs and societies outside of school but up until now none of this has been recognised. Our educational system is based on passes at A-level and GCSE but young people learn all sorts of skills through extra activities – leadership skills, team working skills, problem solving skills – and we recognise these through the Children’s University.
"Wherever they are in Wales children can receive credits for taking part in activities which meet our benchmarks for the quality of learning experience which they provide."
The Children’s University has been supported since its inception through funding from Glyndwr University, as part of its commitment to providing education to all, which continues to serve as the scheme’s headquarters.
To date, Dr Bassett has received enquiries from bodies in Ireland, the United States, Canada and Italy about the Children’s University and has already visited Mexico to help start up a similar scheme.
He is now hoping to extend the scheme further in the UK by setting up an online database of activities accredited by the Children’s University which parents can access.
Dr Bassett added: "The Children’s University fits perfectly into Glyndwr University’s outlook on education – that learning is a life long experience. More and more universities are looking at ways to measure student’s achievements and Children’s University credits do exactly that."