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Sheffield Children's University celebrates a fantastic year of achievements

Youngsters celebrate achievements in Sheffield Children's University
Youngsters celebrate achievements in Sheffield Children's University

More than 40,000 children and young people have clocked up almost half a million hours of learning in their own time as part of the Sheffield Children’s University initiative this year.

The programme which started in 2007, is now the biggest Children’s University scheme in the country and encourages youngsters, aged between four and 19, to take part in a wide range of learning opportunities outside of school hours.

Organisers are celebrating one of their best years yet with 4,000 children and young people joining the initiative in 2017 and dedicated 464,603 hours to extra curricular learning.

Now 40,293 youngsters are registered with the Children's University in Sheffield and have collective gained 2, 455,416 credits.

The scheme reached a major milestone in March when Sheffield youngsters clocked up more than 2 million hours of voluntary learning.

There are now 209 learning destinations across the city.

Sheffield largest Samba band outside the City Hall

Sheffield largest Samba band outside the City Hall

This year, the organisations who have signed up include Stocksbridge Community Leisure Centre, 67th Dore Beavers, 273rd Handsworth Beavers, Cubs and Scouts, Bradi Lea Dance Company and Chapeltown Amateur Swimming Club.

Katie Hamshaw, senior project officer, said: "We have also been revalidating a large number of providers that have been involved for over three years to ensure they were able to keep their Learning Destination status.

"This is an important part of our work to ensure all CU credits received at our Learning Destinations are earned by taking part in good quality out of school structured learning right across the board.

"There are currently 70 schools subscribed to Sheffield Children’s University.

Members of Sheffield Children's University

Members of Sheffield Children's University

"New additions include Halfway Infant School, Hallam Primary School and Becton School, with five more on the waiting list to start in the new year.

"We were also thrilled that 99 per cent of our CU schools chose to re-subscribe this year, which is our highest ever retention rate."

During 2017, the initiative has given out nearly 6,000 bronze awards, given to youngsters who volunteer for 30 hours and 4,000 silver awards for those who have achieved 65 hours.

A total of 2,733 children have achieved their gold awards, for 100 hours volunteering, and have been invited to special special awards ceremonies,

Meynell Primary pupils during a gardening event

Meynell Primary pupils during a gardening event

Katie said: "That’s a further 26 per cent increase in gold award winners when compared to last year, which saw a 26 per cent increase too.

"During November, we were really excited to host our very first ceremonies at the English Institute of Sport in partnership with Sheffield International Venues.

"They were our biggest ceremonies yet as during this month alone, we created nearly 3,000 awards for our fantastic CU members."

Sheffield CU has also maintained its Advanced Quality in Study Support statues during the summer, which shows that the service it provides raises attainment and achievement and engages learners with a variety of needs.

Katie said: "Our ‘Project in a Box’ programme continues to thrive as we hosted both our gardening box celebration event in Norfolk Park, and Samba Day at Sheffield City Hall during the summer term.

"We were thrilled to provide over 400 children from 35 schools with the opportunity to share skills, learn something new, and have lots of fun too.

"We also created Sheffield’s largest Samba band on the City Hall steps."

The Art in a Box project, run in partnership with Ignite Imaginations, has been rolled out to 30 schools in the city.

At the start of the year, the organisation funded more than 20 new out of school activities through its Acorn Fund, which enables youngsters to bid for funds to develop, sustain or reinvigorate a CU activity in their school.

Activities funded this year include clubs in Lego construction, archery, animation and gymnastics.

This year also saw the biggest ever Sheffield CU Festival of Fun held.

Katie said: "We kicked off proceedings in style with a fantastic procession down the Moor with Razzamataz Theatre School Sheffield, ending in the Moor Market with a marketplace full of providers and a number of special taster sessions.

"There was also a Moor Market quiz and lots of maypole dancing too.

"During the first three weeks of the summer holidays hols, there were lots of free activities on offer from our fab Learning Destinations including Awesome Walls, Sheffield Hallam University, Greentop Circus, Arches Sports Partnership, Sheffield Star Mandarin School and Amanda Holland School of Dance."

Sheffield CU also held its first schools conference this year, which aimed to support staff in the development and delivery of CU in schools.

Staff took part in a number of workshops and were able to visit a Learning Destination marketplace to get ideas to take back into school.

Free CU Live activities have been taking place across the city during the holidays and Katie said these will continue through 2018.

They will kick of on February 24 with Sheffield Science Saturday delivered by Sheffield Volunteering and student societies.

Katie added: "We are sure there will be lots more to celebrate in 2018.

"We want to say a huge thank you to all our colleagues, schools, Learning Destinations and partners for supporting our work and ensuring the children and young people of our wonderful city are celebrated and rewarded for their achievements."