Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Eastern Promise: CU China opens its doors for the first time

Hi everyone,

A very special branch of Children’s University opened its doors for the first time in November 2015. What makes this one special I hear you ask? Well, this Children’s University is in China!

Run by Mark Upton (who we owe thanks for providing the images and information featured in this post), CU China has opened first of all in Ningbo, a large city a three-hour drive south of Shanghai. Their first Passport To Learning holders come from a bilingual school called HD Ningbo School. These children will soon be reaching out to students in other less privileged schools, allowing the children to enjoy joint visits to Learning Destinations and shared learning opportunities.

CU China have also, this month, begun pre-launch activities in Shanghai ahead of an exciting 2016! Shanghai is a city with a population of 23 million, so there’s plenty to do!

There are already a number of schools in both Ningbo and Shanghai interested in setting up joint-learning video links with children in UK schools currently involved in Children's University. It is hoped that this will build upon a pilot video created by children in China and Coventry last year.

“So,” says Mark, “if you know of a school keen to link up then please do get in touch and we can get going! These exciting joint international CU video learning links are quite easy to arrange - early morning at school in [the] UK is late afternoon here in China - perfect!”

There is a real respect and love of learning built into China's culture. As such, it's really exciting that we’re now getting to see how Children's University can play its part in using this to offer learning opportunities outside of the classroom. I’m sure you’ll agree, there are exciting times ahead – who knows what 2016 may hold!

CU soon!


Monday, 9 November 2015

Welcome our new CEO, Helen!

Hi everyone,

On 5th November 2015, Helen O'Donnell joined the Children's University family as our new CEO and Director of Partnerships. Helen's arrival allows Lynne and Mary to return to their original roles as 'Head of CU Learning Support and Development' and 'Chief Executive of CU Scotland' respectively, having worked together to act as CEO for the past few months.

Below, you can read a little bit about Helen and her past roles and achievements. Exciting times lie ahead!

Prior to joining the Children’s University Helen was Chief Executive of Cheshire Community Foundation, an independent charity whose main mission is to improve the quality of life for local people by inspiring local philanthropy and investing in local community activity. In her time with the Foundation she oversaw the investment of £7.5m of donations from individual and corporate philanthropists. She also oversaw the awarding of close to £2m in grants to more than 400 organisations. The Foundation achieved Quality Accreditation by UK Community Foundations and the Charity Commission within 2 years of being established. 

Previously, Helen was Head of Development at the University of Liverpool, where she was responsible for leading the University’s advancement programme ensuring that significant philanthropic investment was secured to support the University’s vision, strategic priorities and academic focus. Before moving to the University she was Development Director at Withington Girls' School in Manchester (her alma mater) where she raised close to £2m for the 100 Plus Bursary Appeal. She began her major donor fundraising career as Development Manager at Wolverhampton Grammar School following an early career in social housing with the Housing Corporation (now the HCA). 

Helen is a member of the Institute of Fundraising and a graduate of Common Purpose and The Leadership Team. In 2015 she was shortlisted in the categories of Not-for-Profit/Social Enterprise Leader of the Year and Inspiring Leader of the Year at the Forward Ladies Women in Business Awards (North West and Isle of Man). She has a degree in Modern Languages and lives in Cheshire with her husband and 3 daughters.

Catch you next time!


Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Blackburn Children’s University's 'Greatest Day'

Hi everyone,

News from the CU network today!  This one's from Sara Casey, Blackburn CU Manager:

On Thursday 15th October 2015, over 60 Children’s University members sang at King George’s Hall, Blackburn for the University Centre’s Graduation.  They sang Take That's inspirational song ‘Greatest Day’ at all three ceremonies.

By attending a 'grown up' graduation, the children were able to see where they could be in years to come and what they could aspire to become. They shared the Hall with people who have mastered a huge range of academic skills, giving them just a glimpse of what the future might hold for them.

This was a very special opportunity and it is the third year Blackburn Children’s University have been invited to sing.  You can see some pictures from this special occasion below, including a shot showing the size of the venue and the audience that our inspiration young people performed for.

Do you have any stories from your part of the CU network that you'd like to see here? Tell me about it at and I'll be in touch - I look forward to hearing from many of you!

Catch you next time!


Monday, 5 October 2015

Guest Post: Finding Your Inner Iceberg

Here at Children's University, we're lucky enough to have a fantastic group of enthusiastic Patrons and Chancellors who support the work Children's University does nationally and in their regions. Championing the charity, its goals and, most importantly, its child members, our Chancellors and Patrons inspire our children by encouraging them to unlock their own potential and by showing them what they are capable of.

As well as our usual posts, this blog will feature special guest posts from some of our Patrons and Chancellors. Our first such post comes from the children's author, feature writer, radio producer and broadcaster, Hilary Robinson. Hilary is a Patron of Children's University, and here's what she has to say:

Finding your Inner Iceberg


by Hilary Robinson - Patron of the Children’s University

Children need to know the truth about David Beckham.

We see the adulation, the lifestyle, the neat family life.  We see however many caps and goals for England, the endorsements, the megabucks and the rest.

But what we don’t see is what is captured in a brilliant infographic by Sylvia Duckworth.

We don’t see what applies to many ‘successful’ people – we don’t see the whole picture.

This is it:

 The Iceberg Illusion. Photo Credit: Sylvia Duckworth via Flickr under CC BY 2.0 license

Like so many successful people, David Beckham has had to persevere and fight against all kinds of setbacks and challenges to get where he is.

But he was lucky in one way.  He was lucky that he discovered his ‘passion’ quite early on - a passion, of course, for football.

Somewhere, inside every one of us, is a passion for something.  It might be a passion for bats (as an eight year old boy in my friend’s class discovered); it might be for caring, cooking, coin collecting, clouds, or cultivating carrots; or it might be for playing the ukulele, snooker, darts or chess.

Yet the demands of the National Curriculum and the pressures on teachers often leave little room for opportunities to tap into inner passions.  Arguably, the curriculum is so academically focussed that it is easy for children to feel like they are failures and the knock-on consequences of that, if not managed carefully, can be lifelong. 

The Children’s University, by encouraging such a wide range of extra-curricular activities and interests, provides children with the opportunities to try, to explore, to foster interests, to engage and to break down barriers.

Most importantly, it helps children to understand that failure need not be feared.

Steve Jobs once said that he “was convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the unsuccessful ones is pure perseverance.”   C S Lewis tapped into the same philosophy when he said, “failures, repeated failures, are finger posts on the road to achievement.”  In the application of passion and perseverance, the latter usually becomes a by-product of the former.

Yet The Children’s University is not just about being ‘successful’ in the traditional sense of the word.  It is about finding interests that stimulate, that help us create bonds and enriching friendships; it’s about helping us to develop an understanding and awareness of the wider world and our place within it, and, fundamentally, it helps us to be happy about who we are.

In short, the Children’s University helps us to find our inner iceberg and it helps us to find the truth about David Beckham – that passion and persistence pay off.


You can find out more about Hilary at her website.

Catch you next time!


Friday, 11 September 2015

The Museum is Open...

We’ve gone STEM mad here at CU Trust! Last week, we announced our partnership with the Butlin’s Science Weekend. This week, we’re delighted to tell you about a brand new Learning Destination just down the road from CU HQ – the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester!

The Museum of Science and Industry’s mission is to explore where science met industry and the modern world began, and to understand the impact that Manchester’s science, technology and innovation continues to have on all of our lives.

Contained within the Museum’s five historic, listed buildings is a veritable treasure trove of scientific splendours and industrial innovations. What’s more, the Museum stands proudly on the site of the world’s first passenger railway station, which opened in September 1830!

From historic aircraft (including a triplane) to stinky sewers (ew…) and a hands-on Experiment Gallery (ooh..!), you can guarantee that the Museum has something for everyone.
With exciting temporary exhibitions, fantastic half-term holiday activities and a daily programme of shows and demonstrations, there’s always something new to see and do. For details of what’s on, click here

Children can visit the Museum’s exhibitions, displays and Experiment Gallery - as well as any workshops and shows available during their visit - and can claim up to 3 hours of learning time in their Passport To Learning. They just need to speak to one of the Museum staff at the Information Desk (keep an eye out for one of our brand new flyers too!)

The Museum of Science and Industry is also the proud producer of the Manchester Science Festival. This year, the festival runs from October 22nd to November 1st at venues across the city. This is an incredible opportunity to learn about a whole host of scientific topics from some of the top minds in the country in fun and imaginative ways. Check out the full line up here.

Photo credits: Museum of Science and Industry/Chris Foster.

Catch you next time!


Monday, 7 September 2015

Prepare to be astonished – Science is coming!


Science can seem like a daunting prospect to some children. The idea of someone being able to launch a probe that can shoot past Pluto, taking photos as it goes, seems worlds apart (pun intended) from their own.

But science, at its simplest level, is simply about gaining knowledge through investigation, which children do all the time! We’ve all poked an eyeball (hopefully only our own…) or a worm to see what it feels like, just like we’ve all learned what happens if we go round a corner too fast on our bike! 

Simply put, the effects of, and opportunities to explore, science are all around us and they’re something that we can all interact with.


Children’s University and Butlin’s are on a mission to inspire the next generation of scientists.  We want to help children who want to learn and experience more to understand that science is part of everyday life, not something that’s just reserved for boffins in lab coats and goggles!

As such, the Butlin’s Minehead resort, in Somerset, is staging a phenomenal event, aimed at young people aged 6-13 years, called The Astonishing Family Science Weekend on the 18th-21st of September 2015. Here at Children’s University, we’re making the weekend available as an epic Learning Activity to those of our Passport-holders lucky enough to be attending! 

If you haven’t yet booked to attend The Astonishing Family Science Weekend, click here to find out more. 


Children who attend The Astonishing Family Science Weekend will undoubtedly be amazed and enthralled by what they see and learn at the 30+ activities. They’ll get hands (and feet) on, building rockets, causing explosions and walking on custard! The teams from Brainiac, Aardman Animations and the National Space Centre will entertain and educate with their shows and workshops. The children will even get to see a hovercraft made out of a chair, some wood and a leaf blower! 

Children registered with Children’s University will be able to download the CU time sheet available here before they go to Butlin’s. By going to enough shows, workshops and drop-in sessions on the Saturday and Sunday, CU learners will be able to gain up to 10 hours (5 hours maximum per day) of validated learning when they attend and fill in their sheet. 


Children will learn about all manner of scientific wonders, discovering the fun side of science. They’ll come back from the weekend enthused about science and eager to learn more about the world in which they live. They will also have learned that science has an effect on everything all around them – literally, everywhere they look – from the New Horizons probe journeying through the stars to the blades of grass on which they lie to gaze up at those distant lights at night.

Children’s University members can fill their time sheet with everything that they’ve done and take it to a member of the Butlin’s team who will sign their Passport To Learning for the number of hours achieved. This will potentially move these children much closer to the next award level in their Children’s University career!


This is the first time we’ve run a project like this with Butlin’s and we are beyond excited! With similar events running throughout 2016, one at each of the Butlin’s sites, we hope to see this relationship develop further over time. We’re absolutely convinced that children will be blown away by what they can see and do at The Astonishing Family Science Weekend and hope that our Passport holders will enjoy learning about science with us. 

Further Reading

Please visit the Butlin’s Children’s University page for more information and to download the CU time sheet before your visit.

Alternatively, please visit or our Facebook and Twitter pages.