A journey to independent learning

The Children's University (CU) Trust is a charitable trust that provides 7 to 14 year olds (and 5 to 6 year olds with their families) with exciting and innovative learning activities and experiences outside normal school hours. We celebrate achievement and reward participation through our certificates. Raising children's aspirations is important to us and we aim to develop the understanding that learning can be "...a satellite navigation system to better places in life…".

The Passport To Learning

"Tell me and I will forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I will understand!" - Anon

As a rule of thumb, Children's University learning equals 'grown-ups university' learning; it is learning which can be 'connected' to Higher Education course provision as exemplified on www.ucas.com/students/coursesearch - in other words: if you can get a degree in it the Children's University wants to know! This is what the Children's University terms the thinking at the start of the journey to independent learning …

A Passport To Learning has been created, in which 7 to 14 year old children - and 5 and 6 year olds with grown-ups - collect 'stamps' and hours of accredited learning. This contributes to the award of a certificate, encouraging them to access Children's University provision and a wide range of other worthwhile out-of-school-hours learning opportunities. This innovation has received widespread support from sponsors and partners. Our sponsors include JP Morgan, Garfield Weston Foundation, Sutton Trust, Nationwide Building Society, Fidelity Foundation and Charles Dunstone Charitable Trust. Our partners include: Higher and Further Education Institutions, Museums, Libraries and Archives, Woodland Trust, English Heritage, Shakespeare 4 Kidz and the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Houses of Parliament, BBC and B & Q. Internationally, our increasing number of partners include the Kunsthalle Bielefeld, the archaeological site Varusschlacht and Museum und Park Kalkriese Osnabrück in Germany and the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence, Italy.

Passport To Learning can be purchased from the local CU Manager. Each Passport To Learning is individually numbered which makes each child, as passport holder, an individual member of the Children's University. Tracking development and progress as part of the evaluation of impact is in this way also possible. This may be of particular interest to individual schools and Local Authorities as well as government agencies. An electronic version of the Passport To Learning (E-Passport) has been developed in partnership with private sector partners Exasoft Plc / bit10, to promote even greater independence in our learners and to enable children to actively log and manage their achievements. The E-Passport can also assist in children's transition from the primary to secondary phase and act as evidence in schools' monitoring, reporting and (Ofsted) self-evaluation.

Learning Destinations

"The aim of teaching is not to produce learning but to produce the conditions for learning, this is the focal point, the quality of learning." - Loris Malaguzzi

Learning Destinations are places and organisations to which children can 'travel' with their Passport To Learning. They provide high quality learning activities and experiences with a 'wow' factor and have passed the Children's University's own quality assurance process (Planning for Learning). A Learning Destination can range from a museum to a farm or from an airport to a university as long as the learning activity connects with Children's University learning, which is in turn linked to actual university course provision (as exemplified on www.ucas.ac.uk/students/coursesearch/). Partners as diverse as the Woodland Trust, English Heritage, and B & Q offer treasure trails and history walks, measuring, calculating, designing and making, playing an instrument, photography, sports and first aid, and much much more.

The status as a CU validated Learning Destination will in principle last for 3 years and is as such a licence agreement between the Children's University and the individual Learning Destination. As part of the local Children's University's monitoring and evaluation of learning activities additional local CU support may be available to individual Learning Destinations.

Learning Destinations display the CU's Learning Destination logo prominently in and outside their environment, clearly visible to children who may want to use their Passport To Learning there. Learning Destinations are also strongly encouraged to include the Learning Destination logo on literature, letter headed paper and to have a web link to the CU website. To find a Learning Destination near you please go to the Learning Destinations page. Passport holders can now access all of the public Learning Destinations across the United Kingdom and beyond to go on their own journey to independent learning. Schools can also be Learning Destinations through their out-of-school-hours offer - these Learning Destinations are mostly restricted to targeted groups of children and therefore do no appear as public Learning Destinations on the CU website.       

Learning Destinations 'stamp' the child's Passport To Learning to correspond with the time a child has been engaged in the validated learning activities within the Learning Destination. This therefore contributes to the child's record of achievements and CU Certification.

Learning Destinations ensure, where appropriate, attendance and evaluation records related to CU activities can be available to the Children's University to assist in developments, evaluation and research.

Children's University Certificates

The 'stamps' which children collect in their Passport To Learning will be issued by CU validated Learning Destinations and will represent that particular organisation's logo. The 'stamps' will in this way contribute to a child's record of achievement culminating in the presentation of Children's University Certificates for voluntary participation in high quality out-of-school-hours learning. These certificates are awarded at three levels: CU Undergraduate, CU Postgraduate (where tangible outcomes of learning are expected, such as displays and publications) and CU Doctorate (where children are expected to act as 'Leaders of Learning' for others). The hours are outlined below. Certificates are typically presented to children at 'graduation' ceremonies in or with the support of 'grown-ups' universities. Honorary certificates are also awarded for outstanding achievement and commitment.


Certification diagram 2012


The E-Passport

The E-Passport is an exciting new development that complements, but does not replace the Passport To Learning. In its simplest form the paper Passport To Learning is an achievement log, and the E-Passport is a more interactive achievement manager.

Following a successful pilot which involved a number of CUs, we are confident that the E-Passport will enable students to move from a simple log of activities towards other learning activities and in turn to greater achievement within the CU. The E-Passport has been developed in partnership with bit10 and their parent company Exasoft Plc. The current version has already built in a number of features requested through feedback from the pilot, and we will gradually be adding new features over the course of its introduction.

The E-Passport has important benefits for the students, CU representatives, schools and colleges and CU Learning Destinations:

  • Children using it can choose, log and manage their learning activities, as well as share their opinions on how good the learning was and even recommend it to others;
  • CU representatives using it can streamline their administration;
  • At whole school or college level reports can be generated to demonstrate the difference that CU learning can make and provide evidence to complement their own self-evaluation and inform judgements about external accountability;
  • Learning Destinations can see reports of how many children have visited their site, as well as how they rated the learning.