Northumberland Children's University™

Children’s University™ is a national programme which encourages quality extra-curricular learning and experience outside of the classroom, which is being managed in Northumberland by Leading Link.

The programme aims to provides 7 to 14 year olds (and 5 and 6 year olds with their families) with access to exciting and innovation learning activities and experiences outside of the normal school day. These activities are known as Learning Destinations. On becoming members of the Children’s University™, young people are issued with a 'Passport To Learning' where they can take part in learning activities and experiences.

Activities include lunchtime and after-school clubs taking place in school and a host of free and affordable activities available at validated public destinations, including local museums, leisure centres and more - a full list is available below. There are also a number of other exciting opportunities throughout the year which are offered by Leading Link, subject to funding.

They simply have to attend with their passport and participate in the validated activity - the passport will then be stamped by the person leading the activity and they will accumulate the activity hours. From sport to art and drama and everything in-between - as long as the activity has been validated by Children’s University™ then the passport can be stamped!

For every hour they take part, they are working towards National Children’s University™ Awards - the young people put on their cap and gown and are invited to attend a graduation ceremony at the end of each year with their families, where bronze (30 hours), silver (60 hours) and gold certificates (100 hours) will be awarded to those completed. 

ISOS Funding:

Due to their financial support we have been able to place 82 hours of free activity in the Bedlingtonshire area and transport to visit places outside the area.

We have secured further funding from them to enable us to provide even more free activities to the children and young people.  In addition, we are busy planning a very big Children’s University day in Plessey Woods in time for Easter 2016.  Watch this space!

Is there a cost involved?

All School and Academy members of Northumberland Children’s University™ are expected to pay an annual membership fee.

The cost of membership for each child is £5. This includes:

- A Passport to Learning
- Access to local quality assured Learning Destinations
- Participation in a Children’s University™ graduation (if they get a minimum of 30 hours)
- Other exclusive opportunities throughout the year (subject to funding)

Membership is renewed each time a new Passport to learning is required (on average, we find this is once every 18 months)

We strongly believe that, where possible, families should cover the cost of the passport. Experience has shown in the past that in making a financial commitment, a far greater value and commitment is attached to Children’s University™ Learning.

Through participation in fun, high quality learning experiences, we aim to grow inquisitive, confident, independent children and learners. It's about enjoyment and a sense of achievement for all.  Membership of the Children's University™ provides each child with access to a range of quality assured learning provision.

We recognise that for those from the lowest income families this amount could be prohibitive. In these circumstances, please speak direct to the school.


What are the benefits to schools?

There are many benefits to schools being involved in Children's University™. They include:

- CU provides the opportunity for targeted support for the most vulnerable children
- CU brings coherence to an enrichment programme and allows close tracking of uptake and impact of participation
- CU provides instant reporting methods to meet all OFSTED and internal requirements
- CU supports opportunities for transition

Key findings of our work through independent evaluations show that Children’s University™ impacts on attendance, attainment, achievement, attitudes, adventures, awards, agency, aspiration and adaptability.

For a copy of the report: Evaluating provision, progress and quality of learning in the Children’s University 2012 Professor John MacBeath - University of Cambridge, Faculty of Education, visit

Current list of validated destinations in Northumberland:

The Lodge and Leading Link
121 Waves
Ashington Leisure Centre
Ashington Shotokan Karate Club
Aydon Castle
Bedlington Community Sporting Club
Bedlington Swimming School
Bedlington Town Football Club
Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens
Berwick-upon-Tweed Barracks
Bessie Surtees House
Blyth Sports Centre
Brinkburn Priory
Brocksbushes Farm
Centre For Life
Chesters Roman Fort and Museum
Claire's Dance Academy
Concordia Leisure Centre
Cooking 4 Life

Cramlington Community Tennis
Dunstanburgh Castle
Emulous Martial Arts + Fitness Centre
Etal Castle
GKR Karate Blyth
Grass Roots Sports Coaching
Great North Museum: Hancock
Halfords Cramlington
Halfords Newcastle (Kingston Park)
Hirst Welfare Centre
Housesteads Roman Fort
Hunter Theatre Arts
Kielder Water and Forest Park
Laing Art Gallery
Lindisfarne Priory
Little Gems School of Dance
Marshall Academy of Irish Dance
Michaela Percival School of Dancing
Milly Performance Academy

Morpeth Harriers and Athletic Club
Morpeth Sporting Club
Newbiggin Sports and Community Centre
Norham Castle
Northburn Sports and Community Centre
Northern Freestyle Karate
Northern Freestyle, Cramlington
Northern Gymnastics
Prudhoe Castle
Riverside Leisure Centre, Morpeth
Shipley Art Gallery
The Pegasus Centre
The Studio Dance & Fitness Academy
Tynemouth Priory and Castle
Wansbeck -Performing Arts Academy
Warkworth Castle and Hermitage
Woodhorn Museum


CASE STUDY: Ant and Dec at Northumberland Children's University™ graduation

Leading Link were delighted at the success of the first ever Northumberland Children's University™ graduation in 2013.

In attendance at the graduation were over 150 graduates, 400 of their friends and family and two secret special celebrity guests - Geordie boys and TV personalities Ant and Dec dropped in to the surprise and delight of the waiting youngsters.

Here is the moment that the surprise was revealed:

Lyn Horton, manager of Leading Link, said: “When we first started up, we initially saw the Children’s University™ programme as a fantastic opportunity to recognise the achievements of our Youth Ambassadors™.”

“They are an incredible group of young people who give up their free time help support us, and the wider community, in a diverse range of projects and activities.”

“It’s safe to say that we couldn’t do our job without them and it was nice to be able to give something back to them.”

Lyn extended her gratitude to Ant and Dec for giving up their time to come and hand out the certificates.

She added: “This year was the pilot of the Northumberland Children’s University™ programme and we wanted it to make it a special one – so to be able to secure such local icons like Ant and Dec was a tremendous coup for Leading Link.”

“They were absolutely fantastic with the kids and we would definitely welcome them back next year!”

More information about Children’s University™ is available on their website.

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