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University conjuring up ways to inspire school children


April 3 2015


A university has conjured up a way of inspiring primary school pupils in deprived areas to pursue a higher education – Harry Potter!

Glyndŵr University’s award-winning widening access team has been visiting schools in towns across Denbighshire, including Rhyl and Denbigh, as part of a Communities First project.

They have been using metaphors taken from the JK Rowling’s series of books – words the youngsters will understand and go on to explain, before the team demonstrate phrases and tools used in and around universities, such as ‘graduation’, ‘degree’ and ‘undergraduate’ – with great success.

Widening Access Coordinator Sarah-Lou Gaffney said the Wrexham-based institution’s emphasis on aspiration, enjoyment and education has appealed to their young audience, which consists of Year Six pupils aged 10-11 years old, and is a scheme that could be rolled out across the North West and the rest of the UK.

“The scheme has allowed us to speak to them before they go to secondary school with a view to inspiring them to achieve good grades at GCSE level and in further education,” said Sarah-Lou.

“The schools are in socially deprived areas, with high unemployment, low incomes and low progression into university and professional jobs.

“We are trying to break down the barriers and preconceptions that the children and their parents may have about higher education.”

Colleague David Mills said pupil-led discussions, interaction and the Harry Potter formula have proven popular.

“Playing games and using fun and interaction are great ways to engage and have really created a buzz among the children,” said David.

“One example is when we split the pupils into groups of three or four and play a game, issuing each with an envelope with 10 pictures, words and phrases to match together about university life.”

He added: “The feedback has been very useful and the pupils have not been intimidated by the language or felt like university was something they should not be thinking about at their age.

“The end result is future engagement; we can look at how many of the pupils come to study here in the coming years and even bring them to Glyndŵr University so that they can get a feel for what a university campus is like – it’s been a fascinating exercise and very rewarding.”

Glyndŵr University was named seventh in the UK and number one in Wales for helping students from poorer families into professional jobs, according to last year’s Social Mobility Graduate Index.

Gavin Roberts, Learning Lead Officer with North Denbighshire Communities First, said the scheme has proven to be very successful and well-received by the schools, the children and their parents.

“This is an aspiration-raising project with primary schools in our cluster area which has seen universities visit the pupils and talk to them about higher education and how it is an achievable goal,” said Gavin.

“The culmination has led us here to Glyndŵr University to see what a university looks like, to get an idea about the types of courses and to find out how accessible it is to them.”

He added: “The children and parents have had a great time and we will see in years to come whether they will have made the choice to go to university. Hopefully this will be an annual occurrence for the schools and will feed back into the curriculum.”

Pictured are pupils from Ysgol Pendref in Denbigh at Techniquest Glyndwr

University open day