Celebrate International Children’s Day with Hull Children’s University

Published: Thursday 1st June 2017 by Courtney Farrow

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Today is International Children’s Day. To celebrate, we spoke to Natasha Banke, Director of Hull Children’s University.

Founded in 1996, Hull Children’s University (HCU) was set up by John Buttrick, who at the time was Deputy Head at Francis Askew Primary School.

The school was in a ward of high deprivation and failed its OFSTED visit. As a result, it was criticised for not providing children with opportunities to excel.

“John decided to start HCU to give children from disadvantaged backgrounds opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have,” explains Natasha. “This encourages them to see that there is more to the world than just the end of their street.”

In 2007 HCU became a registered charity. Since then it has gone from strength to strength, helping children to expand their horizons, raise their aspirations, and find the drive to live more fulfilled lives.

“In turn, this will enable them to have higher expectations and ambitions for their own children one day,” adds Natasha.

HCU works with 56 primary schools in Hull and eight in the East Riding, as well as Pupil Referral Units and special schools in areas of deprivation.

Their exciting educational opportunities guide children to change their outlook on life and form ambitious goals.

HCU runs experiences for full classes of children, with experiences split into five concepts:

I’m Fit & Healthy; I’m Intelligent; I’m Ambitious; I’m Thinking About the Future; I’m Proud of my City.

“Within each concept are a range of experiences that the school can choose to participate in,” Natasha tells us. “For example, we have Ambassadors of Hull, where children come to our KCOM learning zone in the city centre and find out what an ambassador is.”

As part of this, the pupils interview the public with the help of adults about what they like about Hull.

Meanwhile, they learn about ambassadors from Hull such as William Wilberforce, Amy Johnson, Lucy Beaumont, Tommy Coyle and Kofi Smiles.

“Some of these ambassadors have even popped in for a Q&A session,” says Natasha. “The children also get a map and have to find seven statues of ambassadors around Hull.”

“This takes them from the train station to the marina, visiting many parts of the city that they have never seen. “

Natasha also told us about one little boy from Southcoates Primary, who said: “I’m really proud to be from Hull now. It’s an amazing city and I feel a sense of dignity.”

HCU takes children on trips to London to visit Parliament, and sleep under the dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum.

Other experiences include becoming an astronaut or marine biologist for the day, sketching and painting in the countryside, and visiting local businesses such as ARCO, Smith & Nephew, ABP, P&O Ferries and BAE.

“Last year we ran 193 trips with 5,111 children taking part,” says Natasha. “All our experiences have been designed by teachers and link to the National Curriculum. They make children more confident, resilient and self-confident.”

HCU has a Children in Care team too, providing experiences to children living in foster care. This includes a letterbox club for 20 children, which is a one-to-one booster scheme for reading and numeracy.

Companies and individuals can get involved with HCU in a variety of ways. They have 200 volunteers from all walks of life, from university students to businesspeople to retired fire chiefs.

You can also raise funds for the charity or make a donation, whilst businesses can become HCU partners. Some individuals even leave a gift to HCU in their will.

“We are grateful for any support,” says Natasha. “It all makes a difference to the lives of children who don’t always have the best start in life.”

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Published: Thursday 1st June 2017 by Courtney Farrow

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