Charity in focus: Hull Children’s University

Published: Friday 10th February 2017 by Courtney Farrow

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Established for nearly two decades, Hull Children’s University is on a mission to raise the aspirations of young people in Hull.

Through unique learning experiences, HCU aims to encourage children to feel proud of their city and go on to have a successful future.

“The bigger picture for us as an organisation is to break the cycle of deprivation in Hull,” Natasha Banke, Director of Hull Children’s University, explains.

“Hull has the highest percentage of unemployment in the country, with 1 in 3 children growing up in poverty. We want to change this by creating a better future for our children and our city.”

HCU works with local schools to organise trips and special experiences for young children:

“We take classes to places like the Houses of Parliament in London. Here they learn how politics works and how much it can impact their lives,” Natasha expands.

“We also take them to local businesses, where we teach them about the world of work. This inspires many of the children to think about their aspirations and career ambitions.”

Each learning experience links up with one of the charity’s six concepts: I’m fit, I’m intelligent, I’m healthy, I’m ambitious, I’m thinking of the future, and I’m proud of my city.

Luke Thornton, Lifestyle Coach, loves working with the charity:

“For coming up to three years now, I’ve been collaborating with Hull Children’s University in schools all around Hull.”

“I lead the Healthy Lifestyle module, talking to kids about how to live healthily and pursue a career that they love.”

Natasha adds: “Throughout 2017 we’ll be continuing to develop these modules. With it being City of Culture year, we’re also working on four additional projects.”

Their Ambassadors of Hull module is particularly popular with local schools.

“We run this in conjunction with KCOM, as they allow us access to the Learning Zone, where children research local ambassadors past and present.”

After learning about what an ambassador is, the children go out and interview the general public to see why they are proud to be from Hull.

In the afternoon, the class embarks on an Ambassador Trail, where they use a map to locate seven statues of famous Hull representatives.

“Many children from Hull don’t get to see much of the city centre,” Natasha explains. “It’s a great chance for them to get to grips with the fantastic history and culture their home city has to offer.”

As the future is looking increasingly digital, Hull Children’s University has developed an interesting way for young people to be creative and learn new skills.

“We wanted to create a digital platform for children across the city. This way they can show off their amazing creative work during 2017.”

Digitull (see our special feature) is a collaboration between HCU, Hull UK City of Culture 2017 and web development agency Forward Thinker.

Soon they will launch their public-facing platform, Digitull Explore, which allows people from across the world to view the local children’s artwork.

“We’ve also teamed up with Associated British Ports for our I Love Hull project,” enthuses Natasha.

HCU asked 35 schools in the area to write about why they loved their city. Ten were then selected to create pieces of art based on these ideas.

The designs will be printed on shipping containers, which will travel all over the world. Each container has a GPS tracker, so the children can follow their art during its global journey.

People who see the artwork are invited to tweet their photos to @ChildrensUni, adding to the shared online experience.

Meanwhile, A Song for Hull will allow children from eight school choirs to perform in front of The Garnett Family, Jonathan Ansell from G4, and Hull’s own rapper, Nineties Boy.

“Each school is currently working on their song for Hull, to be performed at Hull City Hall on Friday 20 October,” says Natasha.

“We’re growing year on year and impacting on more and more lives every day,” Luke adds. “I can’t wait to see what the next few years hold for the charity and the awesome children of Hull.”

If you’d like to find out more about Hull Children’s University, please visit

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Published: Friday 10th February 2017 by Courtney Farrow

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