This area is for registered CU managers and school coordinators only.
Register now Forgot your password?


Discover our programme to boost wider learning through Scottish schools


Children's University for Schools

We tackle disadvantage by removing barriers to wider learning and connecting children to experiences that boost their self-confidence, nurture their talents and raise their aspirations

What we do

Funded by Scottish Government, our schools programme captures and rewards extra-curricular, wider learning beyond lesson time.

Children aged P4-S2 (and P1-3 with extra support) explore activities that take place at home, in school and in the local community. As they take part, they build an activity profile in our innovative online platform Aspire. Each activity unlocks credit coins, skills points and awards.

Our unique approach allows children to develop new skills, discover new talents and celebrate their achievements and aspirations. This helps inspire a love of learning beyond the classroom that enriches children's lives and transforms their prospects for the future.


Get in touch


Why we do it

Because wider learning opportunities enrich childhood experience, help to build essential life skills, develop confidence and resilience, and enhance overall wellbeing. But too many children in Scotland are unable to access the opportunities that many of their peers enjoy due to poverty and disadvantage. We want every child, regardless of background or personal circumstance, to be supported and encouraged to explore their passions and interests and to feel proud of their achievements.


We connect children and families to fun, high-quality, affordable learning activities beyond lesson time - from sports clubs to nature walks, dance and drama clubs to local libraries, and self-directed family learning at home.


Children are given agency to direct their own learning journey. As they participate in activities, they collect credit coins and awards that celebrate their personal achievements and build their confidence and resilience.


Through the online portal Aspire, children build an evolving digital skills profile linked with their wider learning activities, helping learners recognise and articulate their unique talents, skills and strengths.


Children's University awards are presented at special ceremonies in school, or at local colleges or universities. Each child's wider achievements are celebrated, encouraging a sense of pride and raising children's aspirations.

Key Features

Tried and tested programme, embedded in schools across Scotland


Linked with thousands of activity providers and venues across the country


Full training and support to help schools maximise impact and sustain delivery


Access to data and reporting on wider learning and achievement for your pupils


Boosts family learning and supports parental engagement with school

How it works

How it works

Slide 1

A good thing about Children's University is having the chance to be recognised for what you are doing, and this gives you more confidence in yourself.

P7 pupil

Primary school in Banff

How we can help

HGIOS indicators table

Slide 1

"The motivation, confidence and self-esteem of our pupils was really enhanced by their participation in the Children’s University, especially for our more practical and additional support needs pupils. It recognised their wider skills, engagement and achievements. Significantly, it also had a positive impact on learning both inside and outside of the school classroom. But above all, it was great to see our pupils so happy and positively recognised when presented with their certificates by our university partners"


Children's University School Co-ordinator


Further information

If you can't find the information you're looking for below, please get in touch.

How does Children's University work for pupils?

We provide a children with a Passport to Learning book and a login for Aspire, our online platform for schools, pupils and parents. Pupils use Aspire to search for exciting activities that take place outside lesson time.

Passport and Aspire

The Passport to Learning is children's own record of their CU learning journey. When they take part in an activity, they write it down in their Passport to Learning to keep track of it.

Once children have recorded their activity in the passport booklet, they can log the activity on Aspire to unlock their credits coins and skill points.

The credits build into awards at key milestones, celebrating children's achievements. The skill points build into a skills profile, helping children understand the value of what they're learning.

Our awards are presented at Children's University celebration events, which bring together parents, siblings, friends, teachers and others to recognise the children's achievements.

Aspire award

How does Children's University work for school staff?

Each school should have at least one member of staff who acts as the school coordinator for Children's University. School coordinators are usually teaching staff or support staff. The coordinator(s) will be fully trained and supported by Children's University Scotland.

When the programme is launched in school, the coordinator(s) will then be able to take some simple steps to build momentum and maximise engagement and impact. This might include:

  • running a 'CU club' lunchtime session in school,
  • regularly checking Aspire to track pupil progress,
  • celebrating pupil progress and achievements in school


We can tell you more about what's involved during our initial conversation. We can also put new schools in touch with existing schools if you'd like to talk to some teachers with experience of running the Children's University Scotland programme in their school.


What is the process for school engagement?

For new schools looking to join our network, it all starts with a conversation. We can arrange a call or visit to tell you more about how it works, and to find out about your local priorities and requirements.

If we decide to work together, we would then take the following steps:

1. Training - we will train your nominated school coordinators, either through a face-to-face session or via webinar. This will provide them with all the knowledge and tools they need to go forward.

2. Activity set-up - we'll support you to gather some information around the kinds of activities that should be included in-school. (And we'll discuss how we can work together to build a network of local activity providers beyond school, too).

3. Engaging parents and pupils - we'll provide templates, tools and guidance to help you engage your pupils and their families with Children's University, and show you how to gather the information required to create their Aspire accounts.

4. Launching the programme - we'll be on hand to help you launch the programme in school, and provide lots of guidance and best practice around what works.

5. Ongoing support - as part of our network, you'll have access to a range of support tools to help you deliver the programme in your school.

What’s the cost of involvement for schools?

We provide Children's University Scotland to individual schools, across school clusters or across whole authority areas.

We charge a small set up fee, which meets some the cost of the training and support we provide to get a school set up. If school clusters come together for the training, this can help to reduce the set-up cost.

Thereafter, we charge an annual licence fee per school, which provides each school with access to Aspire, the ability to download reports around wider learning, and the ongoing support that comes from being part of our schools network.

We are currently reviewing our cost structure, but we can explain more when we visit your school.

How is the learning captured?

There are two ways children taking part in CU in Scotland capture their extra-curricular learning:


1) The Passport to Learning - the passport-style booklet children can take with them to school and as they visit learning venue. This is their very own record of their CU learning journey.

2) Children also update their Aspire account online. This allows them to log their activities, rate and review their activities, build a skills profile and unlock awards.

For teachers, Aspire can work alongside the school’s management information system and generate reports of students’ activities and wider learning. Teachers can see which children are most engaged, and those that need extra support.

Aspire provides valuable data to schools around wider skills development and participation in learning beyond school.

Pupils who don't have easy access to Aspire at home can use our Aspire Award Planner sheet to help them plan and reach their first award.

Where do the learning activities take place?

Children's University recognises extra-curricular learning activities that happen at home, in the community and during school break times. The individuals and organisations who create or facilitate these activities, are called 'learning providers' (sometimes referred to as 'learning destinations').

When these activities happen in a physical venue, children can visit with their Passport to Learning to take part in high quality learning activities and experiences. They can be large educational centres, small local venues, and within the school environment itself. The key? Learning must take place outside of normal school lesson hours, and must be voluntary.

Other learning providers include museums, art galleries, science centres, sports clubs or music groups, brownies and scout groups, parks and learning festivals, and organisations that provide learning worksheets and activities children can do at home with the family. The list is almost endless.

We have a process to recognise Children's University activity providers, to make sure the activities they provide are enjoyable, safe, voluntary, affordable and open to all children. New activity providers can register using our online form, and we'll get back to them to check the details as part of this process.


Who can join Children's University Scotland?

Any child in Scotland aged 5-14 can become a member, as long as their school is already involved. Right now we work with a wide range of local authority (state) schools.

Schools decide whether to offer Children’s University membership to all their pupils or whether to target specific year groups within the school.

What is the impact?

External evaluation of the Children’s University model reflects positive impact on participants’ attendance, attainment, attitudes to learning and self-confidence. See: Evaluating provision, progress and quality of learning in the Children’s University (2012). Professor John MacBeath, University of Cambridge. Available here (pdf, 1Mb).

Other studies have found evidence that participation in extra-curricular activities is a significant factor in improving the attainment of children from the most deprived backgrounds. See this report (pdf, 2.2Mb).

We're also working with research institutions in Scotland to conduct further research into the effect and impact of our programme upon the young people involved. The results of this research will be published in due course.


What are the benefits for schools?

  • Children's University Scotland is a recognised partner in the Scottish Government's Raising Attainment Programme.
  • Supports the Curriculum for Excellence, helping children become successful and confident learners, responsible citizens and effective contributors.
  • Helps to raise pupils’ aspirations and motivation, improving attendance, achievement and attitude and supporting successful transition from primary to secondary.
  • Provides an overarching, coherent framework for all extra-curricular activity and wider achievement.
  • Actively engages parents in their child’s learning.
  • Empowers children to experience the excitement, enjoyment and satisfaction of gaining new skills, exploring and taking part in activities in different environments.

Quality-assured learning

We want learning to be fun, but we also want it to be relevant, high-quality and age-appropriate. That’s why we set out minimum standards for our recognised learning providers, and validate each venue, event and activity.

Our criteria includes:

  • Offer activities to children (P1-S2) on a voluntary basis, outside school hours
  • Host activities with clear, formalised learning outcomes, allowing for different styles of learning
  • Offer exciting, inspirational, enjoyable learning activities that (where applicable) allow children to interact, collaborate and work with others
  • Provide a safe, secure environment for learning with properly trained staff
  • Be low cost or free, so there is no barrier for children to take part
  • Open to all children regardless of religious, cultural or financial background

Tackling digital exclusion

Children's University (CU) Scotland are committed to supporting children to benefit from the CU awards programme, no matter their personal circumstances. 

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted issues with fairness of digital access throughout Scotland, as access to public spaces like libraries, schools and community centres, which many families rely upon for digital access, was not possible. We're still working to make sure our programme works for all families, here are some resources we've created to make this possible.

- The Passport to Learning - pupils can use the Passport to record their activities and credits. A teacher or member of CUS staff can support them to log their credits later. 

- Award planner - a resource to support pupils to reach their first CU award. Our research shows that pupils who reach their first award at 30 credits benefit most from the programme, and are more likely to continue. The planner aims to support pupils specifically who might be unable to login and check their Aspire account regularly, who can still benefit from visual celebration 

- 50 ideas magazine - a fun, comic-style magazine with 50 exciting activities, that require no digital access. Children can collect 1 CU credit for each. 

- Wonderbox - in 2020, we distributed 7000 wonderboxes across Scotland to families facing poverty and other barriers to wider learning. These boxes contained everything needed for learning, leisure and play from home. 


It all starts with a conversation.

Take the first step to school involvement and get in touch

Newsletter Sign Up

Keep up to date with the latest news from Children's University Scotland