Cool to be Clever Club gets insight into university life

  • Primary school children from across Sheffield graduate from pioneering University outreach programme
  • Programme supports children whose families have little or no experience of higher education
  • Year six pupils given an insight into studying courses such as theatre, English, poetry, chemistry and animal and plant sciences
  • Children celebrate with their very own graduation ceremony at the University of Sheffield

A primary school pupil having their photo taken in a graduation robe

Talented primary school children from South Yorkshire are celebrating after graduating from a pioneering widening participation programme at the University of Sheffield.

The Cool to be Clever Club, led by the University’s Outreach and Widening Participation team, gives children whose families have little or no experience of higher education an insight into life at university.

The two year programme is a collaboration between the University of Sheffield, Sheffield High School and Sheffield South East Learning Partnership (SSELP). Year five pupils – aged 10 – attend a number of activity days at the University, Sheffield High School and Arbourthorne Primary School and focus on various subject areas throughout their two years on the programme.

From animal and plant sciences and theatre to chemistry and poetry, the school children experience a range of subjects taught at university. As part of the programme pupils also enjoyed a visit to the Lyceum Theatre to see the production Fantastic Mr Fox, activity days at Sheffield High School and an art themed session at Arbourthorne Primary delivered by their resident artist Jayne Cooper.

As part of celebrations for reaching the end of the programme, the Year six children and their families were invited to their very own graduation ceremony in Firth Hall at the University, complete with the traditional cap and gowns worn by students graduating from Sheffield this summer.

Each pupil was presented with a graduation certificate, a Cool to be Clever star medal and a signed copy of the children's book The Secret of Nightingale Wood, written by University of Sheffield graduate Lucy Strange. Lucy travelled from Kent to attend the celebration event and gave an inspirational speech to the graduating Year six Cool to be Clever pupils encouraging them to follow their dreams and work hard.

Lucy Scheinkonig, Outreach and Widening Participation Co-ordinator at the University of
Sheffield, said: "Taking part in the Cool to be Clever Club is a wonderful opportunity for primary school pupils to begin to discover the University at an early age. They gain insight into what it is really like to be a university student and experience the environment first-hand.

“The end of year celebration evening is a fantastic way to celebrate all the Year six pupils’ hard work and achievements throughout their two years as part of the initiative.

“We’re looking forward to welcoming a new cohort of Year five pupils from the same group of Sheffield South East Learning Partnership schools this academic year. A wide range of activities is currently being developed, with a focus on core skill development underpinning each event.”

Lucy added: “The programme focuses on seven core skills: self-belief, confidence, communication, resilience, teamwork, creativity and critical thinking for the pupils to develop throughout their two years on the scheme.”

Lesley Marsh, a school teacher from Emmaus Catholic Church of England Primary School, said: “The graduation was an excellent evening for both the children and adults. It truly is great to see the children all grown up and confident especially when you look back at the photographs at the first getting to know you session at Sheffield High School.

“It's a pleasure to be included in this very special club. Our headteacher was full of praise at the event and amazed at all the children confidently speaking on the stage. One of our parents became very emotional saying she was so proud to watch her daughter walk across the stage and speak in front of others in the beautiful university building.”

Susan Good, Director of Outreach at Sheffield High School, added: “We have so much positivity and appreciation for the celebration evening, it was a wonderful occasion to complete the project for this cohort of pupils.

“As always, we’re looking forward to working with the University next term and providing the same opportunity to other children in Sheffield - for whom this just may be the springboard that helps to transform their life chances.”

Additional information

The University of Sheffield

With almost 29,000 of the brightest students from over 140 countries, learning alongside over 1,200 of the best academics from across the globe, the University of Sheffield is one of the world’s leading universities.

A member of the UK’s prestigious Russell Group of leading research-led institutions, Sheffield offers world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines.

Unified by the power of discovery and understanding, staff and students at the university are committed to finding new ways to transform the world we live in.

Sheffield is the only university to feature in The Sunday Times 100 Best Not-For-Profit Organisations to Work For 2018 and for the last eight years has been ranked in the top five UK universities for Student Satisfaction by Times Higher Education.

Sheffield has six Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and its alumni go on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence all over the world, making significant contributions in their chosen fields.

Global research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Unilever, AstraZeneca, Glaxo SmithKline, Siemens and Airbus, as well as many UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.


For further information please contact:

Sean Barton
Media Relations Officer
University of Sheffield
0114 222 9852