The South Yorkshire Children’s University has achieved its first milestone with the official launch of the Rotherham Children’s University.

Following a successful pilot phase earlier this year, Rotherham Children’s University, led by Rotherham Council, will now look to work with all schools across the area from September.

The Children’s University is a national charity which works with schools to encourage participation in extra-curricular activities. Children attend special graduation ceremonies, receiving various awards and accolades when they clock up a target number of activity hours.

Cllr Gordon Watson, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Children and Young People’s Services at Rotherham Council, said: “We are committed to giving all children in Rotherham the best start in life and encouraging learning with programmes like this opens up so many opportunities, raising ambitions and aspirations for young people. I am very pleased that Rotherham Council is supporting this initiative and I would encourage our schools to take part.”

At a special event at Wales High School to celebrate the launch, children and families from six Rotherham schools who participated in the pilot were awarded certificates by the Mayor of Rotherham, Cllr Jenny Andrews.

The creation of Rotherham Children’s University is the first step in a wider programme of expansion for the South Yorkshire Children’s University, which is are working to extend the highly successful Sheffield Children’s University model across South Yorkshire.

The expansion has been made possible with support from Sheffield City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis MP, who pledged £95,000 of his Mayoral Capacity Funding to the project earlier this year and Sheffield Hallam University’s social mobility programme South Yorkshire Futures, which currently hosts the South Yorkshire Children’s University team and has helped support its development.

Dan Jarvis said: “I’m delighted to see that young people across Rotherham will now get access to new opportunities, thanks to the expansion of the Children’s University.

“It’s so important that all children and young people, regardless of their backgrounds, have an equal chance to learn, make new friends and widen their range of experiences.

“This is what the Children’s University project is now going to offer to all young people in Rotherham, so I’m pleased to have been able to commit funding to make it happen.”

The success of the project to date has also been made possible thanks to support from Sheffield City Council, which has released expertise from Sheffield Children’s University to deliver these ambitions for the benefit of the wider region.

Research by the Sheffield Children’s University team has shown that children in the region taking part in Children’s University make two additional months’ progress in reading and maths compared to children in other schools.

The Sheffield Children’s University, led by Katie Hamshaw and Helen Oades, is the biggest model in the country. Since its launch in 2005, more than 15,000 children and young people have attended a graduation ceremony. Katie and Helen are now leading the expansion project across South Yorkshire.

Katie said: “Through the launch of Rotherham Children’s University, we are one step closer to ensuring all children and young people across South Yorkshire are able to benefit from Children’s University in their local area.

“We are incredibly excited to be working with the Rotherham Council to ensure that local children and families can be celebrated for their commitment to learning in their own time. In a short time frame, we have seen many positive outcomes from the schools and families involved, and are looking forward to building on the success of the pilot phase, and engaging with even more schools and families next academic year.”