Teens taste university life for free

Far from being lethargic or anti-social, children are making the most of the long holidays through a diverse range of stimulating and fun activities such as DJ-ing, video-editing, DNA testing, football training, creative writing and drama workshops

Summer for around 40 Gloucestershire teenagers has meant the chance to sample university life.

They spent a week at the University of Gloucestershire in Cheltenham attending lectures, socialising with students and living in halls of residence.

Many were originally put off university because of worries about debt, living away from home, sharing cramped rooms and having mountains of work.

But Dan Binding, a 15-year-old pupil from Central technology college in Gloucester, said: "If university is anything like this, I really want to go."

During the week-long summer school, pupils tried lessons in subjects such as biology, where they extracted DNA from tissue from their mouths, and media studies, for which they filmed and edited their own videos.

They took part in numerous fitness tests and experienced the university's environmental chamber, used in sport science for experiments involving temperature and humidity for training athletes and which can be set between minus 20 and plus 40 degrees.

Thomas Hale, 15, from Whitecross school in Lydney, Gloucestershire, said:

"No one in my family has gone to university. I had thought about it but was put off because of the debt. Now I see you can pay it off.

"It seems much more interesting than school."

The summer school was organised by the university in conjunction with the Government's AimHigher initiative to encourage young people to go on to higher education.

Caroline Beevor, who co-ordinated the event, said: "These kids are all capable of going to university but a lot didn't realise it. By coming here and having a go at lectures and living together in halls it has made them realise they can do the work and make friends.

"It has made them realise university is a feasible option."

For Cara-Leigh Taylor, 15, from Severn Vale school in Gloucester, the experience was "brilliant".

But there was one shock discovery: "I thought university would be free and was surprised when I found out how expensive it is. We have talked a lot about student loans - and I think university is worth it now."

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