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Young graduates learn for fun

A university for children in a disadvantaged community in Aberdeen has shown its worth in raising achievement, an evaluation has found. Ten and 11-year-olds in the Torry area of the city were given the chance to join a range of out-of-school activities last session to show that anyone can achieve - and be given credit for it.

A chess club, a young investigator's club and expressive arts activities such as film-making and acting were run for children from Tullos, Victoria Road and Walker Road primaries and 80 graduated in June in a formal ceremony.

An analysis of the pilot shows that 95 per cent enjoyed the experience, all learnt something new and 92 per cent said it was different from school.

Groups ran one day a week after school, although some chess tournaments were on Saturday mornings. Asked what they would like more of, students said the chance to play football.

Staff were impressed by high attendance rates. Parents were equally impressed.

Kay Diack, co-ordinator at Aberdeen University, said that the aim was to develop a culture of achievement and lifelong learning from an early age.

The scheme has been running south of the border for 10 years but Aberdeen has been the first to trial it in Scotland. It was backed by lottery cash and city agencies.

Evidence from England shows improved attainment, greater achievement, improved behaviour and attendance, and improved motivation to learn, she said. Aberdeen is now keen to expand the concept.

Teachers' comments

* "It allows children to look out of themselves and immediate surroundings."

* "It was great that children could access skills outwith the core curriculum."

* "It would be a real loss if this project were to finish."

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