AN after-school centre which is encouraging youngsters from disadvantaged backgrounds to aim for a place at university has been officially launched.
The IntoUniversity Centre, supported by donations to a Leeds University fundraising campaign, is run in partnership with the national charity IntoUniversity.
It is based at St Aidan’s Church in Roundhay Road, Harehills, where the church hall has been specially converted to provide learning support and activities for young people from the age of seven upwards.
The centre has already developed partnerships with Little London, Brownhill and Bracken Edge primary schools and three secondaries: the Co-operative Academy of Leeds, Leeds East Academy and Roundhay High School.
Sessions are run after school, with activities led by IntoUniversity staff and student mentors from Leeds University, while centre staff visit schools during the school day. Dozens of families have signed their children up to receive support.
The launch event gave the youngsters the chance to meet university staff and donors. At the event, all the children were given the role of news reporters, and the opportunity to “interview” university staff.
Before cutting the ribbon to open the centre officially, Professor Vivien Jones, pro vice chancellor for student education at the University, said: “We’ve been working towards this for a while and it’s wonderful to see the centre come to fruition.
“The university has always been open to anyone who can benefit from the education we offer. We need to start early and help young kids see that university might be for them.
“It’s wonderful to see the children’s enthusiasm, and the fantastic support and encouragement that they are getting – and I’m particularly pleased that some of our students are involved in that too as mentors.”
The Harehills scheme builds on the success of similar centres, all in areas of social deprivation, which have been established by IntoUniversity in the south and midlands.
Around 12 per cent of children from Leeds who are entitled to free school meals go on to higher education, compared to a national figure of 32 per cent of free school meals students.
Yet when children from these backgrounds have been through IntoUniversity programmes elsewhere, the figure rises to a staggering 71 per cent.
IntoUniversity and the University of Leeds are now actively fundraising to open a second centre in South Leeds later this year.