Learning Scheme Goes the Distance
Walker, Jonathan, The Birmingham Post (England)
Birmingham's innovative University of the First Age has expanded across the country and is set to run courses in 17 local authorities.
The scheme, which provides education for pupils outside the classroom including during the summer holiday, has proved so popular that another 15 councils who applied to take part were turned down.
The UFA began in six Birmingham schools in 1996, involving 300 students. It aims to raise achievement of youngsters aged 11 to 14 by improving their self-esteem and confidence, as well as preventing them from forgetting what they have learned in the long summer break.
It was the brainchild of the city's chief education officer Prof Tim Brighouse, who called for a new approach to learning which took advantage of the time children spent out of school.
Last year, the UFA was awarded a pounds 400,000 grant by the Department for Education to develop the project across the country.
The work is carried out by a specially-created charitable company called the Academy of Youth which now owns the UFA jointly with Birmingham City Council.
It is helping councils including Cornwall, Leeds, Leicester, Newcastle, Norfolk and Lincolnshire to develop their own UFA courses. It provides free advice and training but the authorities must satisfy stringent criteria guaranteeing their lessons will be of high quality to safeguard the integrity of the UFA brand.
They must also target the scheme at areas of social deprivation, where results tend to be poor. However, councils will be able to run schemes for more privileged children if they pay for the Academy of Youth's services.
The UFA's tutors must be qualified teachers. …