An open letter to Damian Hinds

Let Children’s University help you get kids climbing trees and much, much more!

Dear Mr Hinds

I was heartened today to see you announce that you’re keen to encourage primary children to explore new and exciting activities outside the classroom in the name of building character and resilience. As CEO and Director of Partnerships of Children’s University, a charity focused on boosting social mobility, raising aspirations and building resilience for children, this was naturally very encouraging to read.

I’ll cut straight to the chase — I’d like to meet you or your team. I love what you’ve announced today, but it’s frustrating not to be involved in helping you when we’ve been doing this for so long! I want to ensure that the amazing, nuanced, experienced and inspirational network I proudly head up can play a role in making this a reality for all children. As I told your colleagues from the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee when I was asked to give evidence just last week, the impact of what goes on outside the classroom is huge! I’ve written here before about how Children’s University is all about the 91% of a child’s life that they spend outside of a classroom.

Following blogs in January and July, I’ve requested meetings before but this is yet to happen. That’s why I’m hoping by sending this open letter you’ll take a little more notice. I’ll keep this as brief as possible and tell you a little more about why we should talk.

  • Children’s University already encourages learning outside the classroom through activities like those you describe. In the last year over 110,000 children have taken part in over 3.36 million hours of these kind of activities!
  • We already work with over 1,000 schools. In fact we currently work with 56 partner organisations who run bespoke takes on our model in 66 Local Authority areas. We’re a partner of the Oldham Pledge, for example, which is already getting children to do “stuff that isn’t looking at a screen”.
  • Children’s University already has an award-winning passport scheme. We’re also getting ready to launch a digital version that will enable teachers the chance to encourage, track and celebrate participation in informal learning easily, while generating actionable data that will give schools, local authorities, and policy makers what they need to make informed decisions about other interventions.

But that’s all just for starters. I’ll tell you more when we meet! I’ll leave you with this from a Year 6 pupil I met in Blackburn at one of their Children’s University graduations.

“Children’s University has boosted my confidence and I’ve done things I never thought I would:
climbing trees
firing arrows
rowing in a canoe
going to cooking clubs”

So, Mr Hinds, let’s please talk. We want the same things!


Helen O’Donnell

CEO and Director of Partnerships

Children’s University