Manchester’s virtual University opens – for primary school children

THE CHILDREN’S University of Manchester is an exciting new website aimed at children aged seven to 11, combining learning with fun.

Linking the research and teaching of The University of Manchester to the Key Stage Two (KS2) national curriculum, the website gives pupils a fascinating insight into the background and work of leading academics.

Available online at, the website officially launches on 20 November, when representatives from Greater Manchester primary schools and other delegates will meet academics involved in the development of the website and find out more about the project, at a lunchtime launch event at The University of Manchester’s Whitworth Hall.

Nancy Rothwell, Vice-President for Research at the University, who will open the event, said: “The Children’s University is a fantastic project, and really important for the University as a whole. We have committed to engagement with our local community and with wider participation. These are not areas in which we pay lip service, but real goals with real commitments, because we see real benefits.”

The website has been developed by staff across the University, including astronomers, linguists, dentists, textile historians, psychologists and KS2 specialists in the School of Education, as well as student volunteers. Pupils, teachers and parents at local primary schools, and ICT Co-ordinators at Manchester City Council’s Children’s Services department, have also provided valuable feedback and input.

Six subject modules have been created so far, with more planned for the future. Each is introduced by a member of University staff and contains interactive learning materials; educational games and quizzes; informative videos; useful links, and downloadable resources. The site can be used for whole class teaching with a whiteboard, or for group, individual or homework sessions.

The six modules are: ‘The Earth & Beyond’, with Dr Tim O’Brien, Jodrell Bank Observatory – School of Physics & Astronomy; ‘Teeth & Eating’, with Professor Liz Kay, School of Dentistry; ‘Micro-organisms’, with Dr David Moore, Faculty of Life Sciences; ‘Talking Textiles’, with Jennifer Harris and Andrew Vaughan of the University’s Whitworth Art Gallery; ‘Word Classes’, with Professor Kersti Borjars, School of Languages, Linguistics & Cultures, and ‘Brain Awareness’, with Dr Ellen Poliakoff, School of Psychological Sciences.

Alan Cross, Lecturer in Education at The University of Manchester, uses the website when training teachers and teaching pupils. He said: “The reaction of teachers and pupils is always the same: they love the graphics, the quizzes and the input from academic researchers. Teachers immediately recognise The Children’s University of Manchester as a very useful resource, which links well to the curriculum.”

Sarah Grimwade, a teacher at Whitemoor Primary and Nursery School in Nottingham, said: “The Children’s University is a fantastic site, with well thought out resources. I am really impressed! As an ex-research scientist, and now a primary teacher in Nottingham, I am pleased to see The University of Manchester really supporting us in getting children passionate about science.”

While the website will benefit primary schools across the UK, the University is particularly keen to ensure that Greater Manchester schools use it. Teachers Jonathan King and Anna Morgan from Ravensbury Community School in Clayton, a deprived area of Manchester, have been extensively involved in the piloting and testing of The Children’s University. Jonathan said: “The website is really interactive, great for the children to use, very visual and very child friendly. They were able to use it instantly.”

The University’s Manchester Leadership Programme, Careers & Employability Division is managing the development of The Children’s University. Director of the division, Jane Ratchford, said: “We are very excited about the launch of this innovative website, which promises to be a fantastic, fun resource for children, teachers and parents across the country. It represents The University of Manchester’s commitment to working with schools and communities in order to encourage greater public understanding of science, arts and humanities, and to increasing awareness of the benefits and opportunities that higher education can bring.”

Available online, a touchscreen version of The Children’s University has also been installed at the Jodrell Bank Observatory Visitor Centre.



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