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WGS SHiNE Educational Programme

Withington Girls’ School has organised and delivered a successful, community-focused series of Saturday School courses for the past 11 years. Run during the Autumn term, the WGS SHiNE educational programme is aimed at able students in Year 5 and 6 at state primary schools in and around south Manchester.


The courses aim to provide specialist teaching in a range of classes to able pupils attending local primary schools, free of charge. These courses include classes in Science, Design and Food Technology, and Classics. They aim to increase gifted pupils’ love of learning, boost self-esteem in the classroom, and provide opportunities for academic growth and development. 


The programme was launched in 2007 with the help of funding from SHINE, a national organisation which funds projects to extend educational opportunities to children who would not ordinarily be able to access them, and the former Excellence in Cities programme. Withington has always hosted and run the programme, but from 2016, has also fully funded the WGS SHiNE programme. The SHINE educational charity, which now has its focus in the North of England, aspires to help schools set up programmes which then become self-sufficient after a few years. 

During the first six years, the programme entitled ‘Serious Fun on Saturdays’ ran in two-hour sessions, over 20 Saturdays, from November to May, providing exciting practical scientific activities that were taught by science specialists from both the state and independent sectors. 

In its seventh year, the programme was reduced to 12 Saturdays, due to the launch of a new Technology course, featuring eight sessions in Design and Food Technology, held in split classes over a four-week period. The programme now offers a 10-week Science course and four-week Design and Food Technology and Classics courses.

The children work in small groups under the supervision of one or two teachers and two Upper Sixth students. This high adult to children ratio contributes to a very supportive and stimulating environment for the delivery of novel, practical sessions using our school’s facilities. These activities provide the children with the opportunity to cover exciting aspects of Science outside the scope of the National curriculum. 

Pupils from 30 primary schools have attended the SHiNE programme in the 11 years it has run, with the following schools regularly supporting the SHiNE programme:

Abbott Primary School

Alma Park Primary School

Barlow Hall Primary School

Brookburn Primary School, Chorlton

Cavendish Community Primary School 

Chorlton CofE Primary School

Didsbury CofE Primary

Divine Mercy RC Primary School

Ellenbrook Community Primary School 

Heald Place Primary School

Ladybarn Primary School

Mauldeth Road Primary School

Medlock Primary School

Northenden Community School

Old Moat Primary School

Oswald Road Primary School

Rolls Crescent Primary School

St James' CofE Primary School Birch-in-Rusholme

St Margaret's CofE Primary School

St Richard's RC Primary School


Targets for pupils

• Enhanced performance in academic subjects in class, school and national tests.

• Increased pupil confidence.

• To engender a love of learning by exposing the pupils to subjects delivered in a fun, hands-on manner.

• Developed skills of reasoning, critical thinking and problem solving.

• Strong collaboration and teamwork skills with their fellow pupils, Sixth Formers and teachers.

• Increased motivation and raised aspirations for their future at senior school.


For WGS Sixth Formers

• To develop confidence in supporting small groups of able children in a familiar environment.

• To develop curriculum knowledge and obtain experience of assisting the teachers in small group activities.

• To develop communication skills.


For the School

• To develop closer links with local schools and the local community.

• To provide opportunities for personal development of teaching staff.

• To increase the utilisation of its premises outside normal school hours.


Withington Girls’ School provides classroom facilities (including purpose-built science laboratories, a design technology suite and food technology room), teaching materials and resources, teacher-time and Sixth Form mentors. Refreshments are also provided for the SHiNE attendees. During the science course, the School funds an outing to the Manchester Museum.

In the last year, the planning and delivery of the SHiNE courses involved 96 staff hours and 32 student hours, with a benefit to 53 local children.


Over 500 local pupils have benefited from the SHiNE programme in the 11 years it has run at Withington Girls’ School. 

The Gifted and Talented co-ordinator (and Key Stage 2 teacher) at a primary school in Hulme provided the following feedback:

“We have been involved with the SHiNE science programme from the beginning. Over nine years, 23 of our year 6 children have attended. It is, without doubt, the best extra-curricular opportunity that I have found for our Gifted and Talented pupils. Other programmes have been short lived or less popular with the pupils.

By definition, the children we have sent to SHiNE science have all been able and with an interest in science. However, in other ways they have been very different. Some have indeed been nervous about attending a secondary school where they know no-one.  Others have had particular needs that have been helped by attending the project.

I have called in on SHINE sessions on several occasions and am always impressed by the work the children are doing. (Indeed, it makes me smile to see our children confidently walking with lit tapers to light up a gas tap in a laboratory, or boiling liquids over a Bunsen burner!) 

I have no doubt that all the children have benefited in many ways from the course – many of them don’t stop talking about it. Over the years, our Year 6 teachers have changed, but they have all told me that they see a difference in the ‘SHiNE’ children’s confidence and their ability to feedback their experiences and knowledge into class science lessons. 

Finally, although I haven’t visited the new classics course, I can say with confidence that the three children who attended enjoyed every minute, and have already been telling the year fives all about it.

As the co-ordinator of Gifted and Talented pupils in our school, I find it very difficult to find meaningful activities that I can refer children to outside of the school curriculum. I often follow up leads only to find that the logistics involved – not to mention the costs - are too prohibitive, or in a few cases the quality questionable.

As I wrote at the outset, SHiNE science has been by far the most positive initiative that I have found and I have no doubt that, should they be allowed to continue, the technology and classics courses would likewise become a foundation of our Year 6 provision. Long may WGS continue to run them.”

Other comments from parents and pupils:

“The SHiNE programme was an invaluable experience for my 10 year old son. The SHiNE programme brought much of what he knew alive, provided new knowledge, and opened up further areas to investigate. We both think it is a fantastic programme.”

- Parent of SHiNE Science pupil


“A really well taught and informative programme. The teachers are all very friendly and helped encourage my daughter to do well in science. My daughter has really grown in confidence since the course and now lists science as one of her favourite subjects.” 

- Parent of SHiNE Science pupil


“It was great fun learning new skills, meeting others and making special things!”

- SHiNE Technology pupil


“The SHiNE programme provided practical learning to introduce new topics and inspire and encourage independent learning.” 

- Parent of SHiNE Science pupil


“My daughter has thoroughly enjoyed the course – it’s great to hear kids talking about science as a fun activity. Her confidence in the subject has increased and also I think, the perceived ‘coolness’ of science as a potential career or degree subject. Congratulations – you made science fun and cool!”

- Parent of SHiNE Science pupil


“The SHiNE course was very fun and gave my child the experiences she couldn’t get anywhere else.”

- Parent of SHiNE Technology pupil


“I enjoyed the course and gained knowledge from it. I learned skills in cooking and D.T. I would recommend people to go.”

- SHiNE Technology pupil


Pupil Involvement

Approximately 15 - 20 Sixth Form students work with and support the children during the course of each programme. Around 50 boys and girls from local primary schools take part in each programme of the courses at any one time. 


The programme has been running for the past 11 years. The science courses run for 10 Saturdays during the Autumn term, and the Design, Food Technology and Classics courses run for four Saturdays, also during the Autumn term.