IT IS a ceremony which usually heralds the end of their education.

But more than 100 youngsters from schools across Hampshire donned caps and gowns to take part in their own graduation event.

The Children’s University graduation ceremony, hosted by Southampton Solent University, has tripled in size since it was launched last year, with 134 pupils from 12 schools across the region ‘graduating’ this year.

The collaboration between Solent University, Brockenhurst College and local schools is part of a nationwide programme that aims to engage, inspire, and motivate five- and six-year-olds along with children aged between seven and 14 and their families, to develop a passion for learning.

The programme involves offering a range of extra-curricular events – from after-school activities on site, to visits to museums, businesses, exhibitions and university lectures.

After completing a set number of hours of activity the pupils achieve different awards.

Since September, some of the pupils have now completed more than 200 hours of learning.

The graduates all received a certificate from the local Children’s University Chancellor and Paralympics 2012 wheelchair rugby star, Aaron Phipps.

Fiona Adams, head teacher at Hordle Primary School, said: “We have over 25 clubs each term for our children to take part in and over 60 per cent of our children participate.

“They love their out-of-hours learning and 260 club places are filled each week.

“Children’s University is an inspiring programme and over 100 of our pupils have signed up for a passport.

“We are thrilled that we have 35 children graduating; that’s ten per cent of our school.”

This initiative aims to raise aspirations and inspire a love of learning for children from all backgrounds and abilities.

It is also used to support children from disadvantaged backgrounds or those from families who might otherwise not think of further or higher education.

Dr Jamie Mackay, partnership development manager at Southampton Solent University, said: “The fact that this event has grown since last year is a testament to the success of the scheme and shows why it’s important to reach out to people from different backgrounds.”

The schools taking part included St Michael and All Angels C of E Infant School, Netley Marsh C of E Infant School, Copythorne C of E Infant School, Bartley Junior School, Foxhills Infant School, Blackfield Primary School, Fawley Infant School, Hounsdown Secondary School, Hordle C of E Primary School, Oaklodge Specialist Art College and The New Forest Academy.