City of Dreams – it’s about making a difference!!!


By David Jones

Community Liaison Manager, International Centre for Life

If City of Dreams is about anything, surely it’s about creating partnerships to make a difference for young people, and in the process helping them find their voice.

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International Centre for Life – on a mission to engage those who might otherwise miss out on science

It’s interesting how opportunities unfold. If you listen and try to understand, and you really want to make a difference, the opportunities are there!!! Let me take you on a wee journey that has seen the Life Science Centre working with partners to make a difference to looked after children.

An initiative we have been working on is to engage with Looked After Children. An Ofsted report in 2017 said there were over 530 Looked After Children in Newcastle – these are under18s growing up in care. That’s 94 per 10,000 children, which is much higher than the national average of 60.

We feel Looked After Children are an important group, who need additional support and we want to provide them with the opportunity to explore science.

Now ask yourself ‘if young people aren’t engaged with mainstream education are they likely to want to engage with an informal learning environment to explore science?’ Perhaps not, and many of these young people were in that category. So, time to think outside the box. How could we create an opportunity for the young people to visit the Life Science Centre and explore science?

The solution we came up with is to create a Mystery Shopping Team and by doing so enabling the young people to visit the Life Science Centre, exploring science, on their terms.The idea is that the young people visit the Centre and capture what they think of the experience. They wouldn’t necessarily be visiting for themselves, they will be feeding back their experience to make it better for others, in the future.

The young person can visit and try it ,and its perfectly alright for them to say they don’t like it. All they have to do, is to be honest. Their voice, their opinion is important, and their feedback can be reflected on to improve services.

This initiative has now started and looked after children have recently mystery shopped the Life Science Centre. It is hoped that over the coming months that this partnership will expand to include other NewcastleGateshead Cultural Venue partners, providing the opportunity for looked after children to explore other cultural venues, which they may not previously have considered visiting.

But we have done more than this. The offer of Mystery Shopping has opened doors and more conversations have followed.

Partnerships making a difference – 120 “looked after” young people were able to attend this year’s Care Leaver’s Ball 2018, hosted at the Life Science Centre

Youth Focus North East were looking to have an Alternative Prom for Care Leavers and others, who unfortunately had been unable to attend a leaving event at a school in the city.

Supported by investment from the Co-operative Foundation they asked if they could bring the event to the Life Science Centre. And so the Alternative Prom took place on Tuesday 7th August and was a real success.

Now, we didn’t organise the event, but working in partnership we supported the event and were able to make a real difference to 120-young people who would otherwise have missed out on this great occasion.

The glitz and glamour made the Alternative Prom a night to remember. But don’t take my word for it. The Evening Chronicle covered the event, interviewing the young people and really capturing a flavour of what the event was about.The young people can tell you about their Alternative Prom better than so, so I’ll leave you to read the article and watch the video.

Read the Evening Chronicle coverage of the Alternative Prom, and watch the young people’s video, here.

To find out more stay tuned to this website, email us at, or follow City of Dreams on Twitter


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