Simon Mignolet returned to IntoUniversity North Liverpool to celebrate the centre’s triumphant first birthday today.

The facility is a collaboration between educational charity IntoUniversity, University of Liverpool and LFC Foundation, set up to help young people in Anfield to get into university.

In parts of North Liverpool where the centre operates, the higher education progression rate is as low as 17.5 per cent, less than half the national average (37 per cent).

The project is celebrating a successful year, having exceeded all its annual targets, with over 1,100 local children attending to take advantage of the centre’s support services - and many are working better at school as a result.

The establishment partners with a selection of primary and secondary schools in the local area, supporting students aged seven to 18 to aspire to university progression by providing after-school help with homework and one-to-one mentoring opportunities with University of Liverpool students, as well as delivering workshops on careers and university life.

Having attended the launch of the centre last year, Simon, who has a degree in Political Science, was keen to hear about its accomplishments. He said: “It has been great to come back and learn about the difference that the centre is making to local children, helping them with their school work and making them feel more confident about continuing education.

“University may not be for everyone, but all children should have the option and the support to get there if they want to.”

During the event, children from All Saints Catholic Primary School - one of six local schools that partner with the facility - were taking part in a workshop about careers in sports, when the Liverpool FC star surprised them.

As well as asking the tutors and children about their accomplishments, Simon also answered questions from the children about his academic achievements as well as those as a professional footballer.

Dr Rachel Carr, CEO of IntoUniversity, said: “We are so pleased that the centre in Liverpool has had a real impact in its first year and we are excited to see where we can go from here. The desire for a space like this in Anfield is clear - in our first year we have surpassed targets for student numbers in every part of the programme. We have had fantastic support from our school partners and the students have been so committed and willing to learn!”

Gavin Brown, pro-vice-chancellor for education at the University of Liverpool, added: “I would like to congratulate the centre and its students on their first-year successes.

“At the University of Liverpool, we firmly believe that anyone with the talent to pursue study in higher education should be given the opportunity and encouragement to do so. As such we are delighted to be working with two organisations, IntoUniversity and the LFC Foundation, that align so well with our desire to widen participation and raise aspirations.

“What the centre has achieved since opening last year is a testament to a partnership which helps young people realise that higher education is indeed an option and assists them in making the most of their talents and abilities.

“With the continued help of our students, staff and partners, we will continue to provide academic support and inspiration for school students in the heart of our community.”

For more information about IntoUniversity North Liverpool, click here.