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How can universities do better for care-leavers?

The Guardian has recently published an interesting article about collaborative outreach and support for Care Leavers, read on to find out more.

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We know that young people who have been in the care are system significantly less likely to go to university than their peers. According to the Office for Fair Access (Offa) just 6% of care-leavers in England progressed to higher education in 2012, compared with 43% of the general population (aged 17-30).

To highlight this gap, and to urge universities to do more to address it, Offa has published a new briefing, announcing a greater emphasis on care-leavers in the access agreements it makes with institutions.

Professor Les Ebdon, director of Offa, says the benefits of increasing access will be felt by both young people and universities. “There’s almost no more underrepresented group in higher education,” he says. “It means that universities are missing out on talented young people whose life experiences have often given them a strong sense of resilience.”

He says that some universities are making progress, but there is far more to be done across the sector. The National Union of Students agrees, and has stated that providing clear information and guidance specifically designed for care-leavers should be a priority. But only a third of universities currently reference doing so in their access agreements, according to Offa.

And there are numerous other areas where universities could improve, including offering mentoring and pastoral services for those from care backgrounds (about a quarter of institutions currently mention this in their access agreements), long-term outreach work (as seen in a third of universities), and providing targeted support for care-leavers progressing into employment (which, currently, only 6% of institutions do).

“We want to spread good practice where it is being found,” Ebdon continues. “If I don’t think people are doing enough to help care-leavers into higher education, they won’t be allowed to charge £9,000 fees.”

Partnerships between universities, schools and colleges have been found to work well. The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London, for example, identified a potential student who was in care and studying at a further education college. They introduced a student ambassador mentor which led to the care-leaver become an undergraduate at Central.

But Ebdon concedes that entrenched problems in the care system mean that universities can only ever be part of the solution. […]

To read the full article and an insight from Natasha Finlayson, Chief Executive from the Who Cares? Trust, please click here.

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