This chapter summarises the experiences of one young woman, Alice, in her journey through the care system and into higher education. The data used in the chapter is drawn from a wider study looking at the factors that help or hinder higher education success in the care leaving population.
Approximately only 6 % of care leavers enter higher education, this is well below that of the national average of 60%. While some improvements have been made to address the appalling uptake of university places by young people leaving care, the numbers highlight issues in the system that need to be addressed.
Some of the key themes elicited from the study revealed that having a stable, long term placement with foster carers who valued education was a significant factor in supporting the journey to university. Alice’s foster carer’s instilled a structured and consistent approach to education demonstrating a commitment to supporting her academic success. Young people in care still feel they are trapped in stereotypes where professionals, such as teachers, have low expectations of their academic capabilities. Such negativity has a significant impact on self-esteem and confidence to succeed. For Alice her determination to prove others wrong about her academic ability served to drive her passion to go to university and graduate.
The need for all local authorities to encourage and promote the academic success of those in its care is embedded in legislation, policy and practice. Those who choose to go to university should receive a comprehensive package of support from both the LA and universities. Progress has been made, through widening access initiatives, to encourage more young people to consider university. Tailored support is offered from pre entry through to graduation. For example, young people are able to access a care leaver’s bursary, assistance with the practical elements of starting university and can access year-round accommodation.
These measures are the start of much needed changes to the support for care leavers accessing university. However, evidence from this study highlights the need for more systemic improvements within local authorities and educational systems.
Children and Young People ‘Looked After’? Education, Intervention and the Everyday Culture of Care in Wales
This is the second in a blog series relating to the recently released book "Children and Young People ‘Looked After’? Education, Intervention and the Everyday Culture of Care in Wales". Over the next few weeks we will be uploading blog posts from chapter authors in the lead up to the launch event for the book. Tickets to the launch are available here.
You can read a summary blog of chapter 7, written by Dr Alyson Rees, here.