By Steve Elliff, Education and Support Service Manager (Yorkshire and East Midlands)
'We all know that many young people in care face barriers to succeeding in education. Indeed, this is why we have an Education and Support Service at Team Fostering. In addition to supporting young people with their education whilst they are with Team Fostering, we also encourage them to think about what their education might look like once they have left care.
In 2013, only 6% of care leavers in England accessed higher education, compared to approximately 40% of the general population.
We know that leaving care is a big change for any young person to overcome, and this life event often falls at the same time that young people are thinking about, or planning to go to, university. University is not the right pathway for everyone, but I would challenge every foster carer to at least sow the seed with their young person, as it could be something that is right for them, whether they embark on the journey now or later in life.
Some obvious barriers that limit the chance of going to university include failing exams, dropping out of college or leaving with lower grades than expected, but I've met care leavers who've gone to university who overcame these very situations. For example, some re-sat exams or completed Access to Higher Education courses, while others have completed voluntary work or other placements that have given them a different entry route.
The following support is also available:
- Local Authorities can provide financial support to help care leavers at university
- Universities can offer year round accommodation or summer storage
- Young people can apply for additional financial support and bursaries
- Many universities have staff designated to supporting care leavers, offering help with applications, providing information and organising tours
- Some universities run summer schools for young people who are in care, and 2 or our young people actually attended one in Sheffield this year
Team Fostering staff and carers work extremely hard to provide the best opportunities for children and young people. This is why we think this is a conversation which is well worth having with all young people that are in care.'