Information, advice and guidance
Supporting Looked after Children to progress to University
With as little as 12% of care leavers entering higher education we should all be looking at ways in which we can support looked after children (LaC) from an early age.¹ The University of Manchester is committed to actively addressing this inequality and underrepresentation in many ways - one of which is through an after school project called Success4Life. Our newest cohort of Year 8 and 9 students participating in the project is gearing up for their graduation celebration as they have been developing essential skills and knowledge over the past few weeks.
Success4Life is a collaborative programme that is run by both The University of Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan University, as part of the wider Greater Manchester Higher NCOP network. Over the past seven weeks our young people have been coming onto campus after school for two hour activity-based sessions which focus on different life skills. The ten young people who have experienced care, many of whom are from different schools, have got to know each other through weekly ice breakers and challenges. They’ve learnt about the importance of communication and have practised different methods through various team building activities; they’ve learnt about the importance of nutrition during a visit to the Nutrition Labs at Manchester Metropolitan University; they’ve all stepped up to the challenge when tasked with identifying their own skills, strengths and how it is that they and their peers are clever.
Whilst exposure to these skills and activities might be commonplace for young people, and are built over time, as this target group face a lot of change in their lives it’s possible that some of these core skills aren’t at the level they should be when they become independent.2 The core themes explored during Success4Life, such as confidence, nutrition and education, are some of the skills that care-leavers value very highly especially in feeling prepared for independent living as, statistically, this happens earlier than in their peer group.3
Another theme which neatly threads through each week is higher education (HE). There are many barriers associated with progression to HE for this group of young people, from feeling that HE isn’t somewhere they belong, to having a poor experience or breaks in education prior to HE. Unfortunately, Looked after Children are less likely to engage in HE and are a third more likely to withdraw from HE.4
However, education is equally seen as something that can provide stability, a fresh start, and can lead to employment. In a report by Coram Voice it is emphasised that access to information and support regarding HE promotes participation and breaks down barriers to accessing HE.5 As well as being on a university campus and providing brief but relevant IAG information, another way that Success4Life aims to overcome the barriers mentioned is by working with student ambassadors, some of whom are care leavers. The young people work alongside real students on a weekly basis and so have many opportunities to ask about university life, they can be as curious as they want in a supportive environment. They can see first-hand that being a care leaver shouldn’t stop anyone from fulfilling their potential. And indeed, students who are care experienced are just as likely to achieve a first or 2:1 in their degree at University as their peers.6
This is where schools, teachers, parents, carers and key workers must all step up and make sure that they include their young people, their LaC cohorts, in as many enrichment activities and projects as possible. Not only have the OfS stated that through long term projects such as Success4Life young people are able to build a better picture of HE, such projects are also more likely to positively impact learners’ views on HE and build the confidence needed to make the right choices for their education.7 Help your learners flourish and help them make the best choices for their future.
1. Neil Harrison, "Moving On Up: Pathways of care leavers and care-experienced students into and through higher education." 2017.
2. Dr. Claire Baker, "Care leavers’ views on their transition to adulthood: A rapid review of the evidence." 2017.
4. Harrison, "Moving on Up".
5. Baker, "Care leavers' views on their transition to adulthood'".
6. Harrison, "Moving on Up".
7. Chris Millward, "Sustained outreach makes the difference." 2019.
Baker, Claire. (2017). Care leavers’ views on their transition to adulthood: A rapid review of the evidence. Retrieved from:
Harrison, Neil. (2017). Moving On Up: Pathways of care leavers and care-experienced students into and through higher education. Retrieved from: http://www.nnecl.org/resources/moving-on-up-report?topic=guides-and-toolkits
Millward, Chris. (2019). Sustained outreach makes the difference.
Retrieved from: https://www.officeforstudents.org.uk/news-blog-and-events/blog/sustained-outreach-makes-the-difference/
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