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Text provided in the Teachers' Guide to University brochure. Please see the author below.

posted on 1 Oct '23

A guide to supporting care experienced and estranged students into higher education

Content provided by Patricia Ambrose, when employed as the Director of the National Network for the Education of Care Leavers for the UniTasterDays Teachers' Guide to University.

Young people who are care experienced or estranged from their family often look for extra guidance from their teachers and advisers when thinking about university. Here are some of the ways you can support them in making their choices.

Researching the options

Encourage your care experienced and estranged students to research the options available. What subjects are they interested in? What type of qualification will suit them best? Do they want to study locally or move elsewhere?

As well as the information on UCAS, many institutions put their offers for care experienced students on the Propel website. The Stand-Alone charity publishes a higher education contacts list and encourages estranged applicants to contact universities to find out more.

What support is available?

At institutional level, NNECL membership or being signatories to the Stand Alone Pledge and the Care Leaver Covenant are good indicators of commitment. NNECL recently launched a Quality Mark for universities and colleges and growing numbers are achieving this award.

Here are some key areas of support to look for:

• Outreach and application support including mentoring and summer schools.
• Admissions support including lower grade (contextual) offers or an inclusive policy for care experienced and estranged applicants.
• Transition support from a named contact or team who will help with the move to university, including early induction and welcome events.
• Financial support including bursaries and access to additional funding for study visits and other costs.
• Pastoral support which is available throughout the student’s time at university - including preferential access to well-being support, study skills, work experience and careers guidance.
• Year-round accommodation for those who are moving away to study (some universities provide Unite Foundation accommodation scholarships). For local students, look for help with commuter costs.

Making the application

Encourage students to tick the UCAS box to say they are care experienced or estranged. Some students worry that this may harm their chances. In fact, it is just the opposite – ticking the box is a signal for institutions to get in touch and outline the support available.

Applying early for student finance should be encouraged. That way students will have funds in place at the start of their course and is one less thing to worry about in those early weeks at university.

Making the right choice of higher education is really important for care experienced and estranged students. As teachers and advisers, you are in a great position to provide the informed guidance and encouragement which may be lacking elsewhere.

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