Only 1 per cent of care-leavers progress to higher education, compared with 40 per cent of school-leavers. For this reason, the Leicestershire Aimhigher Partnership is leading a national project, funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, that seeks to raise aspirations, achievement rates and participation in higher education for children in care.
It involves the production of a DVD about options for those aged 14 to 19 that is targeted at carers and social workers; supporting gifted and talented care-leavers and extending the "designated teacher" requirement placed on schools (by which teachers liaise with social services) in a post-16 setting.
It also looks at how universities and colleges can contribute to preparing care-leavers for higher education and support them once they have embarked on a course. It is dubbed The Way Ahead project and is greatly indebted to a longitudinal research project, By Degrees: From Care to University , supported by the Frank Buttle Trust, which is tracking 150 care-leavers over three years in higher education.
This research includes a range of recommendations, such as ensuring that care-leavers are cared for in an environment that values education; that there is comprehensive advice, guidance and support for care-leavers so that they are fully informed about all the options open to them; that funding is adequate to provide for all aspects of life in higher education, including 52-weeks-a-year accommodation; that ongoing emotional support is available throughout the higher education experience (in the absence of parental support); and that universities and colleges are encouraged to establish arrangements that support the achievement and progression of care-leavers in higher education.
Sang Townsley and Tim Farthing are coordinators of The Way Ahead project in Leicester and Leicestershire. For further information, call 0116 07942.
For a copy of By Degrees: From Care to University , call 020 7828 4724.