The latest report from UCAS, What is the experience of students from a care background in education?, highlights issues that we have known for a long time as well as indicating some of the differences between Scotland and other nations. The education sector in Scotland has been on a significant journey to make positive change for Care Experienced learners, particularly in higher education and this has increased numbers entering university. However, we must be aware that policy and practice change is only part of the picture and that culture change is key to supporting Care Experienced learners. In addition, we recognise that providing support is not solely the role of universities – universities form part of a scaffolding of support for Care Experienced people and collaboration between all partners named as Corporate Parents is what can achieve change.
Who Cares? Scotland has been involved in providing training and support to universities across Scotland for many years. Whilst we know that universities have named contacts for Care Experienced people and are keen to provide quality information, advice and guidance, we also know that Care Experienced people want to receive information and support from those they have trusted, meaningful relationships with. As UCAS states “Applicants seek advice from a wide variety of trusted people” but they might not be aware of or have access to the most up to date information on access for Care Experienced students.
Of particular note within the UCAS report is the recommendation that all nations roll out the same Guaranteed Offer for Care Experienced students that has been in place in Scotland since 2019. Whilst the recognition that Scotland’s progression in this area is positive, it must be highlighted that the Guaranteed Offer is not a ‘fix all’ and there are many instances where we can identify that it hasn’t functioned in the way it should. In 2021, Kira shared her experience when applying to study at university where the Guaranteed Offer was not appropriately applied and she had to fight to get a place at university. We also know that the disruption that Care Experienced children and young people can experience through their compulsory education means that even minimum entry requirements can be challenging to achieve.
The impact of care can be lifelong and this is recognised by the Guaranteed Offer and the Care Experienced Student Bursary – both of which have no upper age limit and provide a route for Care Experienced adults to come to higher education later in life. However, the support network of Corporate Parents that have statutory responsibilities for Care Experienced people cap their support at age 26. We want to see Corporate Parents extending their support and ensure that all Care Experienced people can feel secure and stable throughout their time at university and not be restricted by arbitrary age cut offs.
As The Promise states, Care Experienced people ‘must be supported to enter education at any age’. In order to realise this, the entire public sector must deliver lifelong support to all those with experience of care, if and when they need it.
It’s encouraging that there is wider recognition of the barriers and stigma that Care Experienced people can face through the recent commitment from a private sector business, the John Lewis Partnership, to support Care Experienced people into employment. The John Lewis Partnership wants to level the playing field for Care Experienced people. We hope the full sector will do the same.
To further discuss the findings of the UCAS report or to find out more about Who Cares? Scotland’s Training and Education work, please contact:
Training and Education Manager