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Breaking down barriers

22 October 2012

Breaking down barriers

With young people leaving care one of the most under-represented groups in higher education, the University is holding a series of events to help break down barriers and inspire them to consider a future in higher education.

In 2011, there were more than 5,000 children and young people looked after in Wales, a rise of five per cent on the previous year and of 20 per cent over the last five years. Research has also shown that currently only seven per cent of care leavers aged 19 go on to university compared to 43 per cent of all young people.

To help address the low participation in HE among this group, foster carers, social workers, admissions tutors and young people will come together to take part in workshops and information sessions to find out how to open more doors to higher education for care leavers.

To mark the first day of National Care Leavers' Week 2012 (24 October), the University will link up with Fostering Network Wales to offer foster carers and the young people in their care, the opportunity to find out more about how higher education can work for them. The event will also see the launch of 'A foster carer's guide to inspiring and supporting care leavers to Higher Education'. The toolkit, developed with the support of Cardiff University, is for foster carers in Wales who are in a position to support and encourage a young person in care who is thinking about applying, or has recently applied, to study at university.

Freda Lewis, director of the Fostering Network Wales, said: "Foster carers play a vital role in raising the aspirations of young people at an early age. It is hoped this guide will inspire them to be ambitious for the children they care for, and for the children and young people themselves to believe that they can achieve. Being in care should not be a barrier to going to university.

"Working with Cardiff University is enabling us to offer the best practical support to those who need it. Foster carers, the Fostering Network, the university and most of all the young people, are working hard to ensure it is a fading stereotype that young people from care do not thrive in higher education."

On Thursday (25 October), the University will also be launching the Confident Futures Project.

Aimed at young people in care aged 14-19, the project is an expansion of the existing mentoring scheme for young people in care. Developed jointly with the University's Student Volunteering Cardiff the skills-based course for looked after children and care leavers will take place fortnightly for seven months and provide: mentoring; taster days; support with applications, CV's and school work; and first-hand experience of university-life.

Einir Evans, Key Contact for care leavers at the University, said: "Education is a major part of all young people's lives, yet young people leaving care are one of the most under-represented groups in further and higher education in the UK. Without the support of family, and often struggling to find sufficient money and a place to live, we recognise that accessing and succeeding in education is a real achievement.

"We were one of the first universities in Wales to gain the Buttle UK Quality Mark, and committed to widen access among young people leaving care. We hope these events will raise awareness of the barriers that care leavers can often face and as importantly encourage and inspire young people who have been in care to look a university education as a real possibility."

Also taking place during National Care Leavers' Week will be a question time event for care leavers (Thursday 25 October). Run jointly between the School of Social Science and Voices from Care, care leavers across Wales will have the chance to put questions directly to politicians and other panel members. Care Leavers will be able to express their views on their experiences and influence future priorities for the Welsh Government, Local Authorities and other agencies. The panel include Assembly Members; Ken Skates, Jenny Rathbone, David Melding and Mark Drakeford, The Children's Commissioner for Wales Keith Towler, Freda Lewis; CEO of Fostering Network and Lydia Llewellyn; Chair of the Leaving Care Forum.

Did you know

  • Young people leaving care are one of the most under-represented groups in HE in the UK. The Welsh Statistics Directorate state that 7% of care leavers aged 19 were in full time higher education in 2011, this is in comparison to 43% of all young people. 
  • Cardiff University was one of the first universities in Wales to gain the Buttle UK Quality Mark in 2007. The University successfully renewed its application for the quality mark in 2010 and is committed to renewing it again in 2013. 
  • The quality mark was awarded to the University in recognition of its commitment to encouraging young people in care to study in higher education and there are extensive support package available if they decide to study at Cardiff University. 
  • Widening Access addresses the recruitment, retention and progression of students from a wide variety of groups traditionally under-represented in higher education. These include people from ethnic minority groups, from disadvantaged communities, people with disabilities and those from families with no previous experience of higher education.

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