University Tips Blog
Image of a student ticking off jobs on a university checklist
A headshot image of the author, Wendy Price OBE

by Wendy Price OBE

Head of Widening Access and Participation at the University of Sunderland

posted on 14 Jun '21

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

Care experienced and estranged students are currently under-represented in higher education and we need your help to change this. As a teacher, you can play an important part in inspiring and supporting these young people to achieve their potential.

Here are my five top tips to ensure the transition to higher education can be as smooth as possible for your students.

1. Find the right higher education provider

Look for providers who have made a public commitment to supporting care experienced and estranged students. Have they signed the Stand Alone Pledge and the Care Leaver Covenant? Are they members of the National Network for the Education of Care Leavers (NNECL)? Engagement with these organisations is a clear message that support is available and these institutions have committed to developing their offer for these students.

2. Consider alternative routes into higher education

Not all students feel confident about their ability to progress directly to higher education. Would they prefer to study an Integrated Foundation Year to prepare them for undergraduate study? Or perhaps an apprenticeship or foundation degree would help to build confidence? There are a range of options available to suit all students.

3. Encourage students to inform universities about their circumstances

When universities know that a student is care experienced or estranged, we can support them through the entire application process and work with you to guide and reassure them through their journey.

Also, encourage your students to find out what support is available to them. At the University of Sunderland, we provide bespoke support for all care experienced and estranged students. This includes a named contact, guaranteed accommodation, a bursary of £2,000 each year, regular check-in meetings, help finding part-time work and so much more.

The Propel website, developed by national charity Become, provides access to full information about the support offered at each institution and is a useful starting point.

4. Help with planning ahead

Work with each student to create a to-do list which clearly shows key actions in the lead up to starting university. Applying for accommodation, bursaries and student finance may have deadlines so these need to be included too. Care experienced and estranged students may be eligible to receive additional financial support, guaranteed accommodation, personalised support and priority places to attend summer schools so it is important to plan ahead.

5. Be the difference!

So many students tell us that they never considered higher education until a teacher encouraged them to do so and actually believed that they could! Ask students how they’re feeling about university and reassure them that you’re there to offer support.

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