Championing care-experienced students during and beyond National Care Leavers Week
From distributing homemade quilts to raising awareness of additional financial support, many of Go Higher West Yorkshire’s (GHWY) 13 member institutions ran activities as part of National Care Leavers Week (NCLW).
These activities sought to highlight some of the support they offer throughout the year to help care-experienced students to access, succeed in, and progress from Higher Education (HE).
This year’s NCLW campaign, which ran between 25 October to 1 November, asked people to CARE: to Celebrate care leavers, Amplify their voices, Raise awareness of challenges, and Encourage change in policy and practice.
Below we look at some of the ways GHWY and its members are committed to achieving each of these strands.
Celebrate care leavers
Our website celebrates the achievements of care-experienced students in a suite of stories that outline their HE journeys. It is hoped these will inspire other individuals to make informed choices about their future and access the support that is available to them. Read our student stories.
Student success stories are also included in our monthly Care to Go Higher e-newsletter, which connects those working with children in care to our HE members. The resource furthermore promotes relevant news and events, including bespoke open days. Read the back issues and register to receive copies.
Amplify their voice
We embed student voice within our events and resources to ensure they reflect their experiences and address their needs. This includes care-experienced individuals being invited as guest speakers in our Care to Go Higher CPD (more information about this below).
Our members also listen to the experiences of their care-experienced students through a range of activities. These include a chat and cake event that the University of Huddersfield recently ran. This offered attendees an opportunity to receive a homemade quilt from volunteers in Melham as part of a scheme run by Quilts For Care Leavers.
This newly published guide, produced by Isabelle Kirkham for Become Charity, is a great reminder of how we can all check our behaviours and be genuine allies for people with care-experience.
Raise awareness of challenges
It is necessary to understand the barriers that care-experienced students may encounter on their HE journey in order to consider how they can be addressed and supported to achieve.
This is a central strand of our Care to Go Higher CPD programme, which empowers the key influencers of care-experienced individuals to support their young people to make informed decisions about HE, and our free e-learning course Understanding and Supporting Care Experienced / Estranged Students, which is aimed at student-facing staff in HE.
The training aligns with our other activities to support this group of learners, including our collaborative Care Leaver Covenant. The e-resource highlights the support available to care-experienced students across our members, including whether they have named contacts and additional financial support.
Representatives from our members also collaborate to identify barriers and possible solutions through our Care-experienced and Estranged Students Network. This is currently looking at ways in which to raise the profile of our e-learning within their HE providers.
Encourage change in policy and expertise
Our 13 members have pledged to move to a common definition of care experience for those applying from 2023-24. Instead of using multiple definitions, all of which have different criteria, members will adopt the UCAS definition. This will remove at least one of the barriers to HE progression, which is the confusion of trying to navigate and make sense of different definitions for access to support.
Leeds Arts University recently ran an information campaign to raise awareness of the change through its social media channels, Students’ Union, and Student Advice and Wellbeing Service. This was to ensure prospective and current students ticked the ‘care-experience’ UCAS box where appropriate and access the full support available to them. It also spotlighted the financial and wellbeing support that it offers to its students.
GHWY will continue to review what we are doing to support the educational journey of care-experienced students by listening to their experiences and seeking to be an ally in our everyday practice, during and beyond National Care Leavers Week.
Susan Darlington, GHWY Partnership Assistant