Learn with Care to Go Higher: Challenging low expectations for care-experienced young people

Go Higher West Yorkshire (GHWY) is keen to help change the mindset held by some people that care-experienced individuals won’t achieve as highly academically as their peers.

I have heard first-hand accounts of people being told their foster child wouldn’t succeed in education, only for them to be proven wrong. Some of these students used support from their Higher Education (HE) provider, others were supported by their foster carers, and some were able to use the tools available themselves. Each of these methods has enabled care-experienced students to proceed to HE when they were told otherwise.  

Overcoming the stigma of being care-experienced can be a difficult mental process, which adds another layer of difficulty to the transition to HE when compared to students who are not care-experienced. The lack of expectation from others can be enough to stop young people who are unsure about studying from considering applying to HE, especially if they already have self-confidence issues or self-doubt in relation to their academic achievement.  

I previously wrote a blog about inconsistent schooling and the effect it can have on a care-experienced student’s grades. It’s easy to see how low expectations from others, combined with potentially lower academic achievement due to factors outside of their control, could sap the confidence from students in that situation. 

To support care-experienced students it’s important to not perpetuate stereotypes, and to use a variety of methods and techniques to ensure they have a more accurate view of their own abilities.

Talking about progression to HE as something students can absolutely do if they choose to, or reaffirming their strengths (whether related to the care experience or not), can really help someone’s self-confidence.

There are many skills that young people have that can go unrecognised, which can be especially useful in boosting confidence in those who lack it. For instance, playing sports builds team-working skills, computer gaming can help with organisational skills and decision making, and social media has become a career path in itself. Recognising these skills and encouraging care-experienced students to do the same can really boost confidence and help progression to HE.  

In addition, looking up care-experienced role models can really demonstrate the capabilities of care-experienced people from all backgrounds. These include business magnate Steve Jobs, actor Marilyn Monroe, and fashion designer Coco Chanel. Looking slightly closer to home there’s Lemn Sissay, who was the official poet of the 2012 Olympics. He has an Honorary Doctorate from University of Huddersfield, one of our 13 member institutions, and his poem ‘Let there be peace’ is inscribed on the outside of its creative arts building. 

Finally, some of the best advice is to consider that many institutions offer contextual admissions (reduced entry requirements for some applicants to take into account the context of their education), which is a great tool for care-experienced students. View our Collaborative Care Leaver Covenant to find out which of our member institutions offer contextual admissions. 

Helping care-experienced young people reassess their own expectations is a really positive way to help them achieve their potential. 

Dominic House, GHWY Care to Go Higher Delivery Officer