Theory (of change) to practice: collaborative events for care-experienced students 

I’m excited to be co-organising two Go Higher West Yorkshire (GHWY) collaborative taster events for care-experienced students in Year 10. Held on 4 July (University of Huddersfield) and 6 July (Leeds Arts University), they will include a Higher Education (HE) tour and time devoted to outlining the specific support for care-experienced students. 

Me and Dominic House, GHWY’s Care to Go Higher Delivery Officer, have developed the itinerary in line with a Theory of Change (ToC). I learned about these at a recent conference hosted by TASO (Transforming Access and Students Outcomes), and I was so enthused about them that I’ve encouraged my colleagues to develop and share their own! 

But what are ToCs? In essence, rather than implement an intervention and then evaluate it, the ToC is a method that looks to explain why and how an intervention can expect to yield change by working through the ToC process. 

A ToC will cover the following aspects, in turn: Situation; Aims; Impact; Outcomes; Outputs; Activities; Inputs; Rationale and Assumptions. This allows consideration of what we want to achieve, which will help to inform planning.   

When applied to our upcoming taster events, the Aims are making informed HE choices and collaboration, as we will deliver them collaboratively across our partnership. I think this aim of working collaboratively is important as it allows members to be involved too. The events will be delivered, and informed by input, from GHWY and staff from across our Care Experienced and Estranged Students Network. 

After Aims, the ToC moves into looking at Outputs and Outcomes. We would all like to think we change the world, but that is not realistic. People also confuse Outputs and Outcomes. TASO used a cake analogy, which I loved hearing about! When baking a cake, your inputs are ingredients, but the outcome is not the cake; the cake is an output and outcome is a full stomach, happy smiles or people talking about cakes in blog posts as I am doing right now. 

I know not to use increased confidence as an outcome of a HE taster event. After all, it’s hard to measure confidence and to test that it’s your event that has caused that increase. This helps to inform planning as once we have an outcome, we can work with that in mind. I think ‘an increased awareness of HE options’ is a post-event outcome that is more tangible. 

Our inputs will be staff across the partnership, which we are grateful for, as well as funds to pay for things like printing and travel for students.  

If you or someone you know wants to find out more about our collaborative taster events, which will both be held between 5-6.30pm, please get in touch with me at 


Tahera Mayat, GHWY Collaborative Outreach Officer