Care leavers have significantly poorer educational and life outcomes than the general population on average, and are underrepresented in higher education. All universities and colleges must consider care leavers in their access and participation plans.
The Leverhulme Trust's Pathways Project explored the barriers care leavers face in accessing university, and the support that helps them succeed. This video is based on the findings from their first report, which incorporates the views and perspectives of 234 university students with care experience.
- Access to higher education is much lower for young people who have been in care. In 2017-18 only 12 per cent of pupils who were looked after continuously for 12 months or more entered higher education compared to 42 per cent of all other pupils.
- New experimental data shows that for 2017-18 entrants the continuation rate of care experienced students was 5.6 percentage points lower than for students who had not been in care.
- The data also shows that for qualifiers in 2018-19 the rate of achieving a first or upper-second class degree qualification was 12.1 percentage points lower for care experienced students when compared to students that were not in care.
- Our data also found that care experience may not negatively impact progression into highly skilled employment or further study at a higher level.
- People who have spent time in local authority care face many and significant barriers to entering and succeeding in higher education. These include:
- lower school attainment, particularly at key stage 4
- a lack of positive role models and low expectations from carers and advisers
- low aspirations and concerns about being able to afford higher education
- a lack of information and advice before and when applying to higher education
- difficulty accessing the financial support they need and problems with accommodation.
In England the official care leaving age is 18, although young people can leave care from the age of 16, at which point they are designated care leavers.
Young care leavers should receive the support of a personal adviser through their local authority until they are 25.
We are exploring the possibility of moving towards the definition ‘care experienced’ as opposed to ‘care leavers’. This is because the legal definition of care leavers does not capture all those in need of support.
In the meantime, we expect providers to consider support for all students who have experienced care at any stage of their lives, including those who have been adopted.