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Universities: Care Leavers

Question for Department for Education

UIN 113122, tabled on 9 November 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps his Department is taking to improve access to university for children who have been in care.

Answered on

13 November 2020

I am committed to doing all I can to ensure that we bring down the barriers that prevent care leavers from entering higher education (HE).

It is not good enough that, in 2017-18, only 12% of pupils who were looked after continuously for 12 months or more entered HE compared with 42% of all other pupils.

At the start of this academic year, I wrote to all university Vice-Chancellors to formally invite those who are not yet signatories of the Care Leaver Covenant to make contact about signing up. To help with this, I pointed them to the department’s HE principles, setting out key areas where care leavers need additional support to access and succeed in HE, with examples of best practice drawn from across the sector. The departments HE principles are available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/principles-to-guide-he-providers-on-improving-care-leavers-access-and-participation-in-he/principles-to-guide-higher-education-providers-on-improving-care-leavers-access-and-participation-in-he.

I also wrote to local authority Virtual School Heads in September recommending they arranged workshops for care leavers using free resources designed to help young adults prepare for independent student living.

During National Care Leavers’ Week, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children and Families and I contributed to sector-led events, including the ‘Empathy Summit’ staged by Spectra and the Care Leaver Covenant.

Prior to that, I hosted a roundtable for care leavers and estranged students, to discuss the issues they face in both entering and succeeding in HE and I held a summit this month. I brought together universities, HE sector bodies, local authorities, care leaver organisations and other influencers to discuss good practice in support for care leavers and estranged students, and what part we can all play in bringing support practice up to the levels of the best.

I shall be continuing this discussion at a second summit next month.

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