They got something right, last week. They did, those in parliament. Between the new nightly prime time evening vote show – in which there was a (drop off the financial) cliffhanger every night – senior politicians made a positive impact. In a joint push, Universities Minister Chris Skidmore and Children and Families Minister Nadhim Zahawi called for better access and help to a university education for care leavers.
In new guidelines, the ministers called on universities to do more – including personal support through buddy systems as well as giving care leavers money for course materials and to allow them to fully experience student life. This sounds woolly. But it’s practical. They’re talking about text books and simple things that are needed to learn.
This came through the newly minted Higher Education Principles. The guidelines go further requesting that the most selective universities provide free accommodation and bursaries to cover study.
At present only six per cent – SIX! – of care leavers go to university. And they are twice as likely to drop out. That’s a shocking and unacceptable statistic.
Care leavers must have equal opportunities. But one thing is missing – cash.
Currently, all care leavers (in England and Wales) who go to university can claim a £2,000 bursary from their local council, £1,200 from the college if they go into further education and £1,000 for the first year of an apprenticeship.
The ministers are also calling on universities to proactively go out to the communities to “encourage looked after children to apply for higher education.”