Three Midlands Higher education institutions have gone far beyond the current plethora of initiatives to get universities to reach out to wide social spectrum of children and young people, by organising a programme to reach out to one group of children who had been almost completely ignored by University outreach schemes - children and young people in care.
The University of Warwick, Coventry University, and University College Worcester in partnership with Coventry and Warwickshire Connexions have just completed the first year of a 2 year programme working with 40 children in care (now more properly known as 'looked after children and young people') from Coventry, Warwickshire and Worcester to raise their educational aspirations.
Unlike other access programmes there is little direct benefit for the universities in this as the average current educational attainment of looked after children is so low that the vast majority are far from reaching University entrance level. Even with educational aspiration programmes such as this it will take a long time to bring any significant numbers of looked after children within reach of that goal.
The core of the programme was 14 fun and educational events run at the University of Warwick, Coventry university and other local colleges that introduced the range of opportunities on offer if they decided to take their education further. The visits and activities gently introduced them to what can be the daunting scale of further and higher education - a common question asked by the looked after children on their first visit to the University of Warwick's 720 acre campus was - 'which building is the university?'.
The programme certainly convinced the children and young people that it was possible to fit in to an environment such as a university or a college as Hussain said:
"People don't seem to look at you when you walk around even though we were just on a visit"
Many of the students did seem to have their aspirations raised as Laura said:
"I know which room I want- it's in the house nearest the Arts Centre and the Student's Union bar! - Warwick university is like living in a town on its own - even the supermarket is better than where I live."
As part of this programme to reach these children the University of Warwick also introduced a new element of teaching on the needs of looked after children to its PGCE teacher training programmes so that newly qualified teachers from the University would be more aware of the needs of these children.
Note for editors: Obviously as these are looked after children we are unable to offer direct interviews with them and as you can see by the quotes above we can only refer to them by their first names.
For further information contact:
Marj Walsh, Centre for lifelong Learning
University of Warwick Tel: 07887 708437
Professor Judith Masson, School of Law
University of Warwick Tel: 024 76 523172
Maggie Duffy from Connexions
Tel: 024 76831596 02476 833479