Talking about Higher Education and the future

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The best foster carers are ambitious for the children they foster. As a key influencer in young people’s lives, foster carers play a major role in the decision making process, along with teachers, advisers and their peers. Some young people may find it hard to think of their future and make plans due to an underlying problem is that they believe there is little point in planning for the future. The first step should be to make them believe they can change their future and with your help, it can happen!

‘We cannot make them succeed, but we can provide them with what they need to make success possible. We can give them a home and an environment that will help them to achieve their best. For children and young people to really achieve, they need to feel proud of themselves. We can keep reminding them every day of how brilliant they are.’ Linda, foster carer

Young people leaving care are one of the most under-represented groups in Further and Higher Education in the UK. As a foster carer, you have an important and vital role to play in providing emotional and practical support in the transition from foster care to university life.

Creating a positive environment

The most important thing a foster carer can do is to be continually positive about the whole concept of Higher Education. Attending university can be one of the most enjoyable and rewarding times of a foster child’s life, affording them a whole range of experiences and lifelong friendships and future opportunities that they would not have attained otherwise.

Preparing for university does not happen overnight. The skills that equip students for university life are often learned through early experiences at home and in education. It is vital to remember that care leavers do not normally have the essential element of stability when so many things are in a state of change - new found independence, new friends and a new place to live, can be extremely challenging. If you are not entering a staying put arrangement consider how else can ensure the young person moving on from your home knows they are not alone?

The guidance that foster carers provide children and young people in care at all stages of their education is invaluable to their eventual academic achievements and their long-term outcomes.

For many young people in care, it takes just one person to believe in them. It does not take much for a looked after child to believe they are destined to fail because most people that they come across will expect them to. Sometimes, all it takes is for one person to spend the time, to believe and encourage them to succeed and achieve in life. This is one of the most important roles of being a foster carer.

Top tips for foster carers

  • Attend school functions, PEP meetings and parent’s evenings.
  • Celebrate and share the child’s achievements.
  • Keep in touch with your child’s teachers and virtual school to ensure they are getting the support they need.
  • Regard foster children as one of your family for as long as they want and not just until they leave care.
  • Understand the targets set in PEP meetings for children in your care and support them to meet them.
  • Believe that children and young people in care can have a great future and give them aspirations from a young age.
  • Believe that university can be a realistic possibility for children in care – but only if it starts being talked about at a young age.
  • Commit yourself to helping children and young people in care succeed.
  • Believe education can open doors, increase choices and give more of a chance of a happy and healthy adult life.
  • Understand the education system and how to get the best out of it for children and young people in your care.
  • Provide support, materials and quiet spaces for learning and homework at home? Taking time to help with homework and discuss the school day.
  • Encourage and facilitate participation in school trips and activities.
  • Make the most of opportunities for learning outside school where children can develop their self-esteem and confidence such as joining youth groups, exploring their interests and new hobbies. Educational qualifications are essential for university, but it is equally important for young people to be able to demonstrate other learning experiences when it comes to writing the university application.

Did you know?

  • The Propel website contains contact details for a named person at every university in England who can offer support and guidance for care experienced young people visit propel.org.uk  for information on bursaries, support with applications and how to arrange campus visits.  
  • Your Virtual School may support extracurricular activities, homework clubs and holiday schools funding contact them to find out what is on offer in your area. They may also be able to help with funding to attend university open day’s.
  • Many theatres run youth schemes where young people aged 15-26 can get FREE or £5 tickets. Contact your local theatre to find out what they have on offer.

Tick the Box

We encourage young people who have spent time in care to Tick the Box on their UCAS form saying they are care experienced, this is confidential but will ensure they get the extra support they are entitled to while at university – this could include bursaries, year round accommodation and study support.