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“Overcoming by Degrees”: exploring care leavers’ experiences of Higher Education Georgia Hyde-Dryden, PhD Researcher, Loughborough University Supervised.

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Presentation on theme: "“Overcoming by Degrees”: exploring care leavers’ experiences of Higher Education Georgia Hyde-Dryden, PhD Researcher, Loughborough University Supervised."— Presentation transcript:

1 “Overcoming by Degrees”: exploring care leavers’ experiences of Higher Education Georgia Hyde-Dryden, PhD Researcher, Loughborough University Supervised by Professor Harriet Ward 1

2 Study outline Explored different perspectives of support Two phase study Phase 1 Questionnaires sent to student support staff and undergraduates at universities across England Phase 2 Telephone interviews with student support staff and leaving care staff Face to face interviews with care leavers, students from low income backgrounds and first generation students 2

3 Participants: care leavers Phase 2 18 care leavers (3 male, 15 female) 4 at Russell Group universities; 4 at pre 1992; 10 at post 1992 Interviewees aged out of 18 were mature students Half were in foster placements immediately prior to leaving care 3

4 Participants: support providers Leaving care staff at 12 authorities Spread out geographically (except London) Student support staff at 18 universities 9 post 1992 universities; 6 pre 1992; 3 Russell Group Spread out geographically 4

5 Support provision in universities Universities at differing stages in developing provision 3 broad types of support in universities – Universal support (i.e. counselling) Discrete support (i.e. care leaver bursaries) Enhanced support (i.e. reduced cost fresher’s week tickets) All universities reported developing provision aimed specifically at care leavers 5

6 Support provision in universities contd. Most common forms of care leaver support 365 day accommodation care leaver bursaries named contacts Levels of care leaver bursaries: £500 (one off payment) to £1,500 per annum £1,000 per annum most common level of care leaver bursary amongst sample 6

7 Obstacles to support provision Identifying care leavers/ encouraging disclosure Volume of information aimed at new students Mutual understanding between universities and local authorities Staff time Regional networks provide one solution 7

8 Support provision in local authorities Differing stages of developing provision Emphasis on tailored support Levels of financial support varied (e.g. income top up; weekly allowance; repayment of student loans) Mixed plans for £2,000 care leaver bursary 8

9 Support provision in local authorities contd. Contributions made for books/ course materials/ travel All authorities supplied or paid for a laptop Non financial support: Levels of ongoing contact varied Examples of support included driving students to university; attending open days; arranging tailored campus visits; organising aspiration raising/ cultural events 9

10 Obstacles to support provision Maintaining contact with care leavers Mutual lack of understanding Obtaining information on support packages/ identifying key staff in universities 10

11 The Buttle UK Quality Mark Positive and growing impact Provides internal leverage and a useful framework for developing support Growing external recognition Student awareness 11

12 Care leavers’ experiences Overall care leavers demonstrated High levels of determination and self reliance Little expectation of support 12

13 Self reliance “I mean… I never really…. I’ve never ever requ-, relied on anyone. I mean that was through… through from what I’ve gone through… er… I’ve just never relied on anyone. If… if … I’m gonna have to do it myself. That… That was it from foster care.” (Peter) 13

14 Disclosing a care background Care backgrounds not relevant to university life, but individuals willing to disclose for a specific reason Highlights importance of UCAS tick box Awareness of the availability of support Understanding the implications of disclosure Students willing to let staff know if they want less contact 14

15 Awareness of support Being made aware of support is very important to care leavers “I thought that the minute I turned 18, er.... just started uni.... that that’d be it. Then I wouldn’t..... I wouldn’t get any support at all.” (Rachael) 15

16 Timing of information Timely support is important “When you’re starting your course, the only worries, you know, if you call them worries is to be doing your course. It’s the content of the course and the actual work.... that’s what you’ve come to university to do. All the rest is just superficial and it should... you know...really should be sorted out before you turn up... “ (James) 16

17 Supportive relationships Feeling comfortable and trust are important factors in seeking support “I seem to tag onto the Connexions worker, or I see her as my worker. …. She’s not my worker, but I see her as my worker. So every time I ring her, I don’t ring others ‘cause I’m used to her now.” (Kerry) Named contacts popular sources of support (valued for flexibility, approachability and reliability) 17

18 Supportive relationships contd. The potential impact of supportive relationships “Cause otherwise I probably would’ve, would’ve missed out and not applied.” (Susan) 18

19 Supportive relationships contd. “.... rather than just thinking ‘oh well, just put the cats in a shelter ‘cause it doesn’t matter, they’re only cats kind of thing..... it was kind of like taken seriously.” (Anna) 19

20 Supportive relationships contd. “It was really reassuring. It really looked nice. I thought yeh, this is cool. I want to go there.” (Verity) 20

21 Accommodation Majority of students in sample in private rented accommodation Fear of isolation Risk missing out on activities and friendships made in halls 21

22 Finance Mixed experiences Lack of support awareness/ confusion Matt:“So I’ve…. I phone up…. I said, ‘You must have this wrong. I haven’t applied for anything.’ ….tick…tick….tick…….. I’d hear the woman on the computer… ‘No, no, it’s definitely right. You’ve got a bursary.’ Int: Do you know what the criteria were that you… you got it for? Matt: No. I haven’t got the foggiest.” 22

23 Finance contd. Timing of payments could be problematic Very mature attitudes to finance “I mean another main thing that I..... I have always wanted to do was make sure that my credit ratings good because obviously from a young age being in care I understood what credit rating was, whereas now people at uni don’t even understand that you’ve got to build up a credit rating at some point in your life.” (Kezia) 23

24 Mature students Lack of basic study skills (essay writing, grammar) Coping with pre-existing debts and/ or child care “You don’t have any concept of paying bills and what bills have to be paid..... and I wasn’t prepared for any of that, so I’m still living with the consequences.” (Ruth) 24

25 Conclusion Support for care leavers going into higher education is increasing Universities and local authorities at differing stages in support development Buttle UK Quality Mark is raising the profile Care leavers show determination and self-reliance Mixed experiences of support Importance of timely, accurate and clear information Flexible support Support can enable care leavers to get on with being students 25

26 Finally “So about a week in, I was like… kind of had a really crap lecture or something. I just wanted to leave uni….. opened the box and found four tubs of Angel Delight, a £20 note in there and a card saying ‘Smile – life can only get better from today onwards.” (Elliot) 26

27 Overcoming by Degrees Thank you 27


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