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School for Policy Studies welcomes care leavers and professionals to university taster day

16 July 2019

Last week, the School for Policy Studies were pleased to welcome care leavers and professionals from Bristol Hope School and the Bristol charity, 1625 Independent People, who support 16-25 year olds who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

In the morning our visitors heard from Faculty Engagement Officer Helen Doyle about University life, including access pathways and funding. Mature Students' and Peer Support Adviser, Maria Tottle  and Amy-Louise Gordon from Student Recruitment talked about the support available to students once they are here, including a Peer Mentoring Support Programme and a care leaver contact network. Over lunch, young people and those who work with them were able to chat with academic staff to find out more about teaching and research in the School and establish contacts for the future. In the afternoon, Professor Lois Bibbings from the Bristol Law School ran a workshop on young people’s rights, to give a taster of seminar-style teaching, and our excellent student ambassadors finished the day with a campus tour.  
There is a significant under-representation of young people from the care system accessing higher education in England and Wales: around 6% in 2015, compared to the average of 28% of 18-year olds in 2017. The issue is complex and many factors have been found to contribute to this, including a lack of positive  expectation from key adults (carers, parents, teachers and social workers), early adversity and  traumatic pre-care experiences, and multiple placement and school moves which undermine young people’s ability to learn.  

The University of Bristol is keen to recognise the academic ability and potential of this group of young people. The introduction of Foundation Degreescontextual offers and targeted bursaries are important steps in addressing some of the structural barriers to access, though more work needs to be done. 

Organised by Dr Natasha Mulvihill following the award of a £500 Faculty Widening Participation Grant, the event was attended by academics from the Children and Families Research Centre, including Professor David Berridge, Dr Jo Staines and Dr Jess Roy. Until recently, the School for Policy Studies also hosted The Hadley Centre for Adoption and Foster Care Studies. 

The taster day was an opportunity to work with organisations across the city to learn what forms of engagement work best for care leavers post-16. This learning will inform the format and content of future events.

Further work is also planned with foster carers, who have a pivotal role in inspiring and supporting the young people in their care, as well as academic outreach to drop-in venues across Bristol.

Further information

Bristol Hope School is a virtual school reaching out to in-care or care leaver children and young people. Their main purpose is to make a positive difference to the education of Bristol’s children in care and care leavers.

1625 Independent People are a Bristol-based charity that supports 16-25 year olds who are homeless or at risk of homelessness – a group that often includes young people from care.



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