You have the potential to inspire and encourage care leavers to consider college or university as an option.
Start the conversation early
Many young people don’t realise that university or college is even an option for them until they hear about it from a teacher, parent, or carer.
The earlier you start the conversation about what they enjoy doing, what they’re good at, and what they might want to do for a living, the better prepared they will be to make the right choices about which subjects to study at school and – later on – when applying for a course.
Ensure that they have a pathway plan in place
Pathway plans begin no later than 3 months after a young person’s 16th birthday and are continually reviewed for as long as the Local Authority is offering support.
If a young person in your care is planning to stay in education, this must be written into their plan because it forms an agreement between the care leaver and their Local Authority about what kind of support they will receive (financial, books, equipment etc), as having this written in the pathway plan is evidence of the support the Local Authority have agreed to provide.
The care leaver and their Personal Adviser or Throughcare Worker should both work on the pathway plan together and it should be reviewed at least every six months or whenever a young person requests a review.
Pathway plans should be written before a young person leaves care so that the right support is in place when they do come to leave.
You can also reassure care-leavers by reinforcing these messages:
They are entitled to go to university
Extra money is available to help them study – and some of it’s ‘free’
They won’t need to pay any money back until they are earning over £25,000.
We would advise against encouraging young people to study near where they live just to save money. Finding the right course and a good place to study are the two most important factors in the decision-making process. Dropping out of the wrong course can prove much more expensive because any loans and bursaries will probably need to be paid back. It can also be much harder to secure funding the second time around.
While the prospect of finding extra money can be a real concern, many universities offer accommodation all year round, and some offer financial support to cover accommodation costs.