National Care leavers week runs from Wednesday 24 October to Tuesday 30 October, and is organised annually by The Care Leavers Foundation.
To coincide with the week, Alison Johnstone MSP has lodged a motion with the Scottish Parliament on the subject of fairer access to higher education for those coming from a care background (see note 1).
Speaking at the start of National Care Leavers Week, Robin Parker, President of NUS Scotland, said: “National Care Leavers week is a fantastic initiative, and one that NUS Scotland is proud to support.
When the issue of access to higher education is high on everyone’s agenda, it’s vital that we use it as an opportunity to consider the tiny numbers of care leavers going on to access higher education, and how we can all work to turn this around.
“When just 2% of young people eligible for after care services access higher education (see Note 2), you know we’re getting something wrong. We know that universities can’t do it all to solve what are often really complex issues, but there’s much more we all could, and should, be doing.
Examples like the Buttle UK Quality Mark are a great example of proactive efforts to tackle the severe underrepresentation of looked after young people in our universities, and every university should aspire to have it.
“The introduction of outcome agreements this year has put the issue of fair access at the forefront, and this is great. But as we develop them it’s vital that we look to broaden their scope, to ensure that all groups are being recognised, and reached out to. It’s clear that there is more the Scottish Government, universities, and others could be doing, and National Care Leavers Week should provide the kick-start we need.”
Buttle UK Chief Executive, Gerri McAndrew, said: "Advancements in widening access by some Scottish universities remain relatively slow as highlighted by NUS Scotland’s FOI request in June (see Note 3).
It is vital therefore that we use National Care Leavers Week to raise awareness of the particular barriers that this cohort face in higher education and of the steps that can be taken to ensure they have just as good a chance to succeed as other students.
“The Buttle UK Quality Mark provides a framework within which institutions can assess and develop their provision for Care Leavers and validate the quality of support on offer.
We are very proud of the work that those universities in Scotland that hold the award (See Note 4) are doing and would like to see more Scottish universities sign up to improving and developing the support for students from care."
Alison Johnstone MSP said: "Young people leaving care are hugely underrepresented in our colleges and universities and I strongly urge the Government and the sector to do more to improve access and opportunities.
“I fully support National Care Leavers week and hope that more people can understand the rights and interests of looked-after young people and care leavers."
1. Motion S4M-04517: Fair access to education for looked after children,
2. “Children’s Social Work Statistics Scotland”, Scottish Government
3. “Unlocking Scotland’s Potential”, NUS Scotland
4. Buttle UK figures show that 9 out of 17 HEIs in Scotland have, or are working towards, the Buttle UK Quality Mark. For more information on Buttle UK, and its Quality Mark, see: http://www.buttleuk.org/index.php