How can the Higher Education community work together in the best interests of care leavers? Faced with challenges unique to them and their care experiences, how can care leavers be sure that Higher Education will be a good choice for them?
Natalie Aldridge discusses how Go Higher West Yorkshire, a partnership organisation representing 12 HE providers in the region, has sought to address these questions by pioneering their collaborative Care Leaver Covenant.
DEVELOPING OUR COMMITMENT
At Go Higher West Yorkshire, we strive to be the leading advocate of HE in our region and, as a result, to ensure that all who could benefit from it have the opportunity to do so. As a partnership, we do this by highlighting the strengths of every provider and working together to create a bigger, better, stronger approach to widening participation and student success.
This couldn’t be any truer than it is for our work engaging with and improving outcomes for young people from care backgrounds. As everyone reading this will know, the passion for positively impacting the lives of those leaving care is alive and well, yet as a nation we are continuing to fall short. For us, a period of consultation identified many practical commitments made by our HE partner providers, from bursaries to year-round accommodation to transition support. These commitments, coupled with a formal pledge, form the basis of our collaborative Care Leaver Covenant.
As well as all 12 partner institutions, we engaged with the Learning and Work Institute to finalise our collaborative Covenant to ensure its robustness as both a declaration and a valid resource, ready for launch in October 2017 during National Care Leavers Week.
DELIVERING OUR COMMITMENT
Showcasing our Covenant and utilising it as an outreach tool has helped us have many conversations with young people, school staff, foster carers, Local Authority staff and other professionals. It has been praised as a much needed local resource and a commendable measure to help widen access, raise awareness of the support available and enable honest conversations about the challenges faced by care leavers.
The response that we have received so far indicates that our Care Leaver Covenant is working well at a local level to complement the brilliant work of Become and the Propel website at the national level. We have found that young people, carers and professionals alike clearly value tailored information dedicated to care experienced young people and the overarching commitment made to their outcomes.
ADVANCING OUR COMMITMENT
We remain committed to ensuring that all measures outlined in the Covenant are fulfilled, and to discussing new and exciting measures within our partnership that could be of particular benefit to care leavers. We recognise that there is still lots more work to do to enable care leavers’ educational outcomes to match those of other young people, and we want to be at the forefront of driving this progress.
2018 is an exciting year for us and we will continue to engage with as many organisations as possible to support care leavers into Higher Education. Using our Care Leaver Covenant as a tool, we hope to help care experienced young people in West Yorkshire realise that Higher Education is not just a possibility, but that it is there for the taking.
Why collaborate on this?
Collaboration is key to the strength of our commitment. Here are three reasons why it works for us, and could work for you too:
Accessibility for young people
Our Covenant provides an easily accessible and navigable source of information. This enables care leavers to know the significant measures offered by different providers in our local area and work out which are most important to them.
Showcasing regional excellence
We have formalised the commitment of 12 HE providers in West Yorkshire and highlighted their good work. This demonstrates a region-wide understanding of and commitment to the bespoke needs of care leavers. We engage with Local Authorities in our region to reinforce this.
Collaboration aligns a consistent measure of standards across providers, enhancing targeted outreach and support and its collaborative potential. It sustains a collaborative forum for strategic development and new ideas that could strengthen the Covenant.
Find out more
To view our Care Leaver Covenant as an online PDF click here.
To find out more about Go Higher West Yorkshire and our HE partners please visit our website http://www.gohigherwestyorks.ac.uk.
Follow us on Twitter at @GoHigherWY.
Feel free to get in touch with Natalie at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss our collaborative work.
Collaborative Outreach Officer
Go Higher West Yorkshire