It’s not every day, when you hear that a care leaver starts university.

Most of the time, the general view is that care leavers won’t succeed in their education, and are destined to get lower grades and the like. Statistics show the following (source: The Who Cares Trust):

  • When they leave primary school, 43% of children in care will have reached the national curriculum test level expected for their age – compared with 74% of all children.
  • Almost one third of children in care leave school with no GCSEs or vocational tests like GNVQs.
  • Only 13.2% of children in care obtain five good GCSEs – compared with 57.9% of all children.
  • Only 6% of care leavers go to university – compared with 38% of all young people.
  • One third of care leavers are not in education, employment or training – compared with 13% of all young people.
  • More than one in 10 children had three or more placements in 2010.
  • 23% of the adult prison population has been in care and almost 40% of prisoners under 21 were in care as children (only 2% of the general population spend time in prison).
  • A quarter of young women leaving care are pregnant or already mothers, and nearly half become mothers by the age of 24.

Below is an extract from an article written by a care leaver talking about the experience of getting a place in university and the emotions and feelings associated with the journey.

The general misconception that everybody involved in the care system will not succeed is incorrect, but unfortunately backed up by the statistics. More so, it’s what most people tend to think, as was the case for this particular care leaver.

“During my senior year in high school, I mentioned to a staff member that I was in the foster care system. Taking in his look of disbelief, I asked him why he seemed so surprised? The staff member stated, “I never would have imagined…you have good grades.” In that moment, I didn’t know whether to be offended or take it as a compliment so I uttered a “thank you” and walked away.”

The article then talks about how the care leaver got acceptance on a scheme for care leavers, homeless youth and other vulnerable young people. The scheme allowed the care leaver to get into university.

You can find the original article here.

Here in the UK, we also have several organisations dedicated to children in foster care as well as care leavers.

UCAS, who process university admissions have a “tick the box” scheme, where care leavers would tick a box in their UCAS application form to let the university know. This then allows the university to be able to provide additional support for care leavers. Click here for care leavers information, here for the care leavers’ toolkit, or here to read why you should tick the box.

There are also other organisations here to help foster care leavers attain academic success:

The Who Cares? Trust (England and Scotland) is an independent trust focussed on children in care. They strive to ensure children in care receive the support, encouragement and opportunities to succeed.

Voices From Care is a similar establishment in Wales, and Voice of Young People in Care in Northern Ireland.

The National Network for the Education of Care Leavers and the Care Leavers’ Association also have resources for young people in care.

If you are a care leaver getting into university (or has been to university), and would like to share your experiences, comments or advice, feel free to get in touch with us via Facebook or Twitter.