Care-experienced young people and care leavers are specifically identified as target groups with a priority status for action and support throughout the student life-cycle in the university’s Access and Participation Plan 2020-21 to 2024-25. Under the leadership of the university’s Pro Vice-Chancellor (Academic Planning), the Access and Participation Steering Group oversees the delivery, monitoring and evaluation of the Plan, and the annual review of the university’s offer that underpins its commitment to the Care Leaver Covenant will be a standing item on its agenda.
The university delivers its Be Inspired! outreach programme. The highly-targeted programme is based on a learner progression framework that develops knowledge about the benefits of higher education and its role in career ambitions, supports aspiration and educational attainment and encourages and supports progression to higher education and the professions from KS2 onwards. The programme culminates in providing pre-entry information, advice and guidance to support care-experienced students in making informed decisions about higher education at their point of entry.
Access and Participation Officers who deliver the programme work closely with partner school and college coordinators to ensure that young people from a care background are one of the priority groups that should be included in the programme.
The university’s Access and Participation Office also work with local authorities, virtual heads and the Education Officers of foster care agencies such as SWiiS, to deliver a range of outreach activity.
Bespoke outreach programmes for care-experienced young people are also available through the Access and Participation Office on request, and these can include activities such as campus visit days or tours, subject enrichment activity or information sessions for young people and/or their carers, siblings and supporters.
The university is a member of the National Network for the Education of Care Leavers (NNECL) and the South West Universities Care Leavers Consortium (SWLAC). For a number of years universities and colleges in the South West have worked through SWLAC to bring together its higher education outreach and student support practitioners with virtual heads and specialised professionals, to support care-experienced and care leavers in the region to access and participate in higher education. Through its membership, the group maintains links to NNECL.
In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, recent SWLAC activity, in addition to its ongoing activity, has included a joint newsletter detailing the current outreach opportunities and support that is available from local universities for care-experienced young people and care leavers in the region, and a webinar specifically for care-experienced pupils and their guardians.
The university is currently reviewing its admissions policy, and as part of that process is carefully considering how to introduce a specific contextualised offer for care leavers ready for the next recruitment cycle.
From the point of a university offer, students who have disclosed on their UCAS application that they are care leavers are allocated a designated point of contact, who is an information, advice and guidance professional within the university’s Student Wellbeing Service, to ensure as smooth a transition as possible. The point of contact works in a multidisciplinary team of wellbeing advisors, accessibility advisors and mental health practitioners to provide holistic support, and will work with a student pre-arrival, during their studies and on succession planning. They will also enable and facilitate access to other university and external services as required to support the student. This support also applies to students studying Bath Spa University courses at Partnership Colleges
Part of the university’s process at the applicant stage is to obtain details of a care leaver’s local authority and work with them to provide a cohesive transition. This can include clarifying the financial support that the student will receive from the local authority, the provision of accommodation, arranging appropriate transport to university and liaising with the student and local authority to facilitate ongoing input from either side. Care leavers are guaranteed year-round accommodation in university-managed accommodation, providing they adhere to their license agreement.
To raise awareness of the support services available at the university, students have a further opportunity to disclose their care leaver status when they register through the university’s student portal. The Student Wellbeing Service also uses a range of sources to identify potential care leavers including:
- information that is provided to the university by the Student Loans Company (SLC) relating to students who have been assessed as statutory care leavers for funding purposes
- working closely with the Unite Foundation who alert the service to any future or current students who have applied to them for support
- direct contact or referrals from supporters, personal advisors or academic tutors.
The Student Wellbeing Service also runs student data reports at a number of intervals throughout the year to identify any students whose care leaver status may have been updated or changed to reduce the risk of missing students; for example, if there was a delay in their student funding being approved or if their care leaver confirmation is updated on the SLC database.
Bath Spa University Undergraduate Bursary Scheme
Eligibility criteria for these awards are used to particularly encourage and support the continuation of UK-domiciled students from households with the lowest incomes who are also from areas where participation in higher education is low. A number of individually assessed bursary awards for undergraduate entrants where household income is low and they face intersections of disadvantage, but they are from areas where participation is low is also available. Awards range from £750 to £1,250 in years 1 and 2 of study, and from £1,000 to £1,500 in year 3 of study, depending on household income.
In each year of study the university also provides a number of supplementary awards for bursary award-holders to further support entrants who are declared care leavers, or entrants who are currently living at an accredited Foyer, or who have moved out of an accredited Foyer in the past 12 months. The supplementary awards range from £150 to £250 per annum depending on household income.
Bath Spa University Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) Initial Teacher Training (ITT) Minimum Standard Bursary Scheme
The university provides a number of individual PGCE ITT bursary awards for one year of study for UK-domiciled entrants who meet the low household income and low participation area eligibility criteria. Care leavers and trainees who are currently living at an accredited Foyer, or who have moved out of an accredited Foyer in the past 12 months are among the groups who are prioritised for this award. The award will be paid as a cash award of between £250 and £750 depending on household income. If requested, trainees may arrange to take their award as a fee waiver.
Bath Spa University Access Fund
Additional financial support is also available to all students through the Bath Spa University Access Fund. The priority groups for the Bath Spa University Access Fund include students who are care leavers and students who are living at, or who have moved out of an accredited Foyer in the past 12 months, or are homeless.
Care Leavers’ Bursary
To be eligible for this bursary, students usually need to be under the age of 25 and to have been in Local Authority Care for three months or more since the age of 14.
Non-repayable bursaries of £1,000 per year are available to UK-domiciled care leavers who are studying full-time courses at Bath Spa University. If a student disclosed on their UCAS that they are a care leaver, they are sent an application form. If a student didn’t disclose on their UCAS form but think they may be eligible, they are invited to contact the Student Wellbeing Service to discuss their situation.
The Foyer Federation is a charity that supports young people who become homeless. Non-repayable bursaries of £1,000 per year are available to students who have been living in a Foyer before coming to the university.
Unite Foundation Scholarship
The university works with Unite Students and the Unite Foundation to offer the Unite Foundation Scholarship Scheme. The scheme enables students who are care-experienced or estranged from their family to apply for free accommodation in the university’s Unite halls of residence for the duration of their studies.
Continuing pastoral and academic support
Throughout their studies, care leavers will continue to receive holistic support from their designated point of contact, who will draw on the wider expertise of university staff including wellbeing advisors, accessibility advisors, mental health practitioners, academic tutors, accommodation and financial professionals if required.
Care leavers benefit from priority referrals to academic support services such as the Writing and Learning Centre and the Careers and Employability Service. A designated point of contact will work with care leavers on succession planning and, at the students’ discretion, will hold periodic meetings with them and their Personal Advisor to map progress and attainment to date and feed into the generation of any Pathway Plans.
Careers and Employability
The Careers and Employability Service works to improve progression to highly skilled employment and postgraduate study and to reduce gaps in equality of opportunity in progression for students from underrepresented groups. Where gaps in progression for underrepresented groups have already been identified, the Careers and Employability Service has developed a number schemes to improve graduate outcomes which include, but are not limited to:
- short paid internships in difficult to access professions which need social capital or capacity for regional migration
- mobility grants to support short unpaid work experience
- the Bath Spa University GradTalent Development Agency, which develops good graduate outcomes with a range of employers with varying conditions to support wider access. This enables the placement of graduates in the right working environment
- mentoring and inspirational events to provide role models and advice for underrepresented groups have been designed to introduce students to a wider range of possibilities
- partially funded internships and accredited placements that support progression from lower skilled part-time roles to higher skilled project based roles.
Care leavers are among the priority groups for signposting, selection and funding for these schemes. All Bath Spa University students are eligible for ongoing careers support post-graduation.
The Bath Spa Outward Mobility Award was established to assist students wishing to embark on international placements, either research or study trips that are related to their undergraduate degree course. The award of up to £3,500 is funded through the university’s Access and Participation Plan to encourage students from groups who are underrepresented in higher education, and who might not have otherwise considered a period abroad because of the cost. Care leavers are one of the priority groups for this award.
The employment of students as Access and Participation Student Advocates is a key feature of the university’s widening participation outreach programme. During the recruitment process, applicants are invited to disclose whether they are a care leaver or care-experienced. Students who are from groups that are underrepresented in higher education are aware of potential barriers that young people might face when considering higher education, and as students who have negotiated these barriers they can often offer insights, support and encouragement to young people who may be facing similar obstacles. Working with the university’s outreach officers, student advocates are also gaining paid work experience and developing graduate-level skills in a professional setting.
The university’s approach to supporting care leavers is continually evaluated to understand how better it can support these students to ensure equality of opportunity.
2. A Robust Employment Offer
Bath Spa University will continue to explore how it supports care leavers as an employer and update in due course.
The School of Education at Bath Spa University has worked for many years with local authorities and schools and colleges to support children in care and care leavers. In Care, In School was a project jointly led by the university and Bath and North East Somerset Council (B&NES) in 2011-12. Partners included the PSHE Association, the Who Cares? Trust (now ‘Become’) and most importantly, the B&NES In Care Council. Since 2016 the resource has been openly available online.
Since 2012, In Care, In School has featured in a number of publications about the education of children in care, and the materials have been widely used across the country in a number of ways. Discussions with schools as to how best to respond to the issues raised through In Care, In School were an important factor in the development of the original Bath Spa University/B&NES Attachment Aware Schools programme, and the eventual creation in 2017 of the Attachment Research Community (ARC). The ARC is a charitable organisation with a mission to support all schools to be attachment and trauma aware by 2025, and supports schools and care settings to develop best attachment and trauma aware practice. Richard Parker from Bath Spa University was a founder trustee of ARC, and today coordinates the ARC Higher Education and Initial Teacher Education networks.
Currently the university is working with the National Association of Virtual School Heads (NAVSH) to offer a flexible, stand-alone online Master’s level module starting in September 2021 in the Education of Care Experienced Children that can count towards its full MA Professional Practice course The module is designed to support people working with care-experienced children including foster carers, adoptive parents and carers, teachers, social workers and virtual school heads and team members.
Through working with the university’s Access and Participation Outreach Office, local and regional organisations that support children in care and care leavers, including charities, agencies and local authorities, can access support and free room hire across our campuses to deliver events.