The University of Sunderland is a Partner of the North East Raising Aspiration Partnership (NERAP). NERAP is a long standing (established in 2011) collaboration of the five universities in the region (Durham, Newcastle, Northumbria, Sunderland and Teesside) who fund pre-16 outreach activity where economies of scale and added value are gained through a collaborative approach. This activity focuses on joint representation visits to pre-16 schools highlighting the higher education opportunities in the region, and specific targeted work to support care-experienced students and young carers throughout their educational journey.
To ensure support for care-experienced students is sustained throughout their higher education journey, all five universities have signed up to the Care Leaver Covenant as a regional partnership via the existing NERAP Partnership. This means that students who choose to study at any of the university Partners will be guaranteed continued support to access, succeed and progress.
The University of Sunderland along with the other four Partner universities have committed (during 2022-23) to developing a level of support that is consistent at each institution. All care-experienced students get the same core access to interventions aligned to the Care Leaver Covenant core outcomes, complemented by additional bespoke support where offered within individual institutions.
As a Partnership, we have adopted the broader definition of ‘care-experienced,’ as this term is inclusive of the range of care settings someone may have experienced.
Our definition of care-experienced is someone who, at any stage of their life, and for any length of time, has been in care e.g., looked after by the local authority. This includes the following:
- spent time in the care of the local authority (e.g. foster care or children’s home)
- privately fostered
- ‘looked after at home’ under a supervision order
- in kinship foster care (where a friend or family member becomes the foster carer). Kinship care through a formal arrangement, recognised by a Local Authority, and could be prior to a Special Guardianship Order.
Pre – Entry Support
- Choices Together Progressive programme from Year 7-13.
- Accompany students to any open days, interviews etc. Cover expenses for getting to and from campus and lunch where needed.
- Tailored UCAS and Student Finance application support.
- Offer advice and guidance and potential CPD sessions for student support workers, parents/carers, local authorities, and virtual schools around UCAS and Student Finance.
- Create a guide for staff supporting young people considering higher education using the NNECL guide for staff as a basis.
- Work with the five partner universities to develop and maintain the core offer. Facilitate regular working group meetings and maintain a Teams group to allow easy communication.
- Provide a comprehensive virtual school/local authority contacts list and detail local offer for each area, all in one place. Ensure that this is regularly maintained and kept up to date.
- We aim to make sure that anyone leaving care has the right support to ensure they reach their full potential at university. Widening access to the University through information, advice and support, and providing practical support to care-experienced students while they are studying at the University.
- We understand that care-experienced students might have different circumstances or questions as they transition to university. The University of Sunderland’s dedicated We Care Team are here to provide support to anyone who is care-experienced and considering higher education. This support is available as and when needed, from pre-application through to graduation and beyond.
- We aim to communicate as clearly as possible with our students and have a publication which outlines our support ‘We Care – Support for Care-Experienced Students’. We also have dedicated web pages https://www.sunderland.ac.uk/help/care-experienced-support/, as well as a direct email account and telephone line to our We Care Team.
- We are responsive to the needs of our care-experienced students and our We Care Team facilitate bespoke support where appropriate.
Post – Entry Support
- Support with moving in, to include personal meet-and-greet at station/airport etc. and help with moving belongings where required.
- Provide a welcome pack on behalf of the Partner universities where required, to include basics such as £20 supermarket voucher and new home card with contact details.
- We give care experienced students priority status, reassurance and security when applying to and staying in accommodation through our 52-week accommodation or summer storage offer; moving in day support and guidance; help to settle in including orientation of the city; support with the first shop and a welcome voucher on arrival.
- Finance and budgeting sessions as part of Choices Together progressive programme.
- We provide additional support to help meet the costs of living independently whilst studying. We offer our We Care Bursary of £2,000 per annum (paid in four instalments of £500 throughout the year) at both undergraduate and postgraduate level.
- Advice on other externally funded scholarships that may be available
- Priority access where required to the University of Sunderland Student Support Fund.
- We also provide budgeting guidance and enhance this offer through links with the Students’ Union, who can provide additional support, guidance and advocacy.
- Work towards providing specialist training for personal tutors/other staff working with students
- Birthday and Christmas cards where this is celebrated sent right from beginning of the Choices Together Progressive Programme throughout university studies.
- We provide care-experienced students with pastoral support and signpost them throughout the student lifecycle with named advisers in key services who offer information and personalised support. These include the Student Financial Guidance team, Careers and Employability, Disability Services, Wellbeing and the Students’ Union.
- We raise awareness of the needs of care-experienced students amongst current staff and students and consult regularly with students to inform the development of our services and action plans. We provide training and staff development to staff across the institution to raise awareness of the support we offer. This includes key events such as confirmation and clearing, open days etc.
Graduation and Beyond
- Attend graduation ceremonies where appropriate.
- Work towards setting up a care-experienced alumni network, offering support to alumni and also supporting new students coming through. Sharing knowledge and continued support for alumni.
- Celebrate successes with case studies on the NERAP website.
- Our support doesn’t end when you graduate. We’re here to help with your next steps including everything from interview preparation to finding accommodation if you need it.
- Financial support with the costs of graduation.
- We extend support to full-time postgraduate students via the We Care Bursary of £2,000 per annum.
- Careers and employability sessions included in Choices Together Progressive Programme.
- Consider hosting a work experience placement/voluntary opportunity to support NERAP delivery.
- We offer our care-experienced students personalised guidance and support when applying for Student Ambassador positions at the University. Care-experienced students are also guaranteed an interview for this position.
- Our Careers and Employability team offer guidance and support on CVs, interviews and assessment centres. They also advertise placements, opportunities and part-time jobs available for students while studying and graduate opportunities. The service is available to students for up to three years after they graduate from the University.
NERAP and Partner University
- We provide care-experienced young people with a network of support through key relationships with local authority staff, care workers, social workers; leaving care workers, Virtual School staff, parents/carers, charities, schools and colleges.
- We support local authorities by offering higher education training to key workers and foster carers to raise awareness of our offer as well as support for care-experienced young people. We host conferences for foster carers and for Virtual Schools.
- We can attend Pathway Plan meetings to support the care-experienced applicant/student.
- We support our staff to be active members of local and national networks to raise the profile of care-experienced young people and ensure we offer the best possible support. We currently work with local authorities, Northern Care Leaver Activities and Student Support (NorthCLASS); charities including Become, Stand Alone and the National Network for the Education of Care Leavers (NNECL). Our Head of Widening Access and Participation, Wendy Price OBE, is co-chair of the National Strategy Group for NNECL, for which the University of Sunderland is a member. We achieved the NNECL Quality Mark in March 2022.
- We were winners of the Widening Access Initiative (Retention and Progression) Award at the NEON awards 2020. The University of Sunderland was also named as University of the Year for Social Inclusion by The Times’ Good University Guide 2021.
- We were winners of the Inclusive Awards Social Mobility Project Award in 2022.
- We actively promote the success and achievements of our care-experienced students by producing regular case studies which are shared both in the university community, and wider community, to inspire others.