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Bradford part of major initiative to tackle higher education ‘care leaver crisis’

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With only 12% of care leavers under the age of 23 going into Higher Education (HE) - and those that do being almost twice as likely to drop out than their peers - the University of Bradford is taking part in a new project launched to improve support for young people going into HE.

The National Network for the Education of Care Leavers (NNECL) and the UPP Foundation have announced a new partnership to improve the support provided for young care experienced people.

Under the new scheme universities and colleges will take positive action to tackle the sector-wide care leavers crisis by creating a framework ensuring young care experienced people get the personal and financial support they need.

A pilot project, funded by the UPP Foundation, was launched at a reception in the House of Lords last week. Running until early 2020, the pilot scheme will develop and test a new quality framework to improve access, retention and the support for people who have been in care and now study at colleges and universities.

Nikki Pierce, Academic Registrar at the University of Bradford said: "As an institution dedicated to widening access and participation to higher education, we are delighted to take part in this project.

"Participating in this pilot will give us the opportunity to improve our support for care leavers and care experienced people and to benchmark what we are doing against best practice. Ensuring that everyone - no matter their background - is supported to access and succeed in higher education is at the heart of our University ethos.

"With only 12% of care leavers progressing to HE, this is an area in which the whole sector needs to do better, and we are delighted to be helping to shape a quality mark in this area."

Earlier this year students at the University of Bradford held a conference to raise awareness of the struggles Care Leavers can face at university and how this can affect their emotional wellbeing, which can then impact their overall performance at university. The conference received very positive feedback and has driven provision for Care Leavers up the University agenda.

The pilot project is a major step towards a national accreditation scheme for institutions working with young people who have been in care. The accreditation scheme will be rolled out across England following the completion of the pilot.

Commenting on the launch, Colette Fletcher, Chair of the Board of Trustees, NNECL and Assistant Vice-Chancellor, University of Winchester, said: "NNECL is extremely proud to be launching the new quality mark for institutions working with young care experienced people and are delighted to be partnering with UPP Foundation and the University of Bradford to deliver this important project. The new quality mark will build on the gold standard criteria developed by the Centre for Social Justice and First Star Academies, the Department for Education’s ‘Principles to guide higher education providers on improving care leavers access and participation in HE’, the Care Leaver Covenant, and recent guidance published by the Office for Students, to create a working accreditation process that will improve the progression, retention and success of care experienced students in higher education."

Richard Brabner, Director of the UPP Foundation, added: "We are delighted to be partnering with NNECL and the University of Bradford on this important initiative involving so many Higher Education and Further Education institutions. As a Foundation we fund innovative projects that support underrepresented students go to and succeed at university. As the statistics show, care leavers are one of, if not the, most disadvantaged group in the system. This is a sector-wide initiative that we hope will make a tangible difference over the long-term to the outcomes of care leavers."

The educational institutions involved in the pilot include the University of Bradford; Edge Hill University; the University of Exeter; Halesowen College; Kingston University; the University of Lincoln; the University of Nottingham and Oxford Brookes University.

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