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University wins national recognition for supporting care leavers

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Student Sasha Perinovic-Shah

Bradford one of only 17 to be given new quality mark

The University of Bradford has become one of the first institutions in the country to be awarded a new quality mark recognising its support of students who have been in the care system.

Nationally, ‘care leavers’, as they are known, are far less likely as a group to enter higher education and once there, are more likely to drop out.

During an awards ceremony on Thursday June 24, the University became one of only 11 higher education institutions (17 educational institutions altogether) to be awarded a new quality mark from the National Network for the Education of Care Leavers (NNECL). Speakers included Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester. 

Supporting care leavers

It means the University is going above and beyond in supporting care leavers - from offering £1,000-a-year grants to providing dedicated mentors and a broad support network to ensure they succeed.

Academic Registrar Nikki Pierce said: “As a university we are committed to social inclusion and the whole ‘levelling up’ agenda; our commitment to care leavers is part of our wider university strategy. We recognise the unique challenges care leavers face, that they may have had significant disruption in their lives, may lack the kind of resources and family support of other students.

“We have put significant resources in place to support care leavers and help them overcome the barriers they face. This quality mark recognises that and will hopefully encourage more care leavers to consider entering higher education.”

Grants and mentors

In 2018-19 only 13 per cent of pupils who were looked after continuously for 12 months or more entered higher education compared to 43 per cent of all other pupils. The University of Bradford offers a range of support, including £1,000-a-year grants, one-to-one guidance for UCAS applications, individual campus visits and mentoring.

Caroline Priestley, Senior Outreach and Recruitment Officer, added: “We have a range of pre-entry support for prospective care leaver students. This quality mark shows we’re committed to ensuring all students achieve their full potential.”

Case study

Sasha Perinovic-Shah spent time in care previously and is currently studying BA (Hons) Criminology and Criminal Behaviour at the University of Bradford.

After being permanently excluded from school at 15 with no GCSEs, Sasha returned to education at Bradford College, studying her GCSEs and then an Access Course in Health and Social Care Professions.

Since starting at Bradford, Sasha has taken up a role as Care Experienced Student Ambassador, taken part in activities such as canoeing and rock climbing and been taught by lecturers with real-world experience of working in the Criminal Justice System.

“I remember being 14 or 15 and I was living in a children’s home and I developed a strong drive to go to university. Being in care was not a great place to be, so I think it’s nice that I can use this experience - one of the lowest points of my life - to potentially help other students.

“I also found the financial support the University offers to be extremely helpful. During the period of finishing Year 1 and starting Year 2, I was unemployed and there is only so much you can stretch your student finance. Receiving a payment after my last payment of the year helped massively.

“Starting university was one of the best things I have ever done for myself and I never thought I would enjoy being a student as much as I do. Nobody can take your education away from you, it’s yours for life. There is so much support and so many opportunities available to care leavers, grab it all with both hands."

Read more about Sasha’s story here.

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