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Paper

‘How to Go Higher’ - the value of a training and support programme promoting Higher Education to staff working with young people in care and care leavers

abstract

Background

Aimhigher Surrey has worked with Rainer 18+ Service and Surrey Children's Services since 2005 to raise awareness of educational opportunities for young people in care and care leavers, in keeping with Aimhigher's national agenda to encourage disadvantaged young people with ability to progress into higher education. With less than 5% of young people in care progressing into higher education, the need to support and encourage this group to reach their full potential is undeniable. A variety of initiatives were undertaken within Surrey including 1-1 tutoring in Year 9, 'awareness raising' Easter and Summer Schools, an Information, Advice and Guidance support programme for Year 12s and the 'How to Go Higher' booklet for Surrey young people in care outlining progression routes into higher education, funding in higher education and Surrey County Council's package of funding support. Whilst producing this booklet, it became apparent that a significant number of staff working with young people in care and care leavers lacked up-to-date knowledge to advise them appropriately about progressing in education. The 'How to Go Higher' training programme has been developed by Pi-Coaching to meet those needs and has been delivered on behalf of Aimhigher Surrey, Rainer 18+ and Surrey Children's Service.

 

Purpose

The one day training programme was developed for staff and foster carers working with young people in care and care leavers. Using a mixture of workshops and group work, attendees gain up-to-date information about:

  • Progression routes into higher education in the UK
  • Choosing and applying to university
  • The costs of higher education
  • Local funding support for children in care (CIC) and care leavers

The aim is to enable attendees to better support and promote education achievement with young people in care and care leavers. Through the training, staff gain more confidence in their ability to advise, encourage and signpost the young people they are working with. Attendees are also encouraged to explore the barriers to progressing in education, look at their own preconceptions about the ability and potential of young people in care and recognise that positive aspirations engender higher achievement in these young people.

 

Key findings

This training programme has been highly successful within Surrey. It has been delivered to over 240 Surrey staff working with Surrey Children's Services and Rainer 18+ Service including Social Workers, Personal Advisers, Senior Management Teams, foster carers, residential staff, asylum team workers, school governors and designated support staff in schools and colleges. We also identified a significant cohort of non-UK educated personnel within this sector who welcomed the training.

 

The training is at its best when delivered to a range of staff working with young people in care - the discussions brought out in the workshops engender a greater understanding across the different groups and help participants gain a greater knowledge, consideration and respect for each others roles.

 

Feedback was received from all participants - 96% of attendees felt the training challenged perceptions and was highly motivating, and 84% felt it should be 'compulsory' for all staff supporting CIC and care leavers. 100% of foster carers who attended stated that it was 'an excellent resource' and felt all foster carers should be encouraged to attend.

 

Many staff felt they had more confidence when advising young people about routes into higher education and had gained confidence in their ability to signpost young people for the appropriate information. They also recognised the significance of their own role in sending out positive messages about educational progress and achievement.

 

We hoped to see an increase in numbers of Surrey Care Leavers engaging in post-16 education and entering higher education by 2007. A 100% increase in the numbers of Surrey young people in care in higher education has been recorded in 2007/2008 and we aim to see that number increase further in 2008/2009.

 

Implications and recommendations

Up-to-date knowledge is a vital tool of professional development and in the context of education, where change is endemic, such training can be invaluable. Staff working with young people in care, including residential staff and foster carers need to be equipped with the knowledge and mindset of high aspirations to ensure that these young people are not denied the educational achievement that we demand of others.

 

The 'How to Go Higher' training programme has proven highly successful and has the potential to be easily embedded within an organisation's training strategy. Work is currently being done to produce the training programme as a kit - with the materials being regularly updated to reflect current policies in education and funding.

 

Contact details
Glyn Hibberd, Pi-Coaching, Academic Adviser working with Aimhigher Surrey and Rainer Surrey 18+ Service
Tel: + 44 (0)7766 912051

 

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