First Minister backs project to improve outcomes for Scotland’s care-experienced students

Care experienced students taking part in a new service to improve their outcomes met with Scotland’s first minister this week.

The students from Glasgow’s three colleges and West College Scotland shared their personal experiences with Nicola Sturgeon (pictured), as she backed an Action for Children project aimed at improving opportunities for care-experienced young people attending college.

The charity has joined forces with Glasgow Colleges Regional Board (GCRB) and West College Scotland to offer the partnership service, the Stay programme, which aims to provide practical and emotional help to care-experienced students helping them succeed in college and beyond.

In Scotland, 93% of school leavers progressed to positive destinations in 2017/18, compared to 76% of children in care that year and 69% of children in care for part of the year.

Ms Sturgeon said: “Young people with care experience often have more barriers to overcome than their peers but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have the same ambitions and achieve the same goals.

“Initiatives like the new STAY service are vital to ensure every young person in Scotland, regardless of their background, has access to the same experiences and education and, ultimately, the same chance to live a happy, fulfilled and successful life.”

She added: “It was a pleasure to meet the young people who are already benefitting from STAY and their support workers, who are providing not only practical but emotional help too. The service is clearly already making a big difference.”

Paul Carberry, Action for Children Director for Scotland, added: “In order to support these young people to make the most of their potential, talent and learning opportunities, we are working in partnership with the colleges to deliver the STAY service.

“From our experience, someone being there for you when you are struggling to cope, can make all the difference. A simple act like a knock at their door, a text message, or just being available for a chat can be so effective.”

He added: “I am really looking forward to STAY becoming an integral part of the student support provision. The success of the project will be care experienced students fulfilling their potential in college.”

Janie McCusker, Chair of Glasgow Colleges’ Regional Board, added: “We were delighted to welcome the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, to the Glasgow College region and to provide an overview of the STAY programme for care-experienced learners.

“There is a dedicated key worker on hand at each of the three colleges in Glasgow to support care-experienced students and we are pleased that they are benefitting from this additional help and guidance.

“We aim to build on the success of this collaborative project and help our learners progress to positive destinations.”

The launch of the STAY initiative comes as the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) announced its National Ambition for Care-Experienced Students, which calls for colleges and universities to ensure there is no difference in outcomes for care experienced students by 2030.

SFC Chief Executive Karen Watt said: “We believe that all of Scotland’s young people should have equal opportunities to access and succeed in further and higher education irrespective of their background. Care-experienced young people and adults include some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in our society but they often have the most untapped talent and potential.

“We want to continue to increase the intake of care-experienced students, no matter their age, and improve the positive outcomes of Scotland’s care-experienced students so there is no difference with their peers.

“We look forward to working with our colleges, universities and other corporate parents to achieve the targets and to bring impactful, sustainable and positive change.”

At all levels, care-experienced students have lower success rates than those who are not care-experienced. In 2017-18 there was a difference of 6.0 percentage points for retention to year two of full-time Undergraduate courses at university, while for full-time FE courses at college the gap in successful completion was 15.6 percentage points. The vision is for equal outcomes by 2030.

Picture (c) Action For Children.