Whilst estimates vary, evidence shows that young people with care experience are underrepresented in higher education (HE).
What Works for Children’s Social Care (WWCSC) partnered with the Centre for Transforming Access and Student Outcomes in Higher Education (TASO), Become (the national charity for children in care and young care leavers), and the National Association of Virtual School Heads (NAVSH) to develop the Springboard Programme to try to widen access to HE and further education (FE) for care-experienced young people.
The Programme involved Virtual School Heads sending a letter from a care-experienced young person in further or higher education to 16-18 year olds in care to share their experiences of HE and FE, encourage them to consider it, and signpost them to support. This support included a professional recruited by Become for their helpline, who specialised in supporting care-experienced young people with further and higher education queries, and videos from care experienced young people in further and higher education posted to Become’s website. This report describes what we did and what we learnt from implementing the programme.
The overarching aim of the Springboard Programme was to increase interest and access to further and higher education for care experienced young people.
The Programme was based on previous research by the Behavioural Insights Team with students eligible for free school meals. This pilot sought to determine if it could be replicated for children in care and to learn any lessons from its implementation.
How we went about it
To understand how the Programme worked in practice we did two surveys: one seeking feedback from Virtual School Heads on the process of sending the letters and one requesting data on the number of FE and HE letters sent. In addition, semi-structured interviews were completed with Become’s FE/HE Officer and their Senior Advice and Support Officer.
Virtual School Heads who distributed the letters to young people found the process straightforward. They were satisfied with the guidance and stationery provided to send the letters and leaflets. There was positive feedback from young people and professionals who accessed Become’s support for FE and HE enquiries.
The programme is low cost and straightforward. The total cost of the letter component was £4,488 which amounted to £2 per letter sent to a young person. The video component of the intervention was £5,710. The total cost of the Become advisor role was £34,000.
We found no evidence of adverse effects of the programme. Future implementation should consider an impact evaluation.
The report highlights a number of recommendations to improve support for young people in this area:
- The quality of the data and data infrastructure should be improved to provide accurate data on care leavers attending FE and HE up until the age of 25 and beyond as data becomes available.
- Programmes aiming to increase care leavers’ attendance in FE and HE should consider both support required to raise young people’s attainment at an earlier age and support to help older care leavers access FE and HE at a later stage.
- Support should be in place to ensure VSHs have the resources they need to assist young people in care aged 16-18 with their next steps in education.