Education

Be the #1 – inspiring looked-after learners

screen-shot-2016-11-01-at-13-42-29THE UNIVERSITY OF WALES TRINITY SAINT DAVID (UWTSD) is playing an integral part in an inspirational new campaign that will be launched during National Care Leavers’ Week later this month.

The aim of the Be The #1 campaign is to encourage Foster Carers, key workers and teachers to help the young people in their care to raise their educational attainment and aspirations.

National Care Leavers’ Week is about highlighting the needs of Care Leavers and encouraging the agencies responsible for looking after them to work in a coordinated and effective way.

The dedicated carers week also offers an opportunity to focus on the numerous issues facing an invisible minority who have to deal with a particular set of challenges as they enter adult life. It’s also a chance to raise awareness amongst the public and to underline the support that’s desperately needed for these young people.

Trystan Rees from UWTSD has been working collaboratively with the South West Wales Reaching Wider Partnership to develop the Be The #1 campaign – a series of short films, focusing on four individual students and graduates on their unique academic journey from Year 13 to entering employment following their graduation from university.

With the Be The #1 campaign launched to coincide with National Care Leavers’ Week, one film will be released each day from October 20 until October 30.

Staff from UWTSD and the South West Wales Partnership will also be delivering a programme of Be The #1 training sessions to Foster Care networks from across South West Wales from November 2016.

“UWTSD is committed to providing a very high standard of care and support for its students,” said Trystan Rees.

“If you are a student entering Higher Education from care, you can be assured that the university will offer the necessary support and information. This support is available whilst you are deciding what or where to study, continuing throughout the university application process, and is ongoing once you have started your course. Help and information is also available if you are someone advising a student from care,” continues Trystan.

Young people from a care background can declare on their UCAS application form that they have been in care, or their Social Services team can let the university know that the student is a Care Leaver. This enables the university to make sure that support is in place from an early stage.

“UWTSD provides a friendly, safe and welcoming place in which to study. After the student has been offered a place at the university, they will have the opportunity to come to a support meeting which will be arranged to help them with the transition to university life,” continues Trystan Rees.

“The meeting can include the student, their Looked after Children team member, the university’s named person for Care Leavers, and, if required, the Accommodation Officer and a representative from the academic school that they will be joining. During this meeting, it will be possible to establish how much financial support is available to the student, and the type of accommodation they would prefer and, where appropriate, to make provision for any additional support they may need such as for a disability or specific learning difficulty like dyslexia,” he added.

Katie King has been through the care system and is currently studying at UWTSD’s Carmarthen campus.

“I’m Theatre Design and Production student at the university and am currently in my third year. I’ve had a social worker for longer than I can remember and was in and out of foster care a lot – I think in one year I managed seven or eight placements,” says Katie.

“I would say the biggest hurdles in getting into higher education is getting people to listen to you and understand you and see that you’re serious. Whilst in higher education, I’ve received great support from different departments, particularly from student services and from a lady called Delyth Lewis.

“Delyth is the finance officer but also deals with Care Leavers at this university. She has been extremely helpful in providing support – it’s probably down to her that I’m still here. She pushed me to continue because she knew that it’s what I wanted to do – she’s always giving me options of how I can do that and basically gone beyond what her job requires her to do.

“University has definitely changed me as a person for the better. I’m a lot more confident. I’m now working as a student ambassador for the university – I do a lot with Reaching Wider and with the marketing team, showing people around and telling them about the university and how good it is, how much it’s helped me,” added Katie.

Alex Sommerville, who’s also been through the care system, recently graduated from UWTSD and found her university experience invaluable.

“I did the Youth and Community Work degree and that has directly led on to the work that I do now – working with young people around substance misuse in Swansea,” said Alex.

“I’d always had the impression that to go to university you need to have A Levels, like going through sixth form, so I did actually sign up and do an A Level of English literature. It’s when I was talking to my friend about having to do another two A Levels that she told me about an access course I could do. It’s at the university, but it’s at A Level standard and I found the whole experience really useful, especially because it was then that I was diagnosed with dyslexia and dyspraxia.

“I accessed support at the university through student services and it was really, really good. I got contacted not long after I started because I’d ticked the box on the application form that said I was a Care Leaver. I then had a chat with a lovely lady who said that she would be my contact for the whole time I was at university.

“I do think everyone has the potential. I think it should be open to everyone and I did have the impression that if you’ve been in care, university is something that you’re really ever going to achieve, which is totally wrong. Don’t get me wrong, a degree isn’t for everyone but I think that everyone should have the option,” said Alex.

For further information on the support offered to Care Leavers, please visit www.uwtsd.ac.uk/care/.