The Fostering Network recently ran a #TickTheBox social media campaign to highlight the importance of care-experienced students self-identifying when applying through UCAS. As part of the campaign the charity ran a webinar that advised foster carers about the importance of care leavers ticking the box. I decided to attend, as the topic aligns with GHWY’s aims, and I was interested in finding out more about the the support being offered by other organisations.
The webinar was delivered by representatives from UCAS and had contributions from the Student Loans Company and the Head of Widening Access and Participation at University of Sunderland, among others.
Speakers at the event repeatedly offered reassurance that ticking the box is only ever used to identify those needing support. This was a vital message because, in our experience, many care-experienced students are unsure whether they should identify, often with misconceptions about what impact sharing their status has on their application.
Other topics covered at the event included a clarification on who is considered to be a Care Leaver – to better equip foster carers to prepare their young people for what support might be available as well as how to apply – and the importance of dedicated care-leaver contacts. Such contacts are available at all 13 of our members and I have consistently advised foster carers to make sure they are used when available, as I have found them to be welcoming, enthusiastic and genuinely caring about the students. It was encouraging to see the trend for such contacts continuing outside West Yorkshire.
I’m very glad to have been able to attend the webinar. It introduced me to the great work being carried out by some organisations with which I was not previously familiar, as well as hearing more from existing contacts at the National Network for the Education of Care Leavers.
One of the key takeaways from the webinar and wider social media campaign is the need to reassure prospective applicants that ticking the care-experienced box is never a detriment and only allows HE providers to identify who can benefit from support the most.
Dominic House, GHWY Care to Go Higher Delivery Officer