Children’s charity The Frank Buttle Trust has awarded Kingston a quality mark for its commitment to looking after care leavers. The trust, which provides grants to thousands of children and teenagers in need, has recognised the University as an institution prepared to go the extra mile to give young people who have been in care access to the financial and emotional support to complete a degree. Kingston is one of only six institutions across the United Kingdom to have received endorsement from the charity.
Associate Head of Academic Development Mike Hill said helping care leavers overcome the disadvantages they faced was crucial to encouraging them to progress through higher education. “The process of applying for a place and completing a course is a big enough challenge for any student,” he said. “At Kingston, we’re very aware that for someone who might not have a settled family background, full access to the normal educational support structures or guidance to fall back on during the course of their studies, it can at first seem an insurmountable hurdle. Receiving the quality mark means we can show young people from this vulnerable group that we’re sympathetic to their particular needs and determined to help them succeed.”
The University is already highly respected for taking a leading role in AimHigher initiatives to persuade young people who might not have otherwise considered moving on to university that a degree could hold the key to a brighter future. Its Education Liaison team works closely with students from groups that are under-represented on campus, running activities such as discovery days, subject taster days, and summer schools. These activities were in the process of being extended in a development that would see Education Liaison staff work closely with officers from Kingston Council’s Looked After and Leaving Care Services, Mr Hill said. The team would also continue to place a high priority on staging information events for school teachers and careers advisers so they were equipped to play their part in promoting higher education as an achievable option.
Care leavers have also been identified as a target group in the University’s Compact scheme, set up to provide applicants with enhanced information and advice about courses, accommodation, funding and finance. Provisions were now in place to guide them through the complexities of the admissions process, Mr Hill said.
Minister for Lifelong Learning and Higher Education Bill Rammell praised Kingston and the other quality mark recipients for the foresight they had shown in their work with care leavers. “Not only does this award show care leavers that higher education providers are committed to helping them overcome the challenges they face, it ensures that they have the same educational opportunities as other young people,” he said. His views were echoed by Minister for Social Exclusion Hilary Armstrong. “The quality mark is a crucial step towards encouraging aspiration and providing opportunity for those who have been all too readily written off,” she said