Looking after the future
A new mentoring project between students at the University of St Andrews and young people in care has been launched.
The project, which will include University visits, online mentoring and residential revision courses, will support up to 20 local prospective students.
The new initiative is intended to support the progression of this group of ‘looked after’ young people into Further and Higher Education. It is hoped that the provision of a student role model will make a ‘significant difference’ in the future educational opportunities of the selected group.
Second and third year student mentors will be matched to S4 and S5 students from the Fife region either in care, or coming out of care.
The mentoring programme will continue throughout the S4-6 period, with pupils being expected to be able to gain entry to Further or Higher Education at the end of it.
Mike Johnson, the University’s Director of Access and Scottish/EU Admissions, said, “It is intended through this project that students from the University will act as mentors for looked after young people for whom progression to Further or Higher Education might be a realistic option with such support.
“Looked after children face many obstacles and barriers in various aspects of their lives, including, and in some cases particularly, education. One impact of this can be a failure to realise potential, with clear and significant consequences for later life.”
The initiative will entail on-line mentoring as well as visits to the University of St Andrews on a regular basis. There will also be an opportunity for the pupils to take part in residential revision courses at the University throughout the year to help prepare them for their examinations.
Once the student mentors have been trained, the first pupils to take part will be selected in November, with the assistance of Fife Children Services.
The project is testament to the good working partnership developed with Fife Council in order to promote the educational interests of young people in Fife.
Cllr. Willie Campbell, Chair of Fife Council’s Corporate Parent Board, said, “As Corporate parents to all of Fife’s looked after children we want the very best for them, in every respect. That includes making sure that those looked after young people, who have the ability to study at university level when they leave school, have the support they need to make this happen.
“I’m very pleased therefore that through this partnership with the University of St Andrews we can offer support that I believe will make a real difference to young people’s lives, and I am grateful to the students at the University of St Andrews for their willingness to participate in this programme.”
The new project follows the University being recognised for its commitment in providing education to looked after young people, the most underrepresented in education in the UK.
Last October, St Andrews was awarded the prestigious Buttle UK Quality Mark, given to institutions committed to supporting a young person who has been in care, to access further and higher education, successfully complete their studies and achieve their ambitions.
Mike Johnson continued, “Sometimes a lack of aspiration or the absence of a role model who values education or who simply takes a personal interest in a young person’s progress can impact on the choices a young person makes.
“Provision of a mentor could address these issues, and complement the work done by schools to ensure all young people experience positive progression.
“I truly believe that through our partnership with Fife Children Services and the delivery of a mentoring project specifically for young people in looked after settings, we can make significant differences in their educational chances.”
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