Of the 15,404 children in care in Scotland only 7% go straight to university from high school – compared to 39% of their peers
From next year every young person who has experience of the care system will be offered a guaranteed place at university and a significant bursary so they can accept it, as long as they meet the required grades.
The Scottish Government announcement follows a report from the Commission on Widening Access which set out a range of actions, including making it more financially possible for everyone to attend, ensuring a student’s background is not a barrier to their education.
As a result, from the 2017/18 academic year, all care experienced young people will be offered a bursary of £7,625 – in addition to the free tuition which is available to all.
Care experience describes a range of ways in which children can be looked after; whether that be social work involvement with their family, living with their grandparents or other family member instead of their mum or their dad and those living away from home with foster carers or in a children’s home.
Currently there are 15,404 children in care with only 7% going straight to university from high school – compared to 39% of their peers.
The first minister is telling young people that they are believed in, and that as their parent, she expects them to succeed
Speaking at an event organised by youth organisation Young Scot, where she faced questions from 450 young people, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the initiative was one way the government was working to ensure that every young person in Scotland has a fair chance to study at university, take a modern apprenticeship or gain experience in the workplace.
She added: “We know that young people who have care experience are six times less likely to go on to higher education than other young people.
“This step which provides extra, targeted help to those who most need it is emblematic of our wider approach. I want every young person in Scotland – regardless of gender, wealth, or their family circumstances – to have a fair chance to succeed.”
In addition, the first minister confirmed she fully endorses another of the report’s recommendations which calls for a network of academic bridging programmes to be developed across the country.
These schemes, similar to summer schools, would allow disadvantaged learners between school and college and university to showcase their potential, top-up their attainment and boost their chances of admission.
Both announcements were welcomed by the national voluntary organisation Who Cares? Scotland, which works with care experienced young people.
Its chief executive, Duncan Dunlop, said it was a step closer to equality for those young people who will benefit.
He said: “The First Minister is telling young people that they are believed in, and that as their parent, she expects them to succeed.
“That is the kind of message that children hear from their parents in living rooms and kitchens across Scotland every day. It shouldn’t be different for young people in care.
“I call on everyone in Scotland to do what they can to champion and care for these young people. These are Scotland’s children and they are part of Scotland’s future.”