Looked After Children (LAC)/Care Leavers

21 December 2006/ updated 07 April 2009

To: Principal contact for OFFA / Managers responsible for access agreements

Dear colleague

In recent months the issue of looked after children has risen high on the Government’s agenda. In October the Government published the Green Paper ‘Care Matters: transforming the lives of children and young people in care’, and earlier this month the Chancellor confirmed in the Pre-Budget Report that the Government will consult on local authority bursaries of £2,000 for looked after children going to university.

While it is not compulsory, we would like to encourage institutions, if they have not done so already, and in the context of widening participation policies more generally, to consider how their access agreements address the needs of care leavers.

We would also like to encourage institutions to consider the benefits of adopting the Frank Buttle Trust Quality Mark for Care Leavers in Higher Education.

Looked after children are hugely disadvantaged in society and this is reflected in their chronic under-representation in higher education. Many of these children face cumulative and significant barriers to entry including lower attainment, lack of positive role models, low expectations (from carers and advisers), low aspirations and a lack of confidence in the affordability of higher education. As things stand, only about six in a hundred actually continue into HE.

Quality Mark

We welcome the Government’s determination to address these disadvantages and we are very pleased to be able to support the care leavers agenda by highlighting the ‘Frank Buttle Trust Quality Mark for Care Leavers in Higher Education’, which recognises the efforts of institutions in supporting students who have been in care. To date seven institutions already hold the Quality Mark and six more have submitted applications. Information on the Quality Mark and its supporting report, ‘By Degrees: from care to university’ can be found on the Frank Buttle Trust website.

We would strongly encourage institutions to consider the recommendations in the research report and consider the benefits of adopting the Quality Mark.

Access agreements

Addressing the needs of care leavers in access agreements

We would encourage institutions to consider how access agreements address the needs of care leavers.

We recognise that access agreements may already benefit this group of students simply by making financial support available to low income groups and as care leavers will usually qualify for full support this will almost certainly be the case. However, we feel it is worth considering whether care leavers would benefit from specific targeting to raise expectations and aspirations and targeting of bespoke financial information around fees and support, or additional financial or other support.

Amending access agreements

We have always said that, beyond the minimum requirements for students on full state support, it is for institutions to determine the focus of their access agreements. This remains the case, but we also recognise that in the light of experience and evidence, institutions may wish to refine their access agreements over time to ensure that they are effective in their aims, and this may include opportunities to target additional under-represented groups, such as looked after children, where a need is identified.

If institutions do wish to make any changes to access agreements in light of the above, then they should be sent to accessagreements@offa.org.uk. We would be happy to discuss proposed amendments in advance of a submission if that would be helpful. Enquiries should be directed to Jean Arnold, enquiries@offa.org.uk or tel. 0117 931 7171.