Heriot-Watt University is working with a number of stakeholders in Edinburgh who have joined forces to increase the educational opportunities open to people who have spent time in care.
The HUB for SUCCESS project, which will be officially launched this week, was set up to tackle the trend of care experienced people leaving school at a young age and with few qualifications.
Figures show 73 per cent of care experienced young people will leave school at the minimum age - 16 or before - compared with 27 per cent of all school leavers, and six per cent go directly from school to university compared with 41 per cent of all school leavers.
Retention rates for care experienced students at both university and college are below average, with completion rates for FE college courses for care experienced students being a particular issue; only 57.9 per cent of those studying in 2016-17 completed their qualification, compared to 73.2 per cent of those without care experience.
The HUB for SUCCESS (Support for University and College for Care Experienced in South-East Scotland) operates from the City of Edinburgh Council Customer Hub in the Royal Mile. It provides individual information and advice on education opportunities, accommodation and finance, both on a drop-in basis and by making home/campus visits.
It has already helped 28 care experienced people, providing impartial, up-to-date advice on the best pathways to their education with a specific aim of increasing retention. It will work in partnership with city schools to develop targeted projects to raise the expectations and awareness of primary school children who are care experienced. The Hub aims to work with care experienced people of all ages.
The Hub's core partners are Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh Napier University, the University of Edinburgh, Queen Margaret University, the Open University in Scotland, Edinburgh College, Newbattle Abbey College and City of Edinburgh Council, and the project has been developed in consultation with Who Cares? Scotland, The Prince's Trust and surrounding local authorities with the aim of identifying people who would benefit from support and encouragement to fulfil their potential.
Hub manager Lorraine Moore said: “Our feedback suggests the one-to-one support we offer has been hugely valued, by our younger care experienced learners and especially by people who have been out of school for some time.
“The Hub will help develop support networks for students prior to starting their course, as well as offering an informal environment where they can bring their concerns as they go through university or college.”
Cllr Alison Dickie, vice Convener for Education, Children and Families at the City of Edinburgh Council, said: “The Hub's success is a great example of education partners across the city coming together to improve the opportunities for our care experienced young people to get into university and college.
“As a Council we are determined to give them every opportunity to succeed in life and this project builds on the exciting work we are doing across the city to promote corporate parenting. We now have care experienced young people on our Champions Board and also employ two as participation officers who are reaching out to young people in Edinburgh.”
The initial costs of the project have been met by Heriot-Watt, Edinburgh Napier, the University of Edinburgh and the Scottish Children's Lottery providing an additional £35,000 through its Chance to Study programme.