Strathclyde focuses on pupils in care

University course gives looked-after children a taste of life on campus

A Scottish university has hosted a three-day residential programme for the first time to raise the aspirations of teenagers who have been in care.

The programme, run by the University of Strathclyde's innovative routes to learning unit, gave 10 young people aged 13 to 14 an opportunity to experience life on campus, work with current students and experience a range of university subjects.

The proportion of looked-after children leaving school and going on to higher education in 2010-11 was so small that the Scottish government was unable to record a figure in its official statistics. In the same year, 36 per cent of all Scottish school-leavers went on to higher education.

Iain Mitchell, programme director of the innovative routes to learning unit, said it was important to show young people from disadvantaged backgrounds that university is open to them.

"These young people may not have had all the advantages in life that others have had, but we wanted to show them that they have as much right to go on to university as anyone else," he said.

"The programme was designed to raise their knowledge and awareness of courses and careers that are open to them, debunk some misconceptions they may have about university and allow them to see that they have the potential to go on to higher education."

Government statistics show that 88 per cent of looked-after children who left school during 2010-11 were aged 16 or under, compared with only 34 per cent of all school-leavers.

The young people on the University of Strathclyde programme - set up in conjunction with the Centre for Excellence for Looked After Children in Scotland - came from three secondaries in the east end of Glasgow.

As well as enjoying activities that allowed them to investigate the campus and find out about university life, the pupils, who were supported by student mentors, took part in a legal debate, made stalagmites in chemistry labs and measured their brainwaves in the psychology department.

Pupils also had the opportunity to stay in university accommodation and take part in evening events, including an event aimed at parents and carers.

emma.seith@tess.co.uk

FAST FORWARD

The University of Strathclyde's programme for children with a care background builds on another scheme at the university designed to give disadvantaged young people a taste of higher education, which has been running since 2009.

This year, young people on the week-long S@S Accelerate! programme made paracetamol, conducted mock trials and designed their own triathlon at Glasgow's Commonwealth Games venue, the Emirates Arena.

A quarter of the S4, 5 and 6 students who took part were from the 20 per cent most deprived areas in Scotland.

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