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More care leavers to fulfil higher education aspirations

Sheffield Hallam University's dedication to supporting care leavers in higher education, will be acknowledged on Wednesday when it becomes the first of six universities to receive a Frank Buttle Trust Quality Mark.

It is widely recognised that care leavers are under represented at university due to the absence of financial and emotional support which is usually provided by families. They face considerable challenges which can deter them from considering the option of higher education. The Frank Buttle Trust provides grants and support to enable young people in care to undertake courses at university and succeed in further education.

Alexa Laromani, aged 24, is from a care background in Sheffield and is awaiting the results of her tourism and management degree at Sheffield Hallam University.

She said: "I wasn't sure whether I would be able to achieve higher education, but the money that the Frank Buttle Trust gave me every week was essential. At Sheffield Hallam one tutor in particular was very supportive - I couldn't have asked for any more. Someone listening and being there for you is all the support you can be given. But at the end of the day you've got to do it yourself.

"I'd advise others in the same situation to stay strong - it's hard and stressful, but worthwhile. University helps to expand your mind and teach you new things. You can do things with your experience and learning and expand yourself."

The University has a number of success stories working with halfway houses to help students to complete their courses. In addition to the financial backing provided by Frank Buttle, Sheffield Hallam can deliver the support care leavers need thanks to the already successful widening participation programme, which helps to raise aspirations and target under represented groups. These services include study aid, counselling and advice services and accommodation.

Sheffield Hallam University will be one of six universities to receive the new Quality Mark to recognise the extra mile it has gone to provide support to students from public care, and to encourage more care leavers into higher education.

Annette Sundaraj, from the Access Development Team at Sheffield Hallam, said: "Those young people who succeed at university from a care background do so against considerable odds. At Sheffield Hallam we believe everyone should have the same educational opportunities regardless of their background. The challenges these students face are radically different to those faced by the vast majority, but our existing widening participation activities and the culture of the University provides a support network."

The Quality Marks for Care Leavers in Higher Education will be officially launched in a ceremony at the House of Lords on Wednesday 14 June by Bill Rammell, Minster for Education and Lifelong Learning. Other universities receiving the mark include Southampton, Kingston, Bradford, Leeds and Edge Hill.

The Frank Buttle Trust is the largest UK charity providing grants to thousands of individual children and young people in need annually. The Trust was founded in 1937 by the Reverend Frank Buttle, a man of vision who also founded the National Adoption Society during the First World War.

Donna Goodwin | alfa
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