• Pioneering programme to improve access and progression for care leavers into higher education

    The Inner Circle Education Trust is collaborating with researchers at the University of Birmingham and the National Network for the Education of Care Leavers (NNECL) and Camden Virtual School on a trailblazing programme aimed at helping more care leavers gain access to higher education and succeed in their studies.

    Only around 14 per cent of care leavers enter higher education by the age of 19, compared to 47 per cent of the general population.  Those who do have often overcome major challenges and barriers to go to university, but they lack tailored guidance and support for effective transition. 

    The Head Start into Higher Education programme seeks to address this by introducing a targeted programme of support, which aims to:
  • improve educational outcomes for participants
  • positively impact participants’ self-esteem, confidence and well-being,
  • pinpoint chall3enges and barriers for care leavers in accessing educational wellbeing support, and
  • identify solutions for overcoming such barriers.   

    Two initial cohorts of care experienced young people identified by Camden Virtual School will be supported from autumn 2023-24 and 2024-25, extending from year 9 through to their studies in university until 2029-30.  Throughout this period, a team of researchers - comprising Professor Chris Millward, Professor of Practice in Education Policy and Dr Ian McGimpsey, Deputy Head of the School of Education at the University of Birmingham, together with Patricia Ambrose, until recently the current Chief Executive at NNECL, and Dr Claire Crawford, Assistant Professor at the University of Cambridge – will conduct a research evaluation of the programme.


    The evaluation will be co-designed with the learners involved in the programme, and it will also draw on advice from care experienced young people and experts in the field.  It will seek to understand the difference this programme makes to the learners involved by gathering insights from and educational data on the learners involved, and comparing this with similar learners who are not involved in the programme. 



    Notes to editors:

    The Inner Circle Education Trust is a Registered Charity (number 291583) set up in 2020 which aims to support disadvantaged communities to access higher education. It focuses on providing wrap-around support to care experienced young people before, during and after university. www.innercircle.org.uk

    The National Network for the Education of Care Leavers (NNECL) is a registered charity (number 1180793) and charitable incorporated organisation (CIO), formally established in 2018.  Our community of professionals works together to transform the progression of care experienced people into and through further and higher education.   In 2021, NNECL launched its Quality Mark for universities and colleges to demonstrate their commitment to the inclusion and success of care experienced students.

    The Virtual School for Looked After and Previously Looked After Children - Camden Council are a Team of professionals including qualified teachers and specialist staff, led by the Virtual School Head, who holds the statutory duty for Promoting the education of looked-after and previously looked-after children - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk), responsible for developing and improving education policy and services for Children Looked After and young people within the local authority.

    The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions. Its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers, teachers and more than 8,000 international students from over 150 countries. 


    For media enquiries or to speak to the academics involved please contact:


    Sarah Harding

    Communications Officer, University of Birmingham

    Mobile: +44(0)7594 373 589

    Email: [email protected]

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