Newman University supporting care leavers

18/11/2019 by Sinead Staunton

Newman University ensures that it provides appropriate support and opportunities for those who are care leavers.

In order to do this the University has a number of commitments to care leavers, which includes guaranteed year-round accommodation in halls of residence; guaranteed acceptance onto the preparatory HEADstart course; a named contact within the University; and pre-registration advice and guidance with regards to student finance, accommodation and other queries. Care leavers are also contacted following enrolment at the University, and given a welcome pack that includes key contacts, and a book voucher.

Newman University aims to ensure that those who are care leavers have the opportunities that other students do. Within the University’s Access and Participation Plan there is the commitment that Newman University will be signing the ‘Stand Alone Pledge’ which aims to help estranged students, those who are studying without the support and approval of a family network, to overcome disadvantage. As well as this, the plan states Newman University’s commitment to the Care Leaver Covenant. The Care Leaver Covenant is a promise made by private, public or voluntary organisations to provide support for care leavers aged 16-25 to help them live independently.

Newman University already supports care leavers at the University with their studies and student Anne-Marie has recently spoken about her experiences as a care leaver studying at the University.

Anne-Marie studied her undergraduate degree at Newman before progressing to study her Masters in Work-Based Learning Working with Children, Young People and Families.

Before Anne-Marie began her studies she had spent her childhood in the care system, finding herself moving from place to place and from one school to another. Anne-Marie continued, “I found myself having my children young and had no real focus or passion in life for anything. I had never been supported in education and University was the last thing on my mind. After several attempts to engage with education, I started at college trying to complete my GCSE’s and an Access to Social Science course. I found this extremely difficult as a care leaver. One thing I had learnt to do was stand on my own two feet, I saw asking for help as a failure, however, I had no choice I struggled with the English. Understanding the questions and getting the structure right, but even after asking for help again I was let down was told on many occasions to get on with it.”

Anne-Marie persisted with her college education and managed to succeed to achieve the required grades to gain her place at Newman University. Anne-Marie continued, “upon starting the HEADstart programme I was spoken to in the first week about how much I was struggling, naturally at this point my defensive block went up and I ignored the offer of help but through the lecturer perseverance I was screened for Dyslexia and this proved to be that case. Immediately I was offered help and support and it was at this point for the first time in years I was actually given what I was needed. With this support in place I was helped and encouraged all the way through my degree and still now starting my Masters.”

Anne-Marie felt that, as a care leaver, she was constantly told she would fail at anything she tried and university was never an option. However, Anne-Marie explains that studying at Newman has opened her eyes to what support is. “The team of lecturers I had were amazing and were always on hand to give me help, support and guidance or just someone for me to talk with. The support most definitely got me through. They were non-judgmental and very supportive.”

Since beginning her studies at Newman, Anne-Marie has been involved with and led on student-staff partnership projects as well as being a lead HEADstart mentor this academic year.

Professor John Peters, Director of Learning, Teaching and Scholarship at Newman University, worked with Anne-Marie on the student-staff partnerships and commented “It has been a pleasure to watch Anne-Marie find and develop her voice through her studies and engagement with partnerships working at Newman. This has not just been about being given licence to express her opinions; it has been about her moving from expressions of unformed opinion to confident communication of thought-through ideas. A lot of that is, I think, about her now feeling she belongs and has a place in Higher Education. She epitomises John Henry Newman’s argument that the purpose of HE is to give ‘a person a clear conscious view of their own opinions and judgements, a truth in developing them, an eloquence in expressing them, and a force in urging them’.”

Anne-Marie successfully gained funding to continue in a paid role at the charity she had spent two years volunteering at and is also now completing her Masters degree at Newman.

Anne-Marie added, “For future Newman students I would stand by the HEADstart motto ‘Become, be more, but most importantly belong’. Anyone can achieve and asking for help and support is a strength not a weakness at this University. I have loved learning and growing at this University, I have made lifelong friends in lecturers and fellow students and I will be forever grateful for everything Newman has helped me to become.”

For further information on how Newman University supports Care Leavers visit, the Support for Care Leavers page.