A student walks through a library atrium

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.

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 challenges 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.