Very early in the life of HEART a decision was taken with our partners that we would work collaboratively in relation to outreach work and support for young people in care (foster, kinship and residential care) in order to assist them in improving achievement at school and enabling them to aspire to higher level learning. The statistics for achievement in school, progression to higher education and employment opportunities for care experienced young people is very low and we intend to do our bit to help improve opportunities.
During August three of our partners, Leeds College of Art, Leeds Trinity University and University of Leeds delivered a series of foster family learning days. These were designed to allow the entire family to come onto campus and take part in learning activities together. With the age range of the youngsters ranging from 5 to 14 and the foster carers being a little older themselves the activities enabled all to engage and have a go.
Leeds College of Art kicked things off on 6th August with two activities, mega family drawing and textile printing. The mega drawing saw all those attending crawling across the floor creating a huge collaborative artwork. After lunch the textile printing allowed individuals to create their own design to put on an environmentally friendly cotton bag that they then took home with them, complete with drawing materials to use at home. Colleagues at the College of Art have suggested they have unearthed some great talent and really hope that this experience will encourage youngsters and adults alike to follow their dreams. One of the foster mum’s has clearly been encouraged as she is looking to commence a short course at the College in the autumn.
Week two saw Leeds Trinity University getting people into teams to design and produce their own luxury muesli. Sounds simple doesn’t it?
Having taken part ourselves we can advise it is anything but as getting the flavour, consistency and nutritional values right is a complex juggling act. In the voting for favourite muesli it was rather upsetting to be thoroughly beaten by a team of 6-8 year olds – their mix was awsome! After lunch we were provided with the opportunity to work in the TV studios producing a news bulletin – it proved quite difficult to get the youngsters out of the studio, actually it was quite difficult to get us out too, great fun and quite a privilege with such expensive equipment. Excess energy was then run off in the gym with Luke, a student ambassador studying sports, health, exercise and nutrition being worn out by highly energetic gymnasts, footballers and athletes!
The final week of this year’s series of events was hosted by University of Leeds in the civil and mechanical engineering departments.
A series of workshop activities were provided from building mini Hurco baskets to creating ever increasing sized tetrahedron’s (pyramids to me and you) until the combined item was big enough for people to stand inside.
After lunch an activity involving chocolate proved frustrating for the young people as they had to leave it wrapped during the tests but happily they were then allowed to take the chocolate home with them. Before leaving a visit to the robotics department allowed teams to race each other using the simulator for the ‘robot worms’ developed by the University to enter previously unexplored small shafts in the great pyramids and finally to listen to a bass guitar, played by robots (no practice required for this one, just good computer coding!).
Feedback from our partners suggests they had great fun working with such a mixed age range and we have received glowing feedback from the foster carers and the young people themselves. As one carer expressed:
“It opened all our eyes to what the universities offer and enabled me to explain what a university actually is., (name withheld) didn’t understand what one was therefore lets hope we have all contributed to showing these looked after children something that one day they can aspire to that perhaps they wouldn’t have been able to previously”
Our next collaborative event is the delivery of this years National Care Leavers Week, National Lecture, aimed at professionals and carers working with looked after young people and care leavers. This will be hosted by our partner Leeds Beckett University (previously Leeds Beckett University) on 28 October and will feature a lecture by Belinda Bluff, completing her Phd at University of Huddersfield and a presentation by Lemn Sissay MBE who has provided the scholarship for Belinda. To learn more about this event check out our latest National Lecture news article.
For those working with young people in care and care leavers please check out our supporting information and do not hesitate to contact us if you believe we can help you support young people to aspire and progress to higher education.