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Government endorses programme to prepare young people for student life

31 October 2019

At Unite Students, we have spent years helping young people to thrive in new situations and supporting them as they make the ‘Leap’ into university – a huge transition from home life to independent living that may often be taken for granted. Our insight reports have identified significant gaps in student expectations vs. the reality of student living.

To help young people to close this expectation gap, we have developed Leapskills, a programme designed to introduce young people to student life scenarios and provoke group discussion on conflict resolution and problem solving whilst giving a general insight into independent living. The journey started a couple of years ago when we partnered with IntoUniversity to start delivering our Leapskills sessions to young people who are interested in going to university. To celebrate today’s endorsement of Leapskills by the Department for Education we caught up with IntoUniversity to hear what they think about the programme two years on.

On the 1st of May I hosted Breaking The Barriers at Unite’s Orchard Heights accommodation. It was a one off event aimed at helping young people who are estranged from their parents or have spent time in care, to access higher education. I organised this event, with the help of many lovely people, because coming to university has been the best experience of my life-so far. However, I am aware that for many people, there are significant barriers that may stop them from getting here. So, I thought that it would be useful for me to share my experiences, in the hope that it might make university seem like a more accessible place.

I became estranged from my parents when I was 14. For me, school was my safe place. I enjoyed the stability and the structure it gave me, and school was something I was good at. I can’t remember exactly when I first thought that I wanted to go to university, no one in my immediate family had ever gone, but after attending a Sutton Trust Summer school in Year 11, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.

One of the most important things I’ve learnt since being at university is that no one is “normal”. It may sometimes seem like everything is set up around the typical “nuclear family”, but in coming to university and meeting people from all walks of life and having countless new experiences, I’ve realised that having different life experiences is what makes people so interesting and it can shape you into a much better person because of it.

Education is key to social mobility and making sure that everyone can pursue their passions. This is why I’m passionate about spreading the word that university is for all. At the event we addressed four main barriers to university for young people who are estranged or care experienced. They are:

• lack of information, advice and encouragement

• worrying about finances

• worrying about accommodation

• worry about additional academic and person difficulties

We highlighted the wealth of support out there – if you know where to look – and Unite Students ran their Leapskills workshop which provided a great opportunity for conversations about what living at university might be like. I hope that no one will be put off of considering university because of their background.