Roehampton wins £200k grant for project to support care leavers at university

  • Tuesday, August 17, 2021

A team led by Dr Aleata Alstad-Calkins, Director of Student Support Services at Roehampton, has won a £200,000 grant from the Office for Students to develop a programme of support for care leavers attending university.

Image - Roehampton wins £200k grant for project to support care leavers at university

Dr Aleata Alstad-Calkins, Director of Student Support Services

The aim of the project is to support care leavers with the transition from school to university and beyond by creating a robust, innovative intervention which enriches their university experience and enhances their opportunities for success. The interventions will include psychological resilience boosting and toolkits for maintaining mental wellness; workshops to enhance their academic abilities; lifestyle management packages which include sleep hygiene advice, budgeting guidance and physical activity opportunities; and careers and employability support.

The project will also involve Dr Vaithehy Shanmuganathan-Felton from the School of Psychology and Dr Luke Felton from the School of Health and Life Sciences, who will evaluate the impact and efficacy of the intervention. External partners include Aim Higher, Care Leavers Association, FIKA and the NHS (Wandsworth IAPT).

Care leaver students are underrepresented in Higher Education but those who access HE are more likely to have poorer education outcomes than other students, higher levels of mental health difficulties and experience barriers to seeking support for mental health. The aim of the project is to empower these students through the provision of a Supportive Transition Programme delivered across each stage of the student cycle, starting with their transition from school to University and onward to a successful career. This ambitious programme will bring together care leavers to collaborate with academic experts, student support services, clinicians, and national and local stakeholders to develop students’ personal and social skills, lifestyle management, academic skills, employability skills and succession planning to ensure a smooth and successful transition and progression at University and beyond. It will also be a unique opportunity for all care leavers attending any London University to build a supportive network.

Dr Alstad-Calkins said: “We are thrilled to have won this funding for this important project. Higher education should be an opportunity for all students to learn and develop the key knowledge and skills they need to go on to a successful career. We know from experience, that care leavers often struggle to access the support they need at university, so we have developed this programme to ensure they receive the support they need from the very start of their time at university. We look forward to working with our colleagues across London to support this group of students over the coming years.”

This funding is part of a wider mental health funding competition run by the Office for Students. Chris Millward, director for fair access and participation at the Office for Students, said: 

“Having a mental health condition should not be a barrier to success in higher education, but for many students this is still the case. Data shows that students reporting a mental health condition are more likely to drop out, less likely to graduate with a first or 2:1, and progress into skilled work or further study – compared to students without a declared condition. We also know that students come to university or college from a range of backgrounds and that their individual journey, and the kind of support they require, is likely to be influenced by their specific circumstances. 

“That’s why this funding of targeted interventions for student mental health is so important. By paying attention to the diverse needs of students; universities and colleges can fine-tune the support they offer and ensure that all students, regardless of where they are from, have the best chance possible to succeed.

“Working with the Department of Health and Social Care and the Department for Education, we are pleased to be able to fund projects across a range universities and colleges targeting a number of priority groups. We look forward to working with these projects to develop and evaluate innovative and collaborative approaches to targeted support for student mental health, and to support the take-up of this learning for the benefit of students in all parts of the sector.”

The project, titled Care Leavers Access, Support and Success (CLASS), will invite all care leavers attending London Universities to take part. Roehampton will be hosting the project and working with schools, London universities and local authorities to identify care leavers who will be attending universities in London and invite them to take part.