Taste of Uni Life Sparks Lightbulb Moment

ACWA partnered with the Why Not You Project  and UTS to host a very successful University Experience Day on July 26. The day incorporated a 3D Design and Coding exhibition tour followed by a workshop for students in years 9-12 who are currently in care. More than 22 students attended and were given the opportunity to be among the first to look at the new underground Proto Space at UTS.

One student sat with his case manager at lunch and talked through his realisation that he might be able to go to university saying, “So if I came here (to UTS) I could hang out with my friends at lunch and we could talk about the classes we’d been to?” When told that this was very much the case he then responded, “Could I do this at any university, maybe one closer to home?” The case manager said that she could see the lightbulb go off in his head; that moment when he really felt that university could be a distinct possibility for him. This vignette alone makes the day a success!

The event incorporated a parallel program for approximately 15 carers and caseworkers (pictured below) to hear about how they can provide educational support for the young people in their care. Speakers included Anastasia Glusko (Why Not You Project), Amanda Moors-Mailei (UTS Widening Participation Coordinator – Access Schemes and Pathways, Equity and Diversity Unit), and Lorna Genoud (Education Consultant, Practice Service and Outcomes, Youth Plus – Life Without Barriers). Valuable information was shared with the group about university access and support, raising young people’s aspirations and belief in themselves, and the transformative power of education.

Many of the caseworkers and carers present agreed to work together going forward to improve education prospects for young people in care including looking at conducting a UK-style Education Champions pilot in NSW. UTS is also embedding a number of support processes for students in care and will continue to look at ways to improve access wherever possible. The program for carers and caseworkers provided a rare opportunity for sharing knowledge and experiences from multiple perspectives and most of those present have now joined ACWA’s OOHC and Education Action Committee as well as continuing to work with and support the Why Not You Project.

In the meantime the intersectorial committee initiated by ACWA (as part of our Let Them Learn Project) to share information, discuss and develop responses to factors that contribute to the poor educational outcomes of children and young people in care continues to meet on a quarterly basis. At the latest meeting in June, the committee discussed school complaints policy and processes. Agencies who have students in care are advised that Assistant Principals (Disability) are the key point of contact in the public education system; while issues within Catholic schools that remain unresolved at local level should be referred to the local diocese. ACWA will be circulating further information regarding complaints processes within the NSW education sector in due course. The committee is also considering the concept of ‘corporate parenting’ as a framework for collaboratively improving the educational outcomes of children in care.

The intersectorial committee is set to come together again in September. Participants at this upcoming meeting will include representatives from the NSW Department of Education, the Department of Family and Community Services, Catholic Schools NSW, the Association of Independent Schools of NSW, AbSec and CREATE. Later in the year ACWA, in conjunction with the committee, will conduct a review of the progress made under this initiative.