New Quality Mark award for the inclusion and success of care experienced students

New Quality Mark award for the inclusion and success of care experienced students

Stockport College has received a new Quality Mark recognising its support for students who have spent some or all of their lives in public care.

The award for colleges and universities was received from the National Network for the Education of Care Leavers (NNECL), a charity whose aim is to transform the opportunities available for care-experienced students by championing the continuous improvement of local practice, multi-agency partnerships and national collaboration.

The mark recognises Stockport College's long-standing history of support for care experienced students, through a statement of support, evidence of specific training and builds on the inclusion of student voices within the College’s decision-making processes.

Programme Leader for Learner Services, Shaun Deakin, said: “At the College Group we are excited to be part of the NNECL Quality Mark. The process has enabled us to focus specifically on care leavers and their provision to ensure that we provide a supportive environment which promotes achievement. We are thankful to be part of the NNECL support network where we can share good practice and seek advice from fellow professionals. We look forward to the journey that lies ahead.”

Services already available to all students within the College include the allocation of a pastoral mentor in addition to a course tutor, regular mental health and wellbeing workshops and access to counselling, in addition to many different enrichment opportunities.

Patricia Ambrose, NNECL Director, commented: “Our new Quality Mark enables universities and colleges to demonstrate the effectiveness of their support for care experienced students from pre-application through to graduation and beyond. Building on the excellent legacy of previous work by Buttle UK, the NNECL Quality Mark covers all aspects of the student lifecycle and has been informed by recent research findings and feedback from care experienced students on the types of support they value.”

Universities Minister, Michelle Donelan, has shown her support for the initiative, by issuing the following statement: "Improving the opportunities available to care leavers as they gain independence and enter adulthood, is a top priority of this government.

"This new Quality Mark will help ensure students with experience of being in care have the support they deserve, and the information they need to choose the universities or colleges that work best for them.

“I warmly welcome this evidence-based approach, and encourage all institutions to join this sector-wide effort to provide targeted support for these students, at every stage of their education.”

Since late 2019, work has been underway through the NNECL to develop this new award, with funding from the UPP Foundation for the initial developmental pilot, and additional support from the Greater Manchester Combined Authority for a collaborative project in 2021.

Richard Brabner, Director of the UPP Foundation, said: “We are delighted to see the NNECL Quality Mark being launched nationally. As a Foundation, we focus our funding on innovative projects which seek to improve practice across the sector. The Quality Mark is a great example of this – an initiative that will ultimately transform the lives of some of higher education’s most underrepresented students. We encourage all UK universities to work with the excellent team at NNECL to improve the opportunities and outcomes of care-experienced students, and, in time, to apply for Quality Mark status.”

The Trafford College Group was among 17 universities and colleges to receive the NNECL at an online launch event on June 24th.