Quality! Edinburgh College cares

Posted on 09/04/2014 by




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Edinburgh College has been awarded a national Buttle UK Quality Mark for its commitment to supporting young people from care backgrounds.

The college was given the honour in recognition of its support for young people in and leaving care. Buttle UK – a charity that supports children and families living in poverty – recognises colleges and universities that make exceptional steps in helping young people to succeed in their studies and reach their true potential.

The award coincided with a college event organised by Edinburgh College Students’ Association (ECSA) to support students from care backgrounds. The Care Leavers’ Event underlined the college’s commitment to supporting care leavers and saw current students from care backgrounds take to the stage to share their stories and break the stigma attached to those who have been in the care system.

Two Edinburgh College students and another young person with a care background spoke in front of a large audience including Colin Beattie MSP, senior managers and guests from other local organisations including universities. Colin Beattie sits on the Education and Culture Committee, which was instrumental in passing the Children and Young People Bill that addresses looking after children in care and care leavers.

The event was held in partnership with the young people’s voluntary organisation Who Cares? Scotland, and saw the college and ECSA both sign the Who Cares? Scotland Pledge. This, along with the Buttle award, strengthens the long-term support Edinburgh College will provide to students with care backgrounds.

The Buttle award recognises the quality of the financial, pastoral and educational support Edinburgh College offers to young people in and leaving care. The college’s holistic approach to support, as part of its Transitions for Young People Leaving Care (TLC) project, ensures that additional help is not just offered by student support teams but is also embraced by all teams at the college. This approach, as well as working closely with Edinburgh City Council and ECSA, raises the aspirations of care leavers and gives them equal opportunity.

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Myra McCabe, head of Student Services at Edinburgh College, (pictured above with Kelly Parry) said: “Edinburgh College strives to reach some of the most under-represented and hardest-to-reach groups in our local communities. There is no doubt that the challenges facing young people leaving care are great, which is why we want to offer as much support as possible to give young people the chance to succeed.

“To be recognised by this national charity is a great endorsement of what we have achieved. Together with our recent Times Educational Supplement award in widening participation, we are pleased to be able to offer opportunities to those who need them the most or who would not normally consider college as an option. We are now one of only a handful of colleges in Scotland with the Buttle UK Quality Mark and we are delighted to have received the recognition for the real difference the college makes to our students and the local community.”

Kelly Parry (above), student president of ECSA, said: “I am delighted that the college has been awarded the Buttle UK Quality Mark. Care leavers are one of the most marginalised groups in society and are often overlooked and ignored. Over the last year, Edinburgh College Students’ Association and Edinburgh College have been doing some fantastic work to empower care leavers and give them the same chances and prospects as everyone else.

“The Care Leavers’ Event was unique because it was organised by care leavers for care leavers. By coming together to share stories and successes we send a strong message to other young people in care that they have the potential to achieve in education. This was the first time the students had addressed such a large and influential audience and they did brilliantly, speaking clearly and with passion.

“Signing the Who Cares? Scotland pledge is just the first step for us. We want to keep moving forward and to inspire other colleges and associations as well as wider society to really start delivering for care leavers and start transforming their lives.”

Twenty three-year-old Health and Social Care student Nathan Sullivan (pictured below) was one of the key speakers at the Care Leavers’ Event.

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He said: “I’ve been through many different types of foster care – from foster care to respite to living in a residential home – and the reason for this was because my mum had a number of different illnesses. She passed away when I was 14 years old and at this point I was placed into a residential care unit. I was passed from from pillar to post, was confused, upset and angry because I had no stability in my life at that time.

“I then started studying at Edinburgh College, joined the Edinburgh College Students’ Association and realised that I wanted to be a social worker. I’m doing all that I can to achieve this and, with the support from the college and the Students’ Association, I have now set up a peer group for care leavers to help to support many others like me in the future.”