Elevate: Helping care experienced young people with decision-making about education and work, through student mentoring and life-skills

This blog has been written by Michelle Anson, who is AccessHE Uni Connect Outreach Manager at London Higher. 

In January 2024 we launched the Elevate programme, bringing together a group of 11 care-experienced young people to take part in a seven-month programme aimed at developing participants’ social and emotional learning, knowledge of post-16 pathways. The programme also focuses on associated support for care-leavers, with life-skills such as financial literacy also being covered, as they approach the end of care. Only 14% of care-leavers currently attend university, compared to 47% of non-care-experienced students. We know that care experienced young people face multiple and complex barriers accessing higher education, including financial constraints, instability within foster placements, not receiving information, advice, and guidance about higher education, and often a belief that university is simply not for them. 

Developed in partnership with AccessHE members’ Imperial College London, London School of Management Education and CU London, the Elevate programme is a unique and truly collaborative programme that draws on the expertise of care leaver and youth charities, mentoring specialists, community partners including Virtual Schools and local authorities, AccessHE members and current university students, to deliver wraparound support for care-experienced young people in London as they begin to consider their post-16 education and career pathways. 

The Elevate programme is made up of two strands. The first strand is delivered by education charity Chi Chi’s Young Minds; participants are supported to develop life-skills in areas such as financial literacy, cooking, networking, and creating a LinkedIn profile, as they approach the end of care and prepare for living independently – whether that’s at university, studying for an apprenticeship, or within the world of work. Participants also have the opportunity to visit both a university campus and a corporate organisation in the City. The second strand consists of mentoring with a current university student; participants are carefully matched with mentors based on subject specialism, interests, and experience. Ahead of the mentoring, student mentors attend an interactive training programme led by care-leaver charity Become and mentoring organisation Brightside, ensuring mentors are aware of the rights and entitlements of care-experienced young people, the financial, wellbeing and education support they are entitled to, and what it means to be an impactful and supportive mentor. 

At the end of January, participants attended their first session at the leafy CU London, Dagenham campus. During the session participants sat down with their student mentor and began to identify personal goals they would like to work towards on the programme, as well as identifying strengths and weaknesses, and understanding their own personal brand. The next life-skill session will be hosted at the state-of-the-art Chemical Kitchen facility at Imperial College London, during which participants will make a meal from scratch – and enjoy their creations for lunch. The next mentoring sessions will also take place in March; student mentors and participants will continue conversations about working towards personal development goals. 

The programme aims to address EORR access risks 1, 2 and 3, for care-experienced students (Risk 1: Knowledge and skills, Risk 2: Information and guidance, Risk 3: Perception of higher education), and is in line with the Office for Student’s guidance for universities to collaborate with multiple organisations including employers and charities, to help increase equality of opportunity for all students. The programme will be fully evaluated including external evaluation from Brightside, midway and end of programme focus groups, stakeholder interviews and pre and post-surveys after each session. Full evaluation of the programme will be published in Autumn 2024, and will help shape and inform an expansion of the programme for 2024/25. We are keen to work in close partnership with local authorities and Virtual Schools once more. If you are interested in being involved in the programme next year and would like to find out more, please contact