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First Star Academy at St Mary's University, Twickenham, UK



First Star Academy
Grant

Bringing the First Star programme to the UK. The First Star Academies programme began in the US in 2011, with the objective of addressing the low achievement and limited life choices of young care leavers. First Star, currently in 8 universities, supports the education of looked after children from age 14 to 18, monitoring their progress throughout the year and providing academic tutoring, mentoring, life skills and careers guidance to help their academic and personal development and get them into university.


St Mary's was founded in 1850 as a Catholic teacher training college. It has since diversified significantly, though it still specialises in teacher training and education, alongside subjects such as sports, health and applied science, arts and humanities, theology, management and social sciences. Based in Twickenham in South West London, it is a small and friendly university with a large campus.


Summary

The challenge

  • In 2013, 41% of all 18 and 19 year olds in England started in higher education
  • The same year, only 6% of care leavers started in higher education
  • 55% of non-looked after children achieved 5 A*-Cs at GSCE, including English and Maths
  • 14% of looked after young people achieved 5 A*-Cs at GSCE, including English and Maths
  • Teenagers face a 50% risk of foster placement breakdown during a 12 month period
  • Around one-third of young care leavers experience homelessness within the first 2 years
  • 23% of adults and almost 40% of those under 21 in prison have been in care, whereas only 2% of the general population spend time in prison

Our solution

The First Star Academies programme began in the US in 2011, with the objective of addressing the low achievement and limited life choices of young care leavers. First Star, currently in 8 universities, supports the education of looked after children from age 14 to 18, monitoring their progress throughout the year and providing academic tutoring, mentoring, life skills and careers guidance to help their academic and personal development and get them into university.

Adapting the successful US model, a First Star academy will be piloted at St Mary’s University in Twickenham.  It will recruit 30 looked after young people aged 14, and for four years students will spend a day a month and four weeks each summer on St Mary’s campus, supported by peer mentors drawn from St Mary’s students.  The programme will include:

  • Academic support – to achieve good GCSE and A Level results and prepare them for HE
  • Life skills – financial management, healthy living, risk reduction and confidence building
  • Emotional resilience – including social engagement skills
  • Support for foster parents – to improve foster placement stability

St Mary’s is particularly well placed to run a pilot and develop a UK-specific programme.  We have a history of recruiting students from non-traditional backgrounds: 40% of our students are the first in their family to go to university and 40% receive full maintenance grants.  In addition, St Mary’s is at the forefront of education research and teacher training, so we are in an excellent position to develop a British model programme.

Our results

The first group of 120 US students completed the programme in 2015:

  • 100% graduated high school, compared to a national rate of 50% of care leavers
  • 90% continued into higher education, whereas it is normally 10% of US care leavers
  • The students who went to university are all still there and the 10% who didn’t go to university are all in employment or the military
  • By age 19, 51% of girls in US foster care have been pregnant, but there were no pregnancies among First Star students
  • There were also significant improvements in foster placement stability for all students

The Ask

We started fundraising in March 2016. The total budget to run the First Star Academy at St Mary’s for 30 children for four years is £840,000 and so far we have commitments totalling £600,000, with £400,000 from Sir John Cass Foundation, with the balance from St Mary’s University and Access Funds. We are in the closing stage with another grant application for £160,000, and are now seeking to raise the balance, which is £80,000.


 

 
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First Star Academy

Impact sectors:

Education
 
Impact locations:
 

 

UK

 

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