All children in Scotland who have spent time in the care system will be offered the opportunity to go to university, it has been announced.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said young people who achieve the required grades will be offered a university place and will be eligible for a full bursary, worth £7,625 a year.
The offer will come into effect from the start of the 2017/18 academic year in a bid to reduce barriers to higher education faced by children in care and care leavers.
According to latest Scottish government figures young people who have care experience are six times less likely to go on to higher education than their peers.
Sturgeon said: “We are working to ensure that every young person in Scotland has a fair chance to study at university, take a modern apprenticeship or gain experience in the workplace.
“This step, which provides extra, targeted help to those who most need it, is emblematic of our wider approach. I want every young person in Scotland – regardless of gender, wealth, or their family circumstances – to have a fair chance to succeed.”
The pledge follows last autumn’s interim report by the Commission on Widening Access, which called for action to ensure that a young person’s background did not affect their access to higher education.
Another recommendation by the commission that the Scottish government has agreed to adopt is to create a network of summer school-style "academic bridging programmes" to support disadvantaged young people to gain access to university.
This latest move to support children in care and care leavers by the Scottish government follows the raising of the leaving care age to 21.
A provision in the Children and Young People Act 2014 came into force last April to give all looked-after children, including those in residential care, the option to stay in care for a further five years when they reach the age of 16.
In England, Department for Education figures show that just six per cent of care leavers were in higher education in the year ending March 2015 – the same proportion as in 2014.
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