Only six per cent of kids in care go to uni, Glasgow’s Jamie Dalgouette is one of them

Jamie is now working to help more kids in care go to university

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Jamie Dalgouette went into care at six months old. He's now a first year student at Glasgow and wants to help more kids like him who went through the care system into university. Currently only six per cent do, and Jamie is one of only three "Care Experienced" kids from North Ayrshire to go to uni.

The term "Care Experienced" (CE) includes anyone who has been or is currently in care or from a looked after background at any stage of their life. As of July 2017, there were almost 15,000 looked after children, 2,600 children on the child protection register and 76 residents in secure care accommodation in Scotland.

We met up with Jamie for a chat and to find about his experience of the Scottish care system and life at Glasgow Uni, as well as the work he's been doing with various organisations to raise awareness and change.

Can you tell us a bit about your background growing up?

I went into care at six months because I was being neglected. I dipped in and out of trial periods living with my mum but they failed and ultimately it was decided that the rest of my childhood should be in care. She died when I was 10, and I stayed in care until I was 21.

What do you do now?

I’m studying a BA in community development at Glasgow Uni. I’m loving it, it’s all about challenging politics and encouraging us to get in peoples' ears about important issues that need to be heard. I live in Ardrossan with my dog and drive in to uni. I'm politically active and thinking about it as a career, last week there was a huge Love Rally in Glasgow which was great.

What’s your experience at uni been like, as one of only six per cent of CE people who get here?

The first time I came I was 20. People kept telling me I was one of only three CE kids in North Ayrshire to go. It annoys me that people celebrate the fact that you’re a CE student at uni, not just your achievement. It used to be four per cent, North Ayrshire has massive poverty problems.

My experience applying was good, in Scotland there’s a lot of support for university applications and colleges as well. They have these corporate parenting plans and work with schools to widen access.

The staff have been amazing to be honest. My classes are all through seminar teaching, not lectures, so I get to build relationships and connections and they invest time in me.

What’s encouraged you to tell your story?

Because it’s real, it’s happening all over Scotland. It’s Scottish culture to suppress emotion, especially men – we’re all kilts and whisky. People are worried about stigma and repercussions but movement starts slowly and we can all play a part. I’ve been told you don’t see many guys my age being as open, and this isn’t even me being that open. If I can start encouraging guys to talk then all the better.

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Jamie and his happy lab, Olivia

What’s been the reaction?

The Future World Changers video was really good and some folk have reached out since saying it’s helped them. Some people tell me there’s stuff I shouldn’t talk about online like abuse, but it’s a real issue in Scotland.

Why do you think so few CE people make it into higher education?

A lot of reasons. One big thing was the SAAS funding form. A girl and I went to the SAAS head office in Haymarket to change the whole form because it asked invasive questions about parents' income and things. It’s all different now, they’ve got a box that says "care leaver", and when you tick it it takes you to a whole different form. It changed about four years ago. People are terrified to tick the box because they don’t know what it means, they don’t want everyone to know in case there’s a stigma but ticking that box is only positive.

Also people say you need to believe in yourself, but it’s not that simple. How can you believe you can go to uni if no one else helps you? CE kids have been stigmatised their whole lives. My personal attitude is I don’t care if people think I deserve it or not, I’ve worked hard to be here.

Other research across the UK shows there are further problems with unsupportive carers, bad schools, tough areas, universities not encouraging them to apply or not making "contextual" offers, and summer courses and private tuition giving advantaged students the edge.

Do you feel like Glasgow Uni gives CE students enough support?

Uni shouldn’t be a barrier, it can be accessible to anyone. My course has people who are 60 years old. Glasgow has a lot to be recognised for, but there will always be room for improvement. CE students can get bursaries, funded accommodation and other support.

A lot of the financial support is only available for CE students under 26, but the reality is most of us are older than that because it takes us longer to get here. Also graduation support would be good, I know people who have no means or family to celebrate with and we could definitely make that more accessible.

Dan [Dan Keeman, CE Student Support Coordinator] is great, I can sit and talk to him for hours about life but you have to let them help you. I had nearly passed first year bar one final submission and because of circumstances I couldn’t do it, I wanted to chuck the whole thing. Dan spoke to the Appeal Board and got me the opportunity to resit but I was too deflated. The help is available, but you have to want it.

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Can you tell me about your ambition to reform Scotland’s care system?

Scotland are starting an independent care review, finding out what’s working and what’s missing and making it better. The review is 50/50 CE and experts, like NHS practitioners. The main thing is putting love into the care system, that's what the Love Rally was all about.

Scotland’s also had a child abuse inquiry into foster and residential child care because of systematic problems.

My next move is just to keep talking and massive political change will come. We’ve had the suffragettes, the 1960s black civil rights movement, the LGBT community – the care system in Scotland is now getting to that point where its having its moment of recognition, there’s a movement.

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Nicola Sturgeon has emotionally pledged a 'root and branch review' of the care system

Do you have any advice to other staff/students/politicians about how they can help CE students at uni?

Lift each other up, give peer support. Everyone that comes to uni will achieve something that makes a difference. My course gives every person in a community power to beat adversity. Be humble and realise that not everyone has equal opportunities. Just love and support each other, uni can be one of the most stressful times in your life and people can make all the difference.

If you’re a CE student try to control and channel your anger. It seems really unfair sometimes but anger can be a good thing.

Professor Les Ebdon of the Office for Fair Access said: "Talented people from disadvantaged backgrounds are missing out on the life-changing benefits higher education can bring. That is a shocking, and avoidable waste of talent which quashes individual opportunity and also has a detrimental effect on our economy and society."

A privileged school leaver is 10 times more likely to get into a top uni than the person sitting opposite them, according to UCAS statistics. Ten times.

This piece is part of The Tab's 10x campaign, which is trying to change that statistic.

Please get in touch if you’ve got a 10x campaign story that unis need to hear.