1 November 2017
First Star Academies Launches in UK
At St Mary’s University, Twickenham
First Star Academies radically improves the lives of teens in care by partnering with social services, child welfare agencies, universities, virtual schools and schools to ensure that Looked-after Children obtain the academic, life skills, and adult support needed to successfully transition to higher education and adulthood.
First Star founder, Peter Samuelson, states, “Looked after kids lead disrupted lives, facing poverty as well as the abuse and neglect that drove them into care. Very few secure a good education. Less than half graduate secondary school and less than 10% get to University. The lack of education to build a future, more often than not creates generational repetition of the awfulness: yet more children driven into care. But it does not have to be this way!”
Working with children in care from age 14 to 18, and partnering with major Universities, First Star runs a continuous, immersive four year programme that dramatically changes the trajectories of their lives.
One Saturday a month, throughout term time over the four years and, complemented by an intensive residential four week course over the summer holidays, and through a blend of tried and tested support activities, the students attend programmes on university campuses designed to transform their lives: from poverty, abuse and neglect to academic success and self-sufficiency. The results clearly demonstrate the system really works!
There are twelve First Star Academies operating in the United States today, at leading universities like UCLA, George Washington University and the University of Miami; with the thirteenth now launched in the UK at St Mary’s University, Twickenham, and with many more in development.
The First Star Academies have amazing life changing consequences: Without help, only 6% of ‘Looked After Children’ in the UK go to University, and about 50% complete and earn a degree. From the First Star Academies experience in the USA, over 90% get into higher education – 51% have gone on to University to earn a Bachelor’s Degree, plus 40% to a Community College to earn a two year Associates or vocational qualification.
Two years ago, First Star’s founder, ex-pat Brit Peter Samuelson – the serial social entrepreneur, film producer and founder of several charities started the process to launch First Star in the UK. Now the team has been recruited, with GBP 1.2 million of funding being raised, and St Mary’s University becoming the first British First Star Academy. First Star St. Mary’s launched its immersive residential programme this summer; the Saturday term time programme is underway. An oversight charity, First Star UK, has been set up to bring these transformational programmes to further British Universities.
On 1 November 2017, the Rt. Hon. Ruth Kelly, Pro Vice Chancellor for Research and Enterprise at St. Mary’s University, will deliver a thought-provoking exploration of the impact of education on the life chances of children in care, at the Cass Business School, and she will highlight the work being done by First Star at St Mary’s.
Peter Samuelson commented, “As a Brit who moved to America, it gives me enormous pleasure to have brought back our first pilot Academy in the UK to St. Mary’s. From my very first meeting two years ago with Vice Chancellor Francis Campbell, the superb team at St. Mary’s has grasped not only the life-changing value of the First Star Academy to the Looked After Youth we motivate and train to go on to university, but to the entire University community, who work together to enable that mission.”
Peter Samuelson has recruited law firm Gibson Dunn who have worked pro bono to get the new UK charity fully operational. Independent consultant, Marta Drummond volunteered her time to lead the process of securing the UK launch funding for First Star UK. She has been working closely with Sturat Irvine and the St Mary’s team and will be joining the Advisory Board of First Star UK.
“Looked after Children have no voice of their own due to the legal restrictions imposed on them and those responsible for them. This absence of visibility contributes to the conditions that leave them without education to succeed and they are ripe for generational repetition. Recent media has quite rightly highlighted the abuse and neglect: Celebrity abuse by the likes of Jimmy Saville, corrupt Councils such as Rotherham, Lambeth, and abuse from football coaches. But what are we doing for the children who are harmed? How do we give them a better future? We have to impose change. We have to put in place solutions that help these children not just survive but to thrive. First Star tackles these issues head-on, by educating the kids and getting over 90% into college.
“The size of the challenge is staggering: at 31 March 2017 there were 72,620 children who are looked after nationally or by local authorities in England alone and the number is rising. Education is the solution to bring young lives a brighter future and Universities are the expert leverage. First Star Academies are the formula for success. ”
Reference – Figures are quoted from Department of Education SFR report 50/2017.
For more information:
Dr Lorna Goodwin
Executive Director First Star Academies UK