Our Academies

/Our Academies
Our Academies 2018-07-06T10:18:22+00:00

First Star Academies UK partners with universities, virtual school heads, designated teachers and social services throughout the country to make a long-term investment in Looked-after Children and change the course of their lives, from abuse and neglect to academic achievement and self-sufficiency.  The Academies are the UKs only long-term programmes for Looked-after Children as they transition through GCSE and post 16 education. Each Academy includes four immersive summer residentials on a university campus, and monthly sessions (First Saturday) during each school year.  Academy students join the programme in the summer of their year 9 to year 10 transition and continue through four years of compulsory education to university or further education and training. Through the residential Academy sessions, the students are supported by highly qualified teaching and life skill professionals and undertake a programme of academic development and life skill enhancement tailored to their age, progression and needs.

Academy participants are considered part of the university’s student body and are mentored throughout the programme by university students who are attending the host university.  Throughout all four years, Academy staff provide holistic, long-term education case management for each Academy student, working with virtual school heads and supporting their carers to sustain the progress students make during the university immersion sessions.

The First Star Academies UK currently has one Academy at St Mary’s University, Twickenham which serves 30 students from the London boroughs and surrounding local authorities.  A second cohort is due to start at the First Star St Mary’s Academy in the summer of 2019 and further academies are planned across the country.  The First Star St Mary’s Academy is in its second year and all students continue with the programme, including undertaking a four-week residential Academy at the start of each summer holiday.

First Star Academies UK has a close relationship with its sister organisation – First Star in USA which currently has 12 Academies across the country.   Additional academies are starting in Canada and the USA. The First Star Academies (USA) have significantly improved the outcomes of participating youth across the country. In the USA, 99% of First Star Academy youth who have completed four years of the programme have graduated from their high school, and 91% have enrolled in higher education, at a range of universities.  All First Star Academies UK students are supported in their aspiration to attend university, further education (post 18) or training.

For more information on our existing academy programme or if you are interested in establishing an Academy – contact Dr Lorna Goodwin, Executive Director of First Star Academies UK at lorna.goodwin@firststaruk.org.

081616 FS Outcome Graphic

Programme Components

The First Star Academies keep students on track through GCSE and post 16 education and prepare them for higher education and adulthood by providing specialised programmes that addresses: (1) academics; (2) life skills; and (3) carer and mentor engagement.

Academic Support

Looked-after young people have among the poorest education outcomes in the country often because of school and placement instability and unaddressed special education needs. By year 3 more than 3/4 of Looked-after Children have fallen behind expected levels of progress.  GCSE outcomes (grade A*- C in English and maths) are significantly below the general population (58.8%) with only 17.5% of Looked-after Children achieving the basics. Only 60% of care leavers transition to training or further education (19-21 years) compared to 84% of the general population. Only 6% of care leavers progress to higher education while current data from Higher Education Initial Participation Rate (HEIPR) indicates that 49% of 18-30 year olds currently enter HE.

Evidence from Academies in the USA shows that First Star Academies reverses these trends for participating young people through targeted academic learning  and education advocacy. During the Summer Academies and monthly sessions, experienced teachers work with the students on GCSE specific content and provide additional support as needed.  These teachers also provide GCSE exam preparation to ensure the students are able to revise and complete their GCSE exams. Academies review student’s school records, track their progress through GCSEs and onwards through post 16 education, and identify and secure any support they need to succeed in school.  The Academies strive to work with the student’s carers, social workers, virtual school heads, and schools to develop a coordinated academic plan for GCSE attainment, post 16 success and admissions to higher education.

Life Skills

Looked-after Children often lack the skills needed to successfully transition into adulthood. At age 18, they are usually expected to independently manage their education, employment, housing, healthcare and finances without the support of other adults.  Recent and ongoing changes to policy and legislation is ensuring local authorities and social services provide more support post 18 years, particularly for those continuing in education at ages -18 -21.  The Academies develop a life skills curriculum to ensure the students are prepared for adulthood. Workshops include topics such as self-advocacy, creativity, higher education, financial management, online safety and identity theft, housing, hygiene, healthy relationships, and substance abuse.

Carer and Mentor Engagement

Too often, Looked-after Children repeatedly move placements and leave care without any family or permanent adult support. The Academies strive to work with virtual school heads, carers and social workers to ensure students are supported in their preparation for the transition to adult hood (post care), this includes working with carers to understand the programme and the potential of university and further education and training.