Education Success Factors and Barriers: Learning from the Experiences of New Zealand Care Leavers Who Went to University

Iain Matheson - Education in Out-of-Home Care


Education can contribute towards improving the life-chances of children in residential and foster care. Yet, international research has consistently found that most in care face significant educational challenges, many do not receive a quality education, and few go on to university. This chapter from the book Education in Out-of-Home Care reports on a qualitative doctoral study that investigated the experiences of New Zealand care leavers who went to university. While confirming that care leavers from New Zealand can and do go to university, education barriers included significant periods without schooling for some, and a lack of formal support from universities. Nonetheless, participants’ educational experiences suggest the importance of early recreational reading habits, positive school experiences before going to secondary school, any behavioural issues being overcome or accommodated, supportive relationships with school staff, comparatively stable secondary education, final school perceived to be of a high quality, playing to their academic strengths, both traditional and non-traditional pathways to university, and undertaking a vocational degree at a local institution. Implications for research, policy and practice are also discussed.