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Abstract

While there has been considerable policy attention given to educational disadvantage in the Irish context in recent years, evidence on the educational experiences, attainment, and progression of young people with experience of living in alternative care settings (e.g. foster care, residential care) remains limited. International literature suggests that young people with such ‘care-experience’ typically have lower attainment and progress to higher education at lower rates than their majority population peers. This brief paper focuses on one of these issues, the question of how care-experienced young people in Ireland fare in accessing opportunities in higher education. It presents some very preliminary evidence from an initial analysis of a small data set related to care-experienced applicants to the Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) programme, a higher education access scheme that offers places on a reduced-points basis to school leavers under the age of 23 from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds. The findings highlight a number of features of the experience of this group in accessing higher education. In our conclusion, we argue that there is an urgent need to collect, and draw on, data related to the educational attainment and progress of both children in care and those who have left care in Ireland in order to effectively inform policy and practice and to demonstrate a commitment to understanding and addressing this issue.

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