Children in care are more likely to go to prison than university

Written by Laura Beveridge on 16 February 2017 in Comment

Education is about learning and empowerment and for me, it was the key to understanding my story so that I could live and not just survive

Laura Beveridge: Picture credit - Nick Grigg

Self-doubt. Stomach churning. Anxiety clouding my thoughts. That inner voice telling me, ‘I can’t do this! I’m not clever enough.’

The voice that came from being a kid in care, the feeling of being unloved, unclaimed and just ‘not enough’. I wasn’t smart enough for school and didn’t behave enough to stay at home.

Going back to mainstream school at 16 was a massive decision and one of the biggest turning points in my life.

Up until this point, I had been bullied and never felt part of any school that I had attended.

The schools were ill-equipped to manage the long-running effects of trauma that manifested itself in what was called ‘challenging behaviour’.


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I felt controlled by the care system and rebelled against it. The school system, in my eyes, was just another system that had failed me so instinctively I rebelled against it.

I remember telling my English teacher that I’d like to work towards studying English at Higher level and she said: “You doing Higher English would be like me doing a Higher in Arabic.”  I felt like an idiot and my self-esteem was on the floor.  

Education is about learning and empowerment and for me, it was the key to understanding my story so that I could live and not just survive.

Meeting the head teacher at Holyrood High School made me feel sick with nerves and that inner voice telling me that I wasn’t good enough was getting to me.

I took a deep breath and took a chance, maybe I could pretend to be confident enough to get in. Holyrood High School gave me that chance. I was going back to school!

I will never forget my first day back at school in my crisp white shirt and purple school tie, I felt a sense of belonging and pride wearing my uniform. I was part of something.

I took the decision to hide that I’d been in care and focused on my studies. I just wanted to feel normal. Soon I was making friends and loved learning!

In my final year, I remember all my friends applying to university, I was applying for my own house.

I was with my supportive landlady for a limited time and knew university couldn’t be an option until I had my own place and saved some money.

I got a job in the bank. Once I had enough money, I went to college and got my HNC in social care and it was that course that helped me, professionally and personally. 

I finally understood why I felt so angry and why I kept telling myself that I wasn’t good enough.

At 20 years old, I gave university a try but I struggled financially and it had a big impact on my mental health. It was easier to go to back to work so that I didn’t have to struggle so much without money.

But I’ve never shaken the feeling of missing out on a university experience. Having the space to learn and develop in a subject that I’m passionate about was still a dream.

As a little girl, I loved watching courtroom dramas and imagined myself as a lawyer, standing up for people’s rights and social justice.

I’ve always been curious about how the care system has been developed and how it could be changed. That dream of being a lawyer quickly disappeared when I went into care.

Although staff around me said I could do anything I put my mind to, school’s aspirations for me were low and I was being taught about independent living skills and how to apply for a house rather than apply for a place at university.

My mum was once told that I was expected to be in jail at 16, if I was lucky. The reality just now is that young people in care are more likely to go to prison than university.  

Last year I revisited my childhood dream. When my manager asked if I’d thought about studying law,  I laughed. “I’m not clever enough to do that,” I said.  

Then I met the First Minister who told me about her journey to law school and it inspired me. “If I’m determined enough, maybe I could go to law school,” I thought.

As the UCAS deadline approached, I was still in two minds about applying. Old thoughts of self-doubt, that inner voice telling me “I’m not clever enough” creeping in.

Then two days before the deadline, I decided to quietly go for it, without telling anyone except my husband.

Then on Sunday 17 January, as I was about to send off my application, I had to phone my manager for a reference.

When I told him I had doubts about applying, he said: “You can’t win the lottery unless you buy a ticket!” 

Self-doubt. Stomach churning. Anxiety clouding my thoughts. I submit the application. I take a risk and buy a ticket.

Within three days I had an unconditional offer from Strathclyde Law School. I just won the lottery!

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