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