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Graham Connelly - Educational Outcomes Lead at CELCIS

Graham ConnellyGraham Connelly is CELCIS's lead for improving educational outcomes and a senior lecturer in the School of Social Work and Social Policy at the University of Strathclyde. He is all too aware of the generally depressing statistics showing that looked after young people are much less likely to stay on in school beyond the minimum leaving age or to go directly from school to university. What helps to keep him focused is the belief that we can make things a lot better for looked after children in Scotland by doing things to improve their experience in education. Graham is co-author, with Claire Cameron and Sonia Jackson, of a forthcoming book, Educating Children and Young People in Care: Learning Placements and Caring Schools (JKP, May 2015).

Graham gave a very upbeat presentation, in which he called on HEIs to celebrate the contributions made by looked after students.  He emphasised the importance of effective local collaboration, and better information being made available by HEIs about their engagement with looked after students.  Graham has also been very involved with Buttle UK, and spoke a little about what might replace the Buttle Quality Mark, which is being retired in Scotland this summer

Sylvia Douglas - Project Manager, MsMissMrs

Sylvia DouglasSylvia is founder of MsMissMrs community Interest Company and Lead Facilitator for Self-Empowerment Workshops. Concept Designer of Empowerment Pants, Underwear with a Social mission.

Sylvia grew up in children’s units, leaving school at the age of fifteen with no qualifications and had a child in her teens. She understands the challenges faced at obtaining motivation and accessing services to reach potential. Returning to education at 20 now has fifteen years’ experience and qualifications in mental health who worked with East Renfrewshire community Health Care and partnership 2007-2013, previous appointment held with East Dunbartonshire social work Department 2002-2007. Voluntary experience of community, residential and day services in youth work 2004-2009. Holds a qualification in training others and a graduate of the Social enterprise academy leadership and management course, along with a current year’s placement with the school for social Entrepreneurs.

Sylvia is passionate about building the self-esteem of women and young people, particularly those from underprivileged backgrounds.  She spoke about her own journey to higher education, which involved overcoming disruptions to her childhood education as a result of her care experience. 

Vonnie Sandlan - Women’s Liberation Officer, NUS Scotland

Vonnie SandlanVonnie Sandlan is NUS Scotland Women’s Officer 2014-15 and NUS Scotland President elect for 2015-16. Vonnie is passionate about women’s rights and women’s representation at our colleges and universities. Vonnie is also extremely interested in widening opportunities for all people no matter what their background, age or gender. In particular Vonnie has an interest in students who are care leavers, and has been actively involved in shaping the work of Who Cares? Scotland.

Vonnie is a mother of four, a former student of Langside College, and currently taking a sabbatical from early years education at the University West of Scotland.

Vonnie provided more detailed statistics about the educational outcomes of looked after young people in Scotland.  She spoke about her own experience of care, as well as NUS Scotland's activity in this area and the work of Buttle UK.

Shilla Zwizwai - Who Cares? Scotland Ambassador

ShillaShilla Zwizwai is an Ambassador for Who Cares? Scotland. She is currently studying a full time HND Law course at City of Glasgow College. Shilla is involved in a range of external facing work which includes training, campaign, awareness raising, partnership development and lobbying work.

As a care experienced young person, Shilla can relate to the challenges that young people face both before, during and after involvement with the care system. Since joining Who Cares Scotland Shilla has used her experience as a care leaver to help improve the lives of young people who are currently in the care system.

Shilla is passionate about increasing awareness of the support that is available to young people who are put into care as a result of coming into the country as unaccompanied minors with an asylum seeker or refugee background. In addition to this Shilla is working to make sure that the voices of these unique care experienced young people are heard amongst the care experienced voice within Scotland.

During her presentation Shilla explained a little about the work of Who Cares? Scotland and spoke about her own care experience and its effect on her education.  She also provided a helpful overview about looked after children and young people in Scotland, and introduced the topic of Corporate Parenting, new legislation around which was introduced on 1 April.

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