Being a parent and a student can be tough... then throw in home schooling and childcare and it can get challenging. It's normal to feel overworked and under pressure so we've been working towards making being a student parent that little bit easier and removing some of the barriers and obstacles encountered on a daily basis.
To provide some context two of our sabbatical officers, Jamie Harris and Becky Thomson, have written blogs so please read on. We will be following this up with information and resources from the SU.
Jamie Harris - President (Wellbeing)
It is vitally important that student parents are supported, particularly during this time of year.
We have many student parents at our University and there is a clear trend for many student parents to be studying vocational courses, such as social care, health, or education. This means they are also on placements throughout the year which can mean it can be hard to balance childcare with studies.
We know already that 60% of student parents have considered leaving their course. This figure rises to 65% for lone parents and considering we have a large number of these students on our campuses we should be doing a lot more to support them. Research shows many challenges of being a student parent including financial implications, time poverty, not enough flexibility as well as a number of other issues. In addition to this, there is a higher risk of reduced attainment and retention given the fact they have the huge challenge of balancing time. For example, sometimes things such as missed classes due to child illness or juggling their children’s education with their own especially during the covid-19 crisis, cannot be helped. Becky has worked hard to help to highlight these issues and as a Students’ Union this is something that we feel we should be focusing on more and will be.
Providing onsite childcare, which is something we are working with the University to provide, early clear communication regarding timetabling along with a number of other factors are just a few solutions which the student parent population have told us could enhance their experience. There is no one size fits all solution, however, we will be working on this project long term to improve the support mechanisms for student parents.
Becky Thomson - President (Development)
As a student parent myself, I completely recognise the barriers you all face. When I started at CCSU as a Sabbatical Officer, I made it my priority to represent the voices of all student parents who have lacked support and understanding in higher education.
Working closely with the University, we have made some great strides in the past year, some publicly and some behind the scenes. All of these have been #ChristChurchWins on your behalf.
The first struggle I encountered seemed so simple and yet so important- a lack of changing and breastfeeding facilities. Medway campus was the first to truly tackle the problem and by October we established two new changing areas and an exclusive breastfeeding facility for all post partum parents visiting the campus. This not only had a physical outcome but it also enabled conversations across the University which challenged the way children and student parents were welcomed on all campuses. Following on from this, the Drill Hall library implemented a scheme which now helps parents who need to visit the library by providing a special pass for children and a separate room for them to engage with the campus and resources. As a mother to a toddler, I can attest to the impact that being able to come to the University can have on a child and your studeies. Not only does it allow you to work during holidays and weekends, it also introduces children to higher education at a young age and therefore increases their chances of attending University when theyre older. Breaking down barriers to education is so vitally important to instill as parents who want their child to have every opportunity throughout life.
Across the rest of the University, the Unions reputation for engaging with student parents and the narrative we have been creating is now called upon in almost every area. As Sabbaticals we are in a unique position to influence departments and areas which students wouldn’t normally be involved in. We have been involved in consultations with regards to the new building and the amount of accessibility to parents and children, challenging the “children on campus” policy and policy for pregant mothers and adoptive parents who are entering education. These are all incredibly important conversations and we speak on behalf of all student parents wherever we can.
Most recently it has come to light that the COVID-19 pandemic is disproportionately affecting student parents due to increased pressure to fulfill several roles (parent, student, employee and teacher) at once and with little chance to adapt. During the transition to online learning and engagement, we specifically thought about the impact this would have on parents and their children, by creating content for both, we attempted to maintain our charitable aims and objectives whilst thinking about the aspirational and fun needed to get through this time.
We have and continue to highlight this both within the University and across the sector of higher education. In June I delivered a session which was aimed at other Students’ Unions which built upon a speech I gave at the House of Commons in March; to raise awareness of this issue to other officers and MP’s. By bringing this to the forefront of people's minds, the people who are paid to represent your interests, your voices will be heard louder than ever before.
If you would like to be involved in the ongoing campaign(s), please get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com