Bryony Toon is a second year student studying Law at Brasenose. She’s also a care experienced student from Nottingham. Bryony shares her story of the support she's received during her time at university.
Bryony spoke to us about what it’s like to come to Oxford as a care experienced person, the support she’s had from her college and how she’d like to help her fellow students.
What was it like applying to Oxford as a care experienced student?
I was in a better position than some care experienced students as I had a lot of support from school. I was on benefits because I couldn’t work and school was really supportive, especially the Head of 6th Form who guided me through the process, even though neither of us had any experience of applying to Oxford.
I didn’t think I was going to get in and then I thought I was going to be rejected at interview. It was so different to anything I’d ever done, it was scary but alright in the end, I got in!
What was it like arriving at Oxford?
I moved in to college on 2 September 2019 so those first few weeks were really odd living in Brasenose. Once the other students arrived I found I clicked with a lot of people, more than I expected. When I was interviewed I met a lot of people I didn't necessarily click with, I was initially a bit scared that I wouldn’t fit in but it wasn’t like that at all.
What has the support from your college been like?
The college has been supporting me financially and I know that if I am having problems I can go to the college. They’re a point of contact and are aware that I might need help but it’s not overbearing. I can be in college accommodation whenever I want to, I was in college for most of the lockdown. My college is really supportive.
Why did you choose Brasenose for your college?
I went to Brasenose with UNIQ and I didn’t really look at any other colleges. I didn’t know what the support would be like before I applied but by the time I had accepted my offer I knew they would support me well at university. I went down to Oxford with my Head of 6th Form just before my offer and this really helped.
What can Oxford do to better support care experienced students?
There needs to be a standard in information and support for care experienced students that’s consistent across the colleges. There is support available like bursaries and access schemes but this needs to be more obvious.
There isn’t really a massive support network, it can be difficult to reach out to people for a variety of reasons. When I applied to University I was worried that I wouldn’t have role models because there isn’t much representation in higher education.
Care experienced people aren’t always aware of how much support is available to them at university and throughout schooling the interest in university isn’t as consistent. I privately rented from 18, with support from my local authority, but a lot of care experienced people are pushed out of the system at this age and then feel they must get a job, university seems like extra debt.
You’re a newly appointed Student Panellist at the Office for Students, can you tell us a bit more about this?
I saw they were looking for panellists and thought it looked fun. I want to work in education and influence policy. They wanted a variety of voices, I thought as a care experienced student that it sounded like me so I applied.
I know that care experienced students aren’t always heard and I want to be a voice for them. For example Student Finance assumes that students have parents that can help with their finances but this isn’t the case for many care experienced students.
I think a lot of people don’t know about the Office for Students and what it does. I am trying to increase visibility and show students that I am here to help not just care leavers, but anyone who has ideas or concerns.
You can find out more about the support available to care experienced students on the further support for students webpage.