THE BLOG

More Needs to Be Done to Support Adopted Children's Education

10/07/2015 12:02 BST | Updated 08/07/2016 10:59 BST

Five years ago his son was pinned down to the ground by three teachers - that's what one of our members told us happened to his adopted son at primary school. Relations with the school broke down further to the point where they asked for his son to stay off school during an Ofsted inspection. Things have moved on and this child is at a secondary school where his teachers have a better understanding of his complex needs and early trauma. This is an extreme example but shows what can happen with a lack of understanding of the needs of an adopted child who has already experienced trauma and neglect in their early years.

Adoption UK recognises the difficult and stressful job that teachers do. We acknowledge that disruptive pupils can wreck carefully planned lessons and curtail other classmates learning. So what we are hoping to achieve is a better understanding of the needs of adopted children in schools so that staff are aware as well as better equipped to meet those needs.

A good education is vital for all adopted children - trumped only by them securing a loving and 'forever home'.

One of our campaigns at Adoption UK is to call on policymakers to ensure ring-fenced additional support is available to all adopted children in school, whenever they need it in their educational journey. We also believe that all adopted children should have a Personal Education Plan (PEP), subject to parental agreement. Support in education can be transformative for an adopted child and enable them to thrive.

In a 2014 survey of our membership about 80% of adoptive parents believe their child needs more or different support in school because of their early childhood experiences.

Two thirds (66%) of parents told us the school and/or teacher doesn't understand the impact of their adopted child's early life experiences on their ability to engage with education.

The public often believe that once a child is adopted their difficulties disappear, however this is not always the case and it's the children who are bear the cost of this lack of understanding, especially within the school setting.

Virtually all of the parents (97%) we surveyed told us additional funding in school for adopted children could help staff to understand why adopted children often have additional needs.

Adopted children's early childhood experiences can often lead to behavioural, physical and emotional difficulties which play out in a school environment, which is not always attuned to their needs.

We also know adopted children are falling behind their classmates at school because their needs and experiences are not always understood. Our research found that half of them (51%) failed to hit educational targets at junior schools in 2013. Their educational attainment was also significantly lower than the whole Key Stage 2 population.

It would be remiss not to point out that there has been significant progress within the education sector in England including the extension of the Pupil Premium funding (PPf) to adopted children. Priority school admissions and the PPf were welcome but our research suggests that more than 40% of adoptive parents cannot ascertain from their school how the pupil premium is being used to benefit their child's attainment.

We were also delighted that the Welsh Assembly Government introduced arrangements to enable regional education consortia in Wales to support the education of former looked after children who are adopted through the Pupil Deprivation Grant (from April of this year).

We will continue to press for parity for Northern Ireland and Scotland to ensure that all adoptive children - no matter where they live in the United Kingdom - receive the education support they need.

Virtual Schools were set up in England to provide extra help for Looked After Children's education. The DfE issued statutory guidance in July 2014 which requires the appointment of a Virtual School Head in every local authority and the provision of a personal education plan for every child in care - but not adopted children.

I gave oral evidence to the Education and Adoption Public Bill Committee recently and talked about the proposals outlined in the new Bill which aims to regionalise adoption in England but, focuses solely on powers to change who provides adoption services. We support a consolidation of the adoption system only if it improves the quality, sufficiency and accessibility of the advice and support that adopted children and their families need as consolidation does not automatically lead to service improvement. I would have liked to have seen in the Bill the opportunity for extending the role of the virtual school and the virtual school head to include children adopted from care, as well as looked-after children. More needs to be done to support adopted children's education.

MORE: