School teacher tells how her bright adopted daughter ‘crumbled’ under pressure of expectation.

As a school teacher Stella* had great academic aspirations for her adopted daughter Adelaide.

Adelaide*, described by her mother as a “bright girl - but with a hidden disability”, excelled in her SATS and made a smooth transition into her secondary school.

But academic pressure, coupled with a failure to fit in with her classmates, later saw Adelaide refuse to attend school and led to her dropping out of mainstream education at the age of 14. Adelaide later attended an alternative education provision, with a view to her returning to her former secondary school - but this never materialised.

Instead, Adelaide was transferred to a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) which Stella believes had an extremely adverse effect upon her daughter’s behaviour. After refusing to attend the PRU, Adelaide received home tuition throughout Year 11, taking two GCSEs earlier this summer, to add to the E grade she achieved in English Language in Year 10.

Stella said: “Whilst I applaud the work of teachers at Adelaide’s secondary school, there seems to be a disproportionately high number of adopted children in the town in Yorkshire, where we live, who end up in the local PRU system when they hit Year 10. I can only assume this is because of the pressure that schools are under for pupils to achieve certain grades.”

Crumbled under expectations 

Stella, a single parent, recalled how Adelaide was progressing well at school, up until Year 8, when she “crumbled” under the expectations that her teachers placed upon her. “I think the pressure she felt under to achieve her predicted results was the final straw for her. We went to a parents evening and all of Adelaide’s teachers were very positive about her but she just refused to go back to school afterwards.”

Up until this point Adelaide’s biggest problem had been mixing with other pupils. Stella explained: “She had a teaching assistant (TA) which made her stand out and because she didn’t fit in she’d also do daft things for attention, like make funny noises in class.”

Adelaide later attended an alternative education provision in the country. The plan was for Adelaide to transition back to state school but the school’s Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) said they would not be able to provide her with the recommendations, as set out by her therapist. As a result, Adelaide instead went to her local PRU. Stella said: “Adelaide quickly picked up on other pupils’ behaviour, started smoking and effing-and-blinding. But what was even worse was that she picked up on the idea that ‘this is a school for the Town's rejects and I am a reject’.

When Adelaide started at the PRU Stella provided the unit with her daughter’s Education, Care and Health Plan (ECHP) and information about the therapy she had received. But it was only after five months at the PRU that the SENCO contacted the family’s therapist. By this point it was too late though because Adelaide was no longer attending the unit.

Stella said: “This was so frustrating because Adelaide required extra therapeutic support but the PRU was intent on providing a timetable to achieve five GCSEs.”

My message to my mum is thanks for never giving up on me 

Adelaide took two GCSEs at home – English Literature and Preparation for Working Life. She received a 1 (equivalent to a G grade) and a C respectively. She refused to sit her remaining GCSEs.

So what does the future hold for Adelaide? Stella said: “She’s no work experience, she hasn’t got a place at college and at best she’ll have three GCSEs.Going to college would be too great a leap for her but the PRU has said they will provide her with a place to repeat Year 11.

“She’s seen all the images on social media of her former classmates at their school prom, which she missed out on, wearing their ‘Leavers 17’ hoodies, which she never received – and she’ll no doubt see online chatter about their GCSE results and their excitement at the prospect of starting college – this only helps to reinforce her lack of confidence.This has challenged me as a parent as I never planned to have a child hanging around the house for three years.”

Adelaide told how she found it difficult moving from year-to-year and from school-to-school as this meant building new relationships with staff. Adelaide now plans to retake her GCSEs at her PRU and hopes to join the police force.

Adelaide, who has hopes of joining the police force to become a dog handler, thanked her mother Stella for constantly fighting her corner. She said: “My message to my mum is thanks for never giving up on me and pushing me as it must have been very hard for her as well, but she never gave up – she always remained strong. I’d like to think she’s proud of me today.” 

*Names have been changed

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