4 April 2017 

Adopted children will receive extra support in school following successful petitioning by Adoption UK for a better understanding of the issues facing this vulnerable group in the classroom.

Adoption UK lobbied decision makers to include a provision in the Children and Social Work Act 2017, which has just been published after receiving formal approval from the Queen on 27th April.

The provision ensures that schools in England must understand the impact of developmental issues, including trauma and loss, on all children’s learning, by expanding the role of the Virtual School Head (VSH) and designated teachers to look after previously looked after children, including those who are now adopted.

Virtual Schools were set up in England to provide extra help for looked after children’s education. In 2014, the government issued statutory guidance which required the appointment of a VSH in every local authority and the provision of a Personal Education Plan (PEP) for every child in care - but not for adopted children.

The Children and Social Work Act (2017) expands the remit of VSHs to include the promotion of educational achievement of adopted children in England, and requires schools to appoint designated staff members to have responsibility for all children who were formerly in care, expanding the previous duty which related to looked after children only.

Peter Seymour, Adoption UK’s chair of trustees, said: “We know looked after children’s problems do not disappear the moment they’re adopted. We’re also aware that adopted children frequently experience significant difficulties in school, which is why Adoption UK has been calling for a better understanding of the issues facing adopted children in schools. We’re obviously delighted that decision makers have listened to our concerns and acted upon them by including this provision in the Act.”

But Mr Seymour warned more still needs to be done to improve life in the classroom for adopted children.

Our members tell us their adopted children are regularly penalised at school 

He added: “Adopted children’s early childhood experiences can often lead to behavioural, physical and emotional difficulties which play out in a school environment. Our children rarely respond to the traditional methods of sanction and reward. That is why Adoption UK is working with the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), VSHs and other professional teaching bodies, in a bid to make every school attachment-aware.”

The aim of the schools’ campaign is to provide all teachers with knowledge, practical strategies, access to training, and a network of support through Adoption UK’s schools’ membership programme. Attachment affects a broad range of children in schools but adopted children’s ability to keep pace with their classmates, academically, is still being compromised, despite the government’s best efforts. Latest research shows adopted children falling behind as early as Key Stage Two – with less than half reaching their expected targets – compared to three-quarters of their classmates.

Mr Seymour said: “Unsurprisingly, these difficulties follow our children through school to GSCEs where we know fewer than one-in-four adopted children secure five or more A*-C grades at GCSE, including English and maths. The figure in state-funded schools is 57.1%.

“Our members tell us their adopted children are regularly penalised at school because of a lack of understanding about their complex needs so we’re hoping to work with all teaching staff so they’re aware, as well as better equipped, to meet these vulnerable children’s needs.”

To find out more about Adoption UK’s Schools’ Campaign click here