As thousands of pupils receive their GCSE results today, the charity Adoption UK warns that adopted children’s grades are likely to be significantly lower than their classmates.

Just a third of adopted children achieved a pass in English and Maths in 2017, compared to 59% of their peers, official figures show. The attainment figures for adoptees from the Class of 2018 will not be published until next year but Adoption UK research has shown that adopted children are 20 times more likely to be permanently excluded from school than their classmates and they are much more likely to leave school with no qualifications.

Many adopted children struggle at school due to a difficult start in life. Early childhood neglect and abuse can have a significant impact on their development, behaviour and relationships, even when placed in a stable and loving home.

AUK’s chief executive Dr Sue Armstrong Brown said: “To give these vulnerable children an equal chance to succeed at school we need to rethink the way we balance emotional and social development with academic achievement, and support schools to make changes that are proven to benefit not just adopted pupils, but every child in class.

“Those adopted children who get good results today deserve special congratulations. For a significant number of adopted children, just coming to school is an achievement, let alone passing exams. These children need even greater recognition, as well as a school environment which fosters social and emotional wellbeing as a precursor to learning, rather than as an alternative,” Dr Armstrong Brown added.

Adelaide* dropped out of mainstream education when she was 14, after crumbling under the pressure of the school environment. Adelaide, described by her adoptive mother Stella* as a “bright girl but with a hidden disability”, received two GCSEs after sitting her exams at a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) in 2017.This year Adelaide took two further GCSEs at the PRU but Stella is concerned she has “little direction, organisation or esteem”.

Adoption UK recently published a report, Bridging the Gap, which describes a school environment that is failing both children and teachers. It identifies significant gaps in understanding, empathy and resources that are preventing adopted children from having an equal chance to succeed at school.

To inform the report, Adoption UK conducted a survey of emotional wellbeing at school – to which almost 4,000 adoptive parents and children responded. Three quarters of young respondents said they did not feel their teachers understand how to support them, while 79 per cent feel routinely ‘confused and worried at school’.

This report kick starts Adoption UK’s Equal Chance Campaign which calls on the government to rethink the way schools educate the most vulnerable children and address a shortfall in vital support needed in classrooms. AUK is specifically calling for social and emotional development to be put alongside academic achievement; a specialist programme of ongoing training to equip all educators to support traumatised children; and an end to the postcode lottery of specialist support for children in school.