Adoption UK in Scotland today launches its Equal Chance campaign, calling on all of those involved in education to support the needs of our most vulnerable children in schools.

Adoption UK believes it is vital for key decision-makers to hear directly from young adoptees about the challenges they have experienced at school. This is why the charity invited a panel of five young people, to address guests – including Maree Todd, Minister for Children and Early Years; and Bruce Adamson, Commissioner for Children and Young People in Scotland - at the campaign’s event at Holyrood this evening, sponsored by Iain Gray, MSP for East Lothian.

The panel - made up of young people aged between 12 and 27; and adopted from across Scotland - has bravely agreed to provide testimony to an 80-strong audience, which will also include head-teachers, adoptive parents and representatives from partnership agencies.

Maxine, who is aged 16 and from Fife, will recall how her school failed to act when she was bullied for being adopted and how she often felt her needs were misunderstood and unsupported.

Iain, aged 20 and from West Lothian, will share his story of the change in approach from his primary school to his high school which led to him experiencing teachers who offered understanding and support of his needs.

Meanwhile, the panel members will also share the incredibly positive impact of having an important support figure in their educational placement, as well as sharing other testaments of positive practice from their schools that we can learn from.

The experiences of these young people add further weight to the evidence in a report published by AUK earlier in the summer, which warns that many adopted children, who have often had traumatic early years, are struggling to cope emotionally at school, and calls for a change in approach to education.

Fiona Aitken, Adoption UK’s Scotland director, said: “Adoptive parents are passionate advocators on behalf of their children – in many cases this is particularly required around their school situation.

“Adopted children often have a difficult start in life. They deserve an equal chance at school.

“In Scotland we know that children with additional support needs should be having these met in their educational placement. It’s frustrating to realise that this is not always the case – we know that many care experienced and adopted children have had a traumatic start to life – these experiences are not erased when they enter their place of permanence. In Scotland we are working towards closing the attainment gap – and to do that for this group of children, we need to ensure the understanding and acknowledgement of their needs is present within schools.”

Adoption UK is proposing three key changes: A specialist programme of continuing professional development to equip all educators to support traumatised children; more emphasis on emotional and social skills; and ensuring that all children can access the same level of specialist support in school no matter where they live in the UK.

AUK in Scotland has been running a pilot project, in partnership with the North Berwick cluster of schools, over the last two years, aimed at reducing the attainment gap by helping children with attachment difficulties to cope better at school. The focus of the project has been to give children who struggle, a happier, less stressful and more rewarding experience, so they feel safe, supported and ready to learn.

Following a successful training phase and excellent feedback, the project will now be rolled out to other areas, including the Haddington and Lammermuir Partnership area of East Lothian.

Minister for Children and Early Years, Maree Todd, said: “While many adopted children find stable and loving homes, we must also recognise that they will likely have had a challenging start in life and may need extra support at school.

“That is why this Government has committed £32 million from the Scottish Attainment Challenge over the next three years to be spent specifically on giving looked after children across Scotland extra support at school. It is part of our mission to close the poverty-related attainment gap and ensure every child, no matter their background, has an equal chance to succeed in life.

“This goes hand-in-hand with our work on adverse childhood experiences, raising awareness across the public sector in Scotland about how traumatic experiences in childhood can have long-lasting effects on people’s adult lives – and what we can do to support families to prevent them in the first place.”