I think most of us hoped that the turn of the year would somehow be recognised by the virus and see it running for the hills chased by the vaccine, but sadly life isn’t that simple. Hopes of a nice cheery return to school for our children, seeing their friends again after a couple of weeks at home, riding their new bike to school and getting a few minutes of peace and quiet in the house whilst they are gone mostly shrivelled on Monday evening with the news that in Wales schools will not be returning in any kind of normal way before the 18th January at the very earliest and most feel it will be later than that.

Even if you think this decision is the right thing to do, the fact that this is happening again, the accumulation of lost learning and fractured young social lives is grim.

Like all children who have experienced trauma, the implications of not attending school for adopted children pack an additional emotional punch. As our research from last spring showed, some families reaped positive benefits from the last lockdown, enjoying spending more and calmer time with their children, with resulting improvements in their learning: Home learning during
the Covid-19 lockdown.

But for some adopted children lockdown presents severe challenges, resulting in increases in violent and aggressive behaviour, and refusal to engage with any home learning.

So it’s really important to remember that in Wales, if your child is adopted (or if they are placed with you but not yet adopted) they can go into school if you feel that it would be in their best interest.

For many adopted children, the benefits of them being in school rather than attempting to help them learn at home, far outweigh the risks of infection. Many of our children have additional learning needs requiring professional support in school. Even if we had the time, skill and patience to be their learning assistant they probably wouldn’t be willing to co-operate.

So far all the stories I have heard from adoptive parents in Wales over the last few days suggest that quite a lot of schools have a good understanding of just how important schools can be for vulnerable children like ours and for the continued wellbeing of their families. It is clear that many lessons have been learnt since the first lockdown and  I’ve heard some really heart-warming stories about teachers ringing up families to make sure they understand that there is a place in the school for their child alongside children of critical worker and other vulnerable children.  This time round (at least as far as I have heard so far) the places offered include supervision by a TA or teacher who already knows and is trusted by the child and in their familiar school setting.   

But if your school isn’t responding this way and you need to persuade them here’s what you need to know.

The definition of vulnerable learner is a wide one but does include care experienced children and young people. When a school closure is necessary the school have up to 3 days to identify which vulnerable learners should be prioritised for a school place.  In making those decisions they will need to consider a wide range of factors including:

  • Schools should work together with local authorities to identify those vulnerable learners who should attend school (so your adoption social worker could help to make the case with you)
  • the decision should consider the impact of any restrictions on the child or young person’s emotional, mental and physical health, and educational development
  • the decision should consider how risks of not attending school could be mitigated through the most appropriate support for the child or young person
  • the decision should take account of the views of the child or young person and their parents/carers, so their needs can be understood and delivered through the most appropriate support
  • children and young people should be prioritised for support according to decisions about their risks and benefits

We know that around 50% of our children will have additional learning needs and some of those will have Statements and here is what the Welsh Government website tells us about that:

  • The statutory duties and obligations of local authorities and schools relating to SEN remain unchanged and in force, including the duty to arrange provision as set out in a statement.
  • In line with previous guidance we would encourage a practical and flexible approach to ensure individual needs are met whilst minimising contact between groups, this should be considered as part of any risk assessment. For example, timetabling and scheduling 1:1 support provision over a longer cycle, in order to maintain overall levels of support whilst minimising staff and learners’ exposure to different groups or individuals may be appropriate.
  • Schools should continue to consult parents and carers about specific support needs, and use their discretion flexibly in agreeing the way forward for specific learners.

Schools: coronavirus guidance | GOV.WALES

These are times of unprecedented stress and uncertainty for teachers. They will be much more receptive to your request for a place for your child in school if you acknowledge this and if you’re able to explain clearly and calmly why it’s the right thing for your child. Write yourself a few notes before you make the call/write the email.

I know this is all much more easily said than done. If you’re struggling with this or anything else, we’re here for you. Our helpline is open every week day: 0300 666 0006.