Getting the Best for Adopted Children in School

So, I was at the PAC-UK / Yorkshire & Humber Conference (Being Family) on Monday about Getting the Best for Adoption Children in School. ¬†Can I stress that these are only my notes (with my views in blue) there may be errors and omissions. Please don’t hold me to account! ūüôā

It was a packed agenda where a selection of Social Workers, Adopters and Schools¬†from the Y&H region were invited to attend. ¬†There was reasonable attendance from all areas, although I would have liked to have seen more from schools if I’m honest.

Being Family Logo

Even if you are not in Yorkshire & Humber, I hope there are some nuggets¬†in here that everyone would find helpful or provide hope of this type of support eventually becoming more widespread across all schools and Local Authorities! ¬†I’ve attempted to give the highlights.

Mick Gibbs, Chair of Regional Adoption Board began with some comments, most notably a mention that

Instead of School Inclusion and Exclusion,  think about School Attachment

Contrary to popular belief, care does make things better

Next up Sir Martin Narey.  He talked about adoption changes over the years and the number of myths surrounding adoption and breakdowns.  He said adopters were not treated well but that the process for recruitment has changed to improve that. There are still significant challenges with time taken for matching, behaviour of courts and the support fund being only available for one year. Personally, I believe we are still not treated well, we are still not respected and recognised as being a powerful force that can create a change in these children.

The issues are schooling can be solved quite easily with few changes because the issues do not disappear overnight.

There is nothing else like adoption for the ability to transform a life.

Sir Narey said that he is happy to be contacted by email and he attempts to answer every one received!

Education: from Rainbows to Reality

logopacukPAC-UK’s Chief Exec, and their refreshingly straight talking Education Psychologist Emma Gore Langton talked about there being a disconnect at all levels that there is a misguided view that adoption is ‘lovely’. Key things were that

  • Brain structure changes our view of the world – all this we know. ¬†(We do! ¬†I’m not sure everyone knows, certainly not all schools and educators).
  • A teacher will hold on to information about a child in misunderstood ‘confidentiality’. (They do! ¬†I’ve experienced that more than once much to the¬†detriment of my children!)
  • Schools are anxious about parents’ expectations, so they don’t communicate. ¬†There is particular difficulty in secondary schools. ¬†(Really? ¬†I agree they don’t communicate, agree secondary schools are particularly difficult. ¬†I’ve heard schools saying “we deal with in school” which may be a bigger reason for not communicating. ¬†I’ll give this the benefit of doubt!)
  • On exclusions, no real data but Adoption UK Survey said
    • more than 50% were at secondary schools
    • 1 in 5 children were age 6 or younger
    • there is serious impact on the most vulnerable children.
  • Education is a key reason for seeking post adoption support (true for me!)
  • Transition from primary to secondary increases stress on families according to Selwyn report. (absolutely! ¬†It has nearly broken my family)
  • Curriculum issues can trigger crisis (yes, and schools will not listen)
  • There is a DFE grant for schools in the Y&H region to become Attachment Aware. (Brilliant!)

Pupil Premium

Alan Clifton, The Virtual Head from North Yorkshire talked about Pupil Premium and even though I thought I knew lots about Pupil Premium he had some interesting perspectives.

There are 152 Local Authorities across the country and all have a Virtual School Head (VSH) responsible for Looked After Children (this is statutory now). That means that there are 152 ways to allocate Pupil Premium and it’s uses! ¬†DFE Guidance (from 2009) says “it is good practice for adopted children to be monitored”.

  • All adopters should find out who your local Virtual Head is.
  • Personal Education Plans (PEPs) are a good monitoring tool (although not statutory) but¬†helpful for progress, attainment, outcomes, relationships and even friendships, because it should cover Social and Emotional Wellbeing too. ¬†You can get a sample PEP from your VSH or from him (Alan Clifton).
  • Pupil Premium money is NOT ring-fenced for your adopted child. ¬†Schools can pool PP money for staffing, tracking, nurture groups etc.
  • You should work with the school to identify
    • barriers to learning,
    • specific learning needs,
    • how to ensure your child progresses
    • your child’s feelings¬†(that’s a big one for me, I find teachers talk ‘at’ rather than listen to my child)
  • The key thing is relationships! (Absolutely right, this is what is missing in their early lives and as human beings we all need those relationships, our children need them more so.)

A Special School’s Approach

There was a really lovely presentation by a Leeds special school about the work they did with a particularly troubled child.  They had some training from Family Futures and talked about what helped and what worked.

  • Key Needs are Communication, Consistency and Care.
  • Provide choices
  • Model behaviour, explain what that behaviour should look like and what it means.
  • Set limits and explain expectations
  • Be specific with wording (rather than “well done”, say “I really liked how you lined up”)
  • Pick your battles
  • Address the child’s sensory needs
  • Be aware of anxiety and stress

The most valuable resource?  HIS PARENTS! and the Adoption Social Worker.

(I wanted to jump for joy when they said parents were most valuable resource, because I, and many of us, feel we are ignored or not listened to. ¬†Yet there still seems to be a lack of understanding that we don’t all have social workers any more or any other professional support!)

Adopter Experiences

From the wonderful ladies Sarah, The Adoption Social and Amanda, The Open Nest.

Amanda and Sarah said everything I wished I was able to say! ¬†Both highlighting the inability to work when we have adopted children who struggle with life and school. ¬†Sarah mentioned there has been perhaps 3 weeks this year when both children have been in school “where they should be”. ¬†It is a full time job being “on call” for school so she can bring her child home. ¬†(Oh yes, I know that approach!)

Many adopters talk about schools trying to “force a square peg into a round hole”. ¬†(I wanted to stand up a cheer at this point! ¬†That’s exactly what I have been saying!)

Sarah went on to say that our children have a right to an education and they way they are treated does not help our children’s self esteem.

Can schools please find some square holes for our children?

Amanda explained about her issues with 3 different schools by the time Jazz was 8 years old before resorting to a version of Home Education. ¬†Highlighting that there are big groups of adopters who home education because they feel they have no choice. ¬†(I know! ¬†I’m been close to¬†that many times.)

If you do feel you have to Home Education, ensure your child stays on the school register so that you still have links and can hope to progress to a slow integration back into school.  Amanda had the same teacher at home for 10 hours and then the same at school.

It is useful to have some days at home as Therapy Days so families can invest in that time and reduce school stressors, work on attachment and have calm down time. ¬†(Whoop, whoop Amanda. ¬†That’s exactly what I arranged for Biggey last month. ¬†Although, it only happened because school said they can’t cope!)

When Amanda talked about friendship issues and the fact that “sometimes the only people at birthday parties were the teachers” there was a big ahhh all around me. ¬†Will it be enough to create a change though? ¬†I¬†certainly hope so.

There’s more. ¬†That will have to follow in blog part 2. ¬†For now, I’m linking up with #WASO.

Thanks for reading!




Matters of Life and Death

What an eventful day I had on Monday!  It was already planned to be a fairly eventful day as I was due to attend the PAC-UK / Yorkshire Adoption Consortium Conference on Education (more of this in another post).

Whilst ploughing through the usual Monday morning routine, my Littley was a bit of a mess with fussy difficult behaviour. ¬†Often I will stop everything and give her the attention she needs, however, I didn’t really have time, so was doing my best to jolly things along and just get them both to school. ¬†We were nearly there and she¬†breaks down, wailing, weeping, (she’s very dramatic)

I think I’m going die.

Oh god. ¬†Here we go. ¬†Does it really have to be today? ¬†This morning? ¬†Of all mornings? (and some silent swearing ‚Ķ..) Whilst I’m busy drawing breath, composing myself to do some wondering she went on

There’s these big boys at school, keep saying they’re going to kill me ‚Ķ..

I manage to grab her and just cuddle, holding tightly to her shaking sobbing body and she continues

But they can’t really can they …

They would need a gun, it’s really the only way I can think of to kill someone, and you have to be 18 to have a gun don’t you? ¬†So they won’t have a gun, so they won’t be able to kill me, will they? ¬†Oh, I didn’t think of it like that.

Oh darling. ¬†Well done. ¬†You sorted that out yourself, just by talking about it. ¬†Isn’t that amazing.

Inside my head, as I’m sure you are thinking – she hasn’t figured that there are more ways to kill someone, that this is just a saying, that if someone is going to commit murder they are not going to be concerned about whether they are the right age to have that weapon or even if it is legal or not!

So here’s an 11 year old, thinking of things in a 3 year old way, expected to go to secondary school and function, safely, on her own, under threat, fearing for her life because of the stupid phrases that people use and the mindless threats that big boys make.

We avoided death – for that day.

Later, whilst in the conference, I got a text from school asking if I could give them a call. ¬†Erm, no actually I can’t, can they text me?

Oh, just wanted to update you.  Biggey is saying to people she is pregnant.

Marvellous! ¬†School said, we haven’t discussed it with her, cos she hasn’t said it direct to staff. ¬†Oh well, that’ll be fine then. ¬†I suppose you do the same response if one of those big boys is saying he’s got a gun in school???? ¬†More silent swearing, mid-conference.

Here is a girl who runs away, associates with the ones we’d rather she didn’t, is a prime target for exploitation and this could (if she ever went anywhere) be true. ¬†Lying is also a classic reaction in attachment difficulties. So they ignored it. ¬†Great.

I sent a long text back with detailed wording of what to say, how to say it. ¬†They did but oh, it needs so much managing that again I wonder if it’s worth it.


We are not pregnant.  No new baby.  No choosing baby names.  No knitting.  No reason to keep her off school!!!!!

Death and new life is not happening in the Safehouse just yet.

How ironic that all this happens on the day I’m at a conference about how to help these children in school.


A Look Back

A Look Back

I’ve spent a lot of time in the family and in my blog writing about my Biggey at the moment. However, as I write this in February 2014 and share with the online community that is The Adoption Social‘s theme of One Year On, it has made me stop and reflect a little as I take a look back over 2013.

My Little girl can step forward and take centre stage for this one! This has been a good year for her. This time last year she was struggling with many changes taking place in her little 9 year old life. There was a change in teachers in her class at school (for the better as far as I was concerned). However change is difficult and she struggled more with a fear of the unknown so that added to the increased anxiety she was experiencing. She was also having great difficulty with school work as they were looking at Victorians and studied The Street Child where there is focus on an orphan named Jim, with no shoes, no food, a mother who died and so on.

Later they also worked on Greek Myths so they’ve got Medusa and her head of snakes and the rest of those lovely stories. Because she is emotionally much younger it is hard for her to differentiate myth, legend, story from real. It also connects to her own scary traumatic early life too (of course!).

She was mentally and physically quite a mess

I spent much of last year in and out of school and she spent much of the time in and out of class. Working somewhere else, on her own, on a project. I’m grateful that they were so accommodating and understanding of her issues and trauma but she was mentally and physically quite a mess. This was easily seen by

  • her eczema being quite bad
  • she wasn’t sleeping as much (which is always the clue with her)
  • her eating pattern suffers
  • the fingers and toes are chewed and picked until sore
  • there were lots of falling out with friends
  • many days the tears and drama and meltdowns needed to be mopped up when she got home.

Mop it up we did and kept going, as you do.

Move forward to Summer 2013

More tears because she didn’t want to go into Year 6! She didn’t want to grow up! Bless! (Who does, was all I could think, but it’s not helpful for her.) She did manage a whole 3 days of residential trip at the sea-side which was amazing and gave us lots to be able to reflect on and boost her confidence.

Again we worked on transition, new teachers and all that and we got through it. I was thankful that the TA is the same and one she trusts a lot and one of her teachers (she has two) is the same as last year. Our summer holiday to the same place as last two previous years was the best holiday yet. Fewer big issues, fewer bossy, stroppy child.

Come September she struggled a bit with Year 6 and had quite a lot of friendship issues but we managed to contain them without massive explosions (most of the time). Halloween was still pretty rough and Christmas was Christmas (we tend to skim past it as best we can) and the New Year arrived.

We can see her flourishing

She was away on another 3 day residential in January and came back delighted with herself that she had managed every activity and in her words

even the scary ones!

Since then, we can noticeably see her flourishing. There’s been a definite upward improvement in her abilities, confidence, behaviour, sleeping and friendships. I do believe these residentials ¬†have boosted her enormously and have Miss L and Mrs A to thank (and many other wonderful people in school) for their contribution toward my Littley’s progress.

Now, I’m not saying it’s all hunky dory and easy. However we have to come to a level of acceptance (mostly) about just how she functions and what she is and is not capable of. We still have the rages, the defiance, the trauma, the sleeplessness, nightmares etc etc. However, we had a fab parents evening last week, where she is doing very well and meeting all targets and is much less angry. I am not in school as often either. So, well done my darling! Fingers cross we can keep this going.

Take a Look Back

I often say to adopters in this world where everything is fast paced and always rushing onwards to ‘what next’ and what is bigger / better / faster we need to stop for a moment and just take a look back. See how far we have come and take a moment to reflect on the positive little things. ¬†Give ourselves and our little ones an enormous pat on the back!


I’ve linked this with The Adoption Social Weekly shout out #WASO

The Weekly Adoption Shout Out