Adopted children who have suffered traumatic early experiences are “barely surviving” in the current high-pressure school environment and need greater support if they are to have an equal chance of success, a charity has said.
They are falling behind in their studies because they are struggling to cope emotionally with the demands of the current education system which “prizes exam results at the expense of wellbeing”, according to a report from Adoption UK.
In a report it identifies what it said were gaps in understanding, empathy and resources in some schools where teachers are increasingly judged on academic performance. As a result adopted children are prevented from having an equal chance to succeed at school.
Previous research carried out by the charity suggests adopted children were 20 times more likely to be excluded from school than their classmates and they were more likely to leave education without any qualifications.
As part of its Bridging the Gap report, the charity conducted a survey of 4,000 adoptive parents and children to explore adopted pupils’ emotional wellbeing at school. Three quarters of the children who took part said they did not feel their teachers understood how to support them.
Eight out of 10 (79%) said they routinely felt confused and worried at school, and almost 70% of parents felt their child’s academic progress was held back by problems with their emotional wellbeing.
The report’s author Becky White, a former teacher, said: “The reality is that in the current school environment, many adopted children are barely surviving, let alone thriving. The root of the problem is an education system that prizes exam results at the expense of wellbeing.
“Many teachers have told us that they are less able to build proper relationships with their pupils, and their most vulnerable students are dramatically falling behind. It will take leadership from governments and schools to turn this around.”
The charity’s new Equal Chance Campaign has called on the government to rethink the way schools educate the most vulnerable children and address a perceived shortfall in support needed in classrooms.
Adoptive mother Charlotte, a teacher by profession whose son David was permanently excluded from his school, said she thought all teaching staff needed a better understanding of adopted children and how to help them in the classroom.
“The teachers put David in isolation when he did something wrong. They didn’t understand the huge sense of shame and rejection that adopted children feel. Whenever there was a chance for the school to be negative about David they would take it. “He was temporarily excluded on a number of occasions and was then permanently excluded. That has been the ultimate rejection for him. He was sorting his head out about his own rejection but now he’s in a pupil referral unit. His behaviour has gone drastically downhill and there’s been a knock-on for the whole family.”
A spokesperson for the Department for Education said the government was determined to support adopted children and their families.
“Schools receive £2,300 of pupil premium plus funding for each child adopted from care, and from September schools will be required to appoint a designated teacher for children adopted from care to help them at school,” the DfE spokesperson said.
“As well, trainee teachers must show they understand how a range of factors can affect a pupils’ ability to learn such as social and emotional issues – and how best to overcome these – to gain their qualified teacher status.”