Three-quarters of adopted secondary pupils who have been in care don’t feel their teachers fully understand or support their needs, according to new research.
The charity AdoptionUK, which conducted the survey, is calling for teachers to be trained in supporting such pupils, as many struggle to cope at school as a result of traumatic early lives.
Becky White, the author of the research report, said: “Children who have had a traumatic start in life will be at a disadvantage at school, and they deserve an education that gives them an equal chance of success. The reality is that in the current school environment, many adopted children are barely surviving, let alone thriving.”
The former teacher stressed that problems related to early traumatic experiences are not the exclusive preserve of adopted children.
“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."
Currently, schools in England are educating more than 42,500 children known to have left care as a result of an Adoption Order, a Special Guardianship Order or a Child Arrangements Order – though the true figure is believed to be higher, according to a new report by the charity, Bridging the Gap.
'Keeping it together'
As well as losing their first family, the majority of them will have been removed because of abuse or neglect; the impact of repeated traumatic experiences will be “played out” in school later down the line through lower attainment and higher levels of social, emotional and mental health needs than their classmates, says the report.
A separate survey of adoptive parents found that over two-thirds (69 per cent) of more than 2,000 respondents felt that their child's learning was affected by problems with their emotional wellbeing in school. Three in ten (30 per cent) said that school was a source of stress in their family most or all of the time.
One adoptive parent said: “The energy they expend ’keeping it together’ at school goes unnoticed, obstructs their learning and leaves anger and exhaustion for home life.”
Another said: "I have been shocked by the way that schools are allowed to use exclusion to 'manage' the behaviour of a hurt four-year-old."
The charity has launched the report to kick-start the "Equal Chance Campaign", to address the shortfall in support. Alongside teacher training, the school calls for more emphasis on emotional and social skills within schools, and ending the “postcode lottery” so that children can access the same level of specialist support in school no matter where they live in the UK.