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Encouraging the school to up its game for our children - any tips?

(33 Posts)
Devora Sat 05-Oct-13 22:51:00

I've been talking to another adoptive parent at my children's school, and agreeing that our (generally fantastic) school isn't clued up on the needs of adopted children. We've both had to kind of push the information on them, meeting a rather quizzical response as though they don't get that it's an issue at all. This is beginning to create problems, and we thought that maybe we should invite the other adoptive parents at the school to meet up and discuss our experiences and perhaps make a collective approach to the school to suggest (politely and constructively) that we could improve the parent-school partnership in this area.

Has anyone tried this? Did it help? Any advice?

tethersend Sat 05-Oct-13 23:07:13

I'm an advisory teacher for Looked After Children, and although the issues LAC face are different to adopted children, they are not completely dissimilar. I am often confronted with "He just needs former boundaries", erroneous reward charts, exclusions "So-and-so has had a bad life, and SHE doesn't do that" etc.... There is a serious lack of information out there.

IME, schools on the whole are really welcoming of training on the issues LAC and adopted children face, but that this is often better presented as a strategy meeting focusing on a particular child, their strengths and needs and what approached can be effective. This can then be further developed into more general training which puts the issues into a wider context.

I think your idea of approaching the school is an excellent one. In school training works best when it is compulsory, so I would suggest approaching the head or Designated Teacher for LAC and scheduling a session for a lunch time with food provided as a sweetener. Teachers have very full timetables, so may sometimes be resentful of having to attend. Trying to make the pressure on their time constraints minimal at first will be worth it in the long run, as it will open up a dialogue.

I would also see if there is a Virtual School or LAC education team in your LA, and contact them directly to see if they offer training to Designated Teachers- we do, and teachers have been given time off from school to attend. We have had very good feedback, and the knowledge imparted has improved the outcomes for many children.

Lastly, I would speak to the head about the Pupil Premium Plus which will be given to children adopted from public care from April. The school needs to be thinking NOW how they will spend the money to improve the academic outcomes for specific children. Tis could be a good way to introduce the discussion. Some of the money could even be used to send teachers on specific external training courses.

Devora Sat 05-Oct-13 23:17:23

Wow, what a load of valuable information, tethersend - thanks so much.

Would every primary have a designated teacher for LAC? I know that our SENCO is supposed to be good, but I'm assuming that she wouldn't be a relevant player in this right now because my dd doesn't have additional learning needs (yet?), just social ones.

tethersend Sat 05-Oct-13 23:28:09

Yes, every school should have a Designated Teacher. Sometimes the SENCo will take on this role, but IMO it should be a senior member of staff separate to the SEN team.

Millais Sat 05-Oct-13 23:31:52

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

tethersend Sat 05-Oct-13 23:44:26

I'm not sure yet, Millais- I can't find anything about a specified time limit, but I would assume that there will be one in line with the admissions code. (A bit) more info here. I certainly hope that there won't be.

I would assume that the parents need to notify the school, as schools cannot access the data in the same way they can for LAC. Also, there will be families who don't wish to notify the school that the child is adopted, and that needs to be respected.

fasparent Sun 06-Oct-13 00:03:31

Sent detail's too our dd school , said they would brief us soon as they hear more , applies too SGO's too, Be like free school meals pupil premia'
Suppose all parents will receive details, ??? confidentiality, premia will be £1900 a year ( is being doubled. ).

tethersend Sun 06-Oct-13 09:10:38

Your school sounds very on-the-ball, fasparent. Have they discussed how the money may be spent?

Millais Sun 06-Oct-13 09:49:17

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

tethersend Sun 06-Oct-13 10:02:31

It can.

Schools I work with have used it for summer schools, trips and laptops as well as 1:1 tuition- this doesn't have to be in response to need, it can be in a subject of interest or an area where a child could excel.

It can be used for almost anything, as long as the school can demonstrate how it has improved that particular child's academic achievement. In theory, it could be used to pay for in-class support if appropriate, but I'd be very careful to show that this was in addition to the support that would be available to any other child. OFSTED seem to be very hot on this at the moment, and will want to see evidence of how the money has been spent to further individual children's progress, not just spent on LAC/Adopted children as a cohort IYSWIM.

fasparent Sun 06-Oct-13 11:10:37

Think this may be controversial as too how money is used, each child will be different as will be their needs. DD was young when adopted 4, Had no say in court outcome too young too understand. But has a vivid memory of things that happened only she knows prior too adoption, as she grows and develops, is finding she has choices which have too be respected, still has flashbacks., lacks self esteem and confidence result of court outcomes , will agree with anything too avoid conflict , rather than her true feelings or choice's. Mentoring may be a way forward for her, for example.
Early days Tethersend think all will have too watch too see how school's use this many will put their own take on it .

motherinferior Sun 06-Oct-13 11:12:46

I can recommend this ^excellent^ book which has a chapter on adoption issues...grin

motherinferior Sun 06-Oct-13 11:13:17

Several copies, obviously, one for each teacher.

motherinferior Sun 06-Oct-13 11:14:08

There's also a chapter on same-sex parents and one on children of mixed effnic origin...

tethersend Sun 06-Oct-13 11:31:58

I think schools will have to think very differently about how they use the money for support; on the whole, they have had money cut from their budgets so they naturally want to reclaim some. Some schools see the PPG as 'their' money and absorb it into the budget. This is not what they should be doing, and they will be pulled up on this by OFSTED.

fasparent, if your DD would benefit from mentoring, she should be able to access this at school just as other children are able to. Whilst technically, they can use the money to pay for mentoring, PPG money is supposed to be for things that would not be available to them without it, and OFSTED will pull them up on this.

Mutley77 Sun 06-Oct-13 12:07:43

As an adoption sw I have been involved in presenting to teachers about issues for children with attachment issues - some are responsive and some are not!! I think what you suggest is a great idea. You could always ask a relevant sw or psychologist to come in with you to present a session (not suggesting you can't do it yourself but maybe for moral support).

I find this book good for schools

fasparent Sun 06-Oct-13 12:54:19

We have good support from schools and ss, After adoption support is now 100% improved Since it has reverted back into our LA's control (budget cuts). Social worker is very supportive. Will explore other Educational interventions after April for all our children. Have children with disability's in SEN School so funding will be very useful.

Devora Mon 07-Oct-13 00:08:17

Ah, THAT excellent book MI! I've been hanging around waiting for a signed copy, seeing as it basically bangs on about my family for 300 pages, but I've just ordered it on Kindle. (Am about to text you, by the way.)

Many thanks for the recommendation, Mutley - it will be good to go in armed with good positive suggestions and resources.

I'm going to print off this thread - so very helpful.

Kewcumber Mon 07-Oct-13 11:46:32

Hey Devora I think my family has two chapters not about us so you win.

My experience of our very nice school is that teachers mostly think they are experts and don't need you to tell them anything. I have a meeting with the teacher once a year and try to tackle it from the "I know you have taught adopted children before so don't need me to tell you what the issues can be hmm but let me tell you DS's particular triggers" I also go through teh language we use at home to explain DS@s adoption and lack of a father at home.

Of course thats not really a whole school educational thing.

IME it gets harder as they get older because in reception for example teachers seem to be very open to using discipline techniques that work for an individual child but as they go up rules become more fixed and its hard to avoid the use of time out now. Thankfully DS is able to control himself reasonably well in school so its not been to big an issue for us.

tethersend Mon 07-Oct-13 18:31:17

I agree Kewcumber, secondary schools are often more rigid in their thinking- a This is the way we do things, if they can't do it, get out sort of mentality. Thankfully, there is legislation in place which requires schools to explore every course of action before excluding Looked After Children; IMO, this legislation needs to be extended to cover adopted children too, as they are currently at the mercy of a school's (often sorely lacking) knowledge about the issues they face, and how so many commonly used behaviour strategies can be counter-productive.

And yy to flattery and suggestions- they are very good strategies to use to get schools to take information on board. I find identifying the one good strategy in place (no matter how small!) and praising the school/teacher involved is a good 'way in' to then expand and make suggestions as to how they can further expand their excellent practice wink

I would like to see a virtual school in operation for adopted children, with PEPs twice yearly, as for LAC.

It seems to be a real lottery as to whether a school supports an adopted child well, and that really isn't good enough.

Namechangesforthehardstuff Mon 07-Oct-13 20:01:32

IIRC the Pupil Premium is for any child who has been looked after ever for six months. I think that's the point - that the effects of that don't miraculously vanish. Which might be a good starting point with the school?

tethersend Mon 07-Oct-13 20:18:17

The Pupil Premium is currently only available to children who have been Looked After continuously for six months and are still in the care of the local authority.

The changes announced last week, which are effective from April 2014, mean that children adopted from public care will receive the grant (which has more than doubled to £1,900 for children in this category and been named Pupil Premium Plus), and that all children in public care will receive it, regardless of the length of time they have been Looked After.

tethersend Mon 07-Oct-13 20:19:15

I don't yet know if there is a time limit on when children were adopted, as per the admissions arrangements.

ObtuseAngel Mon 07-Oct-13 20:57:27

I've just ordered your book MI, thanks. I don't fit into as many chapters as some others (and I'm not being competitive about it yes, I am--), but I think it may be useful explaining things to DS's teacher. She is kind and means well, but appears to have time-travelled here from the 1950's despite being --significantly younger than me.

You 'know' me btw, I used to be fibrous, my name started with a 'b' and if you ate flakes of my previous name you would be nice and regular. grin

ObtuseAngel Mon 07-Oct-13 20:58:05

Strike-out fail. You'd think I was a newbie. blush

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