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Investigating schools as a prospective adopter.

(18 Posts)
selly24 Mon 01-Jun-15 20:12:47

How receptive/ welcoming have you found schools to your requests to visit as a prospective adopters?

Can anyone share their experiences state and or independent schools?

Threesocksnohairbrush Mon 01-Jun-15 20:26:12

Are you having a child of school age placed? Ours were littler on placement so I don't know quite how it works - I would suggest perhaps better to visit when you have a link with a specific child?

I would look for a warm, nurturing school with an emphasis on the whole child and less on SATS. Beware the OFSTED outstanding smile Willingness to treat the child as an individual. Some understanding of attachment and early trauma and bonus points if they have successfully supported adopted children. Ask about behaviour policies and how they support kids with challenging behaviour. Look for a really good SENCO (special educational needs co ordinator) and try and get to meet with him/her.

Size may not be everything. My DC are at a 1.5 form entry primary and for them it's good that the school is small enough for them to know and be known by everyone. But others have said that big multi form entry schools have the resources and experience their kids need. Tiny naice village schools can have little experience of kids who've had traumatic starts.

Independent - we are looking at independent secondary for DS, but only because it's a school that is v nurturing and quite unusual.

Heidistillyodels Mon 01-Jun-15 21:04:13

We found this quite difficult even though the schools were fine about it and HTs were quite happy to meet with us. It is just hard choosing a school for a child you don't actually know. Even though you might have loads of written info about them you don't really know them until you meet them.

Three's advice above is excellent although we basically went with gut instinct which has worked out really well for our DC. I would say the key thing is to find out if they have wide experience of diversity. They may not have supported adopted children before but if they can demonstrate an inclusive approach to all children regardless of economic background and educational ability you are halfway there. I would agree also meet the SENCO if you can.

Our DC do not present any behavioural problems at school and are doing fairly well academically but we didn't know that would be the case before they came home to us. We were expecting something quite different so went for a school where the HT was very clear about the efforts the school makes to ensure all children have their needs met and to date we have been pleased with how this has supported our DC.

I should say this is a state school. We didn't look at an independent school as locally they all seem to be selective and we didn't want to put that pressure on the DC when we didn't even now how they would cope with school.

ALovelyTrain Mon 01-Jun-15 21:43:38

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

PicaK Mon 01-Jun-15 22:25:46

Obviously you need to do proper visits but I think that visiting schools informally can reveal a lot too - eg summer fetes etc. After all, the other kids and their parents have a big input into the experience your child will have too.

mydogistalking Thu 04-Jun-15 07:39:04

Hi, when we started looking at schools we got in touch with the LACES virtual head for our LA and they were really helpful. It is definitely worth understanding which schools have experience of looked after children as we found they were more flexible and would be able to understand the more complex needs of kids with disrupted starts.

If you can't go via LACES I would still ask the schools you're considering about their experiences of kids being looked after or who are adopted, and discuss specific challenges they've identified and how they've addressed them.

This isn't the be all and end all of course - we also wanted to understand the school's values and culture and we thought it was really important that the head was actively engaged in the lives of the kids (you can tell when they do the tour by how the kids react to them coming in to the classrooms) - but it definitely helps to know that the school has worked well with looked after kids before, and if any issues do come up we are confident the LACES team will be supportive with the school we chose.

Hope this helps.

cherryb34 Mon 08-Jun-15 22:03:49

It may be a good idea to ask for a school report for the child or ask to meet their current key worker or teacher as they will hold a lot of info. What type of nursery or school are they currently attending and how is their progress? If they are doing well then try and put them into a similar school.

Daisiemoo Sat 13-Jun-15 16:33:02

Hi we went by outstanding ofsted report and a very positive meeting with HT and SENCO. We took AD with us and as it overwhelmed her she was in meltdown mode which they saw and said "don't worry we have dealt with adopted children succefully before". Thank goodness! We feel really positive about starting reception in sept. They will do part time induction for her and have a nurture room if it all gets too much. Go on your gut feeling from the meetings.

Themoleandcrew Tue 16-Jun-15 13:51:20

Our LA had an education officer who knew most of the schools in our area and was able to make some recommendations. We visited three and met with the headteachers (of two, the third didn't want to meet us). The schools we chose had the worst ofsted rating of the three but it felt like the best fit for our child (and his younger siblings in years to come) this also happened to be the one the education officer raved about as they really seem to 'get' what adopted children need or might need. Incidentally the outstanding ofsted rated school locally was the one who refused to meet with us and the school we liked least of all. If there was the slightest chance of your child not being academic they weren't interested.

Devora Tue 16-Jun-15 16:42:44

I'd agree with 'beware of outstanding'. Not as a rule, but it really may not be your priority. My dc are at such a school - a really outstanding, outstanding school - and they're really not geared up to the needs of children who are not academic and perfectly behaved and super shiny. I don't think they want to be, either - sometimes i feel as though we're there on sufferance.

One good thing, though, is that since LAC children got priority in admissions there has been a noticeable increase in adopted children in the school - many coming from out of catchment. And the adoptive parents have formed quite a formidable group that is pressing for change (joining forces with the parents of SEN children...). I really hope the school smells the coffee and realises the opportunity to transform what is currently a high achieving school for high achieving children, into an outstanding school for all.

Devora Tue 16-Jun-15 16:52:20

To add: pre-adoption, I wouldn't have known what to ask the school about. Now, I would ask questions like:

- how do you make sure reception and transition arrangements (i.e. moving children up each year) meet the needs of adopted children? (I'd be wanting them to explain the standard, say that they will do more than that if needed by individual children, and maybe give some examples.)

- how do you consult and involve parents in deciding how to use the Pupil Premium Plus funding? (Watch out for vague responses that don't say explicitly that parents are consulted.)

- what training/information/support do teachers get on attachment issues and other problems commonly experienced by adopted children?

- how does the school ensure that events like Mothers Day/Fathers Day are inclusive of all children?

- often, adopted children really struggle with standard behaviour management systems like time out and charts which show discipline points. Does the school have experience of this? Would teachers be amenable to negotiating their standard systems?

I'm sure others can think of more...

Italiangreyhound Mon 22-Jun-15 00:41:05

selly24 I have not had time to read everyone's comments so I may be repeating. Here is my experience.

We didn't think about schools till we were matched with a specific child.

Our birth dd was already at a local school and due to logistics we had only two choices, the school dd was at, which is big, and another 'village' school which was very small.

I think if you have not yet been matched you do need to wait because the specific child will have specific needs and things in schools can change quite fast, a new head can be in place and changing things, one local school has had a succession of temporary and permanent heads over a period of just a couple of years.

So me and my husband visited the school we did not know.

We felt in an odd way that one school was saying all the right things but might not end up doing all the right things and by contrast the other school was majourly pissing me off, but might work out OK.

So we went with my gut (DH kind of left it to me, he is very hands on but with education and medical stuff he tends to go with my feelings).

We picked the bigger school, which we felt had better facilities, which we felt would not single ds out as being naughty etc or a difficult child (he actually is not very naughty at school, pretty emotional at home etc but good at school). This was the school my dd was at and practically speaking, in terms of drop off and pick up, it was the logial choice, but it also worked out that it was the best choice for ds's needs.

In a very small school my son may have stood out if he did have behavioural problems etc, also the school seemed quite claustrophobic. As a mum in the area I had heard negative things about most of the schools, along with positive things too, but I also felt the negatives I had heard about the smaller school (bearing in mind they had far fewer pupils) kind of outweighed the negatives I knew about the school dd was already at.

I wholeheartedly agree that I would be suspicous of Ofsted excellent. I have very little time for Ofsted!

Go with your gut.

abeandhalo Wed 24-Jun-15 13:13:52

The schools I visited were all suprisingly happy to show me around despite the fact I did not know how many or what age or gender my children would be!

You will get a feel for the ones that actually 'want' your looked after children, and those who don't want looked after children risking their precious Ofsted rating.

My advice would be to view a wide range of different types of schools, as you don't know whether the children are coming from a small village school or a huge city school, and also some children's local authorities want more say in choosing than others.

bobgoblin23 Tue 14-Jul-15 12:09:51

Silly question - i'm in stage 2 right now - does a LAC retain this status once the adoption order comes through? We will be looking at 12m old and below, by the time we get to chosing a school, will LAC be relevent still? Many thanks

Tangerineandturquoise Tue 14-Jul-15 12:23:30

Bobgoblin the top of the list for most schools is LAC/Formerly looked after child, which includes children adopted in the UK.
The rules are slightly different for children adopted abroad, but some schools will place them in the same category.

JaneDonne Tue 14-Jul-15 20:10:33

Outstanding is really really hard to get now. You don't get outstanding on your academics alone - certainly not at primary level. So while I'd generally agree that it's not automatically the case that an outstanding school will necessarily be best for your dc (I could probably have got another qualifier in that sentence) - I think you could be reasonably sure that an outstanding school would have excellent pastoral care, great sen provision etc. Provided you're in a diverse enough area for schools to have encountered LAC/SEN issues it's a good recommendation.

I'm talking about schools that have got outstanding under the new ofsted framework that came in in 2012 ish. Before that you just had to have a mate who knew Michael gove I think smile

Phoenix0x0 Tue 14-Jul-15 20:48:52

Looked at schools as DD due to start reception this year.

I asked each school I visited: do you have any LAC or adopted children registered in the school? How have you used pupil premium to support them?

The school I chose had adopted children already many didn't and they had used PP in negociation with parents whereas the others wanted to push for more literacy focus groups.

Phoenix0x0 Tue 14-Jul-15 20:50:52

Forgot to say, that DD's school has used the money as requested by parents for a nurture group, ed psych, school trips and acceleration groups.

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