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We are visiting schools at the moment looking for places for our soon to be adopted kids. Two of the ones we’ve visited don’t have any experience with adopted kids but seemed fairly good. What are some things to look out for?
a) Experience with adopted kids!
b) The small, quaint, middle class, friendly village school may not be your friend here.
c) Ask about sanctions/reward charts/traffic lights- anything shame based, run a mile.
d) Ask what they know about developmental trauma and attachment- blank faces, move on.
e) How would they spend the kids' pupil premium money, and how much say do you get in that?
But, of course, they're not going into school too soon after placement?
For starters. I'm sure more knowledgeable people will be along.
Sorry to poke my nose in, I’m at an earlier stage of the approval process than OP but also wondering about school selection when I get to that point. Thomas would you mind elaborating on your point b) if possible please? Why is a small friendly middle class school a bad thing? This is assuming your other criteria (experience with adoption, not using shame based behaviour management tools, etc) are met?
They may not have the experience or the resources to cope with your child's behaviour. Small, quaint middle class schools tend to be great for middle class, developmentally appropriate kids - and can be very focussed on being quaint and middle class.
When I was looking for a school we wanted one that was keen to have our kids, who understood about adoption and were flexible enough to provide the kind of support they would need. I wanted staff who were confident enough to cope with my very tactile child and could set boundaries without shaming her. I was also important that they could provide support without looking like they were singling her out. I also wanted a head teacher I could work with.
Believe it or not, we found all of that and our two are flourishing at school and nursery.
It's a bit of stereotyping/general experiences from others online point, due to a number of factors. To be a good school for our kids, the school needs to have experience, understanding, empathy, and enough resources. The naice village school with naice pupils may not have the numbers/throughput to have had experience of traumatised kids, if your kid is the only one or two former-LAC, there just isn't the mass of need that can help get the right stuff in place. If there's a few former-LAC, then PP+ can be pooled to buy training/resources etc, which is more efficient. In a smaller school there may be very few with PP, and those that are may be FSM PP, so very different needs to our kids, pooling the PP with kids that need a supply of clean uniform because their parents have had the electric cut off is different to what our kids need.
The general attitude in some nice village schools, or just 'outstanding' schools can be difficult. If all the other kids are well behaved little Tarquins, then your Damien who acts out his fight/flight/freeze by throwing a chair may be the worst thing the school, and the other parents, have ever seen a child do, and getting them to understand why your child is doing it, and to help them, when other parents are in complaining about your child is hard, it's hard being in the playground, being that parent. If the school is over-subscribed, and they don't want challenging children, it can be harder to get them to support your child, and we have enough battles, if it can be avoided by picking a different school, so much the easier.
Size can be your friend for schools with our kids. If they have many traumatised kids, it's worth pooling PP+ money, and paying for half a day on an inset day for all staff, worth having a nurture room, worth getting in an emotional support worker, etc, and your kid won't necessarily be the 'naughtiest kid in the school.'
In a tiny, friendly, lovely, outstanding village school, with 3 mixed age classes, those facilities won't be there.
I don’t want to hijack this thread so this will be my only follow up. Thanks for your input Thomas and Jelly, it’s incredibly helpful to learn more about your experiences.
You’ve raised a number of points that really resonate with me, and perfectly articulate what I’m worried about. I’m fortunate that I have several outstanding primaries in my immediate vicinity, and because most of them are heavily oversubscribed the council just keeps adding classes to each year making them bigger and bigger. My nearest primary however is a (relatively) tiny single form entry primary school which is very cute and quaint. The whole area is almost aggressively middle class and this primary is the same as the others in this respect.
Now because this school is so small and calm, it’s clearly been a bit of a beacon for parents of children with additional needs locally. The headteacher has told me that they have 3 or 4 adopted children in the school currently, and this is a continuous stream for them. They also have several children with a range of SEN issues. To illustrate this point she mentioned that right now they have 5 adults in the room supporting the varying needs of the pupils in the reception class. She also proactively brought up attachment disorder issues and talked through some of the school-wide training they’ve implemented for all their teaching staff, along with a couple of initiatives they have in place to keep this mindset fresh.
So on the one hand this school seemed pretty perfect to me - 5 mins from my house, very on the ball re attachment issues, a diverse range of children (although not from an ethnicity perspective sadly), and a headteacher who really cares about meeting the individual needs of her pupils. On the other hand this school is a textbook “naice” quiet calm school with an exclusively middle class (and white) social base. Does this fall into your example of schools to stay away from?
P.s. Thomas what is “FSM”?
FSM is free school meals.
Yes I think the schools with a really mixed bag of pupils are better equipped to deal with challenging behaviours. They often have great Sencos and pastoral support teams. Small village schools will not as they just don’t have the need.
It does depend on the child though. It does grate that people do assume that ALL adopted children will have attachment issues etc. Don’t assume that your children will come with the issues spoken about on here. There are plenty of families just going through life “normally” with a bit of extra care. Always keep an open mind but don’t assume the worst. The worst has not been my experience or my friends with adopted children. So look at a range of schools.
I have to say though dont write off small middle class school either!
Go visit, talk, ask.
In our own experience first once talked the talk but in reality couldnt cope with our oldest child, and while coped with our second we felt very much missed the huge emotional needs - and after a security risk re photos we withdrew from the school.
Now in v small, middle class village school kids are thriving. Not perfect no, but HT, senco cares, invites help and training, works with us as parents, and despite very small numbers of LAC historically in the school is very prepared to listen, talk and say what does your child need?
Most of all we are welcomed, kids are happy.
Experience is important yes, but if HT is open to learning that may be better for your individual child
Yes, I said may, not 'don't send them to a small school'! It's just to prompt the OP and others to think beyond the 'it's small and friendly, that must be best, right?' mentality.
FSM is free school meals.
All adopted children have been through trauma, and will have issues, to varying degrees. I think you gloss over that at your peril! Of course it's a spectrum, but it's not 'normal' parenting.
I agree with boston don't discount the small middle school nice area schools. In my opinion the best way to pick the school is to visit and ask and go with your 'gut' feeling rather than the local rumour mill.
I ended up choosing the locally perceived 'nice middle class school with hardly any PP kids and a reputation for being academic' over the other local 'very inclusive school with reputation for dealing well with kids with SEN' which I thought I would probably choose because when I visited them both the reputedly inclusive school would have been totally overwhelming for my DD, completely inappropriate for her needs and I took a dislike to the Head!
Best advice is to read Ofsted reports with a very large pinch of salt, go and visit in person, and choose the school with the ethos that best suits your child/children. Oh, and the one that has an open door communication policy with parents.
Every school has to report on how they spend the PP so probably worth checking this out on the school's website and this will give you an idea as to how many PP kids they have (FSM and LAC) and more importantly how they have spent it. If you find a school that has spent its PP money on things like attachment training for staff for me this would be a big plus.
Thomasmuggit- at no point did I say to gloss over it. Don’t write as if I am an idiot who has done no research and who ignores the factors. I said that not all adopted children suffer attachment issues etc, meaning the more serious end of the problems that can occur. Of course my child will have been affected in some way. Of course I think things through more carefully and do things differently. However my life is very “normal” and I make a point of highlighting this as so many adopters seem to take pleasure in scaring off people. I will continue to make the point.
We also ended up choosing the small village school - because the bigger schools I visited actually had not a clue about trauma, attachment or reasonable adjustments. Each school I visited I met the head or deputy, the SENCO, and had a tour round. I asked about the discipline policy, and how they adjusted it for children who had attachment or trauma needs.
I was concerned about choosing a smaller school because of the things mentioned by PP - any challenging behaviour being very identifiable, it potentially being very hard work in the playground, concern about resource to give individual support if needed.
I needed to get to know my child before I could choose a school for them, so that's one of many reasons why it's great to keep them at home with you for as long as possible (90% of the year's adoption leave is what we did). By then I knew the biggest needs for us were around nurture, anxiety and hyper-vigilance. A small nurturing quiet school where the mixed classes meant the same teacher for 2 years at a time instead of 1, was the right choice for LO.
You're spot on bird the key for me too in finding the right school was knowing what DD needed (much the same as yours by the sound of it!)
For me personally having had the best part of two years at home with them before school (albeit with 15 hours of nursery) was really helpful in knowing what type of school would be best for her and my opinion would be that keeping them at home as long as possible before starting a new school (even if they're school age already) is really good advice.
Having said that, it may not be practical for you and I remember reading on this board recently of a relatively newly placed child who needed the stability and structure of school to help him feel settled/ grounded and secure so obviously not applicable to all.
That would be my two @poppystellar, they really needed structure to their day and a sear of routine that was similar to foster care. In saying that, had the school not been excellent with a very clear understanding of the potential issues for adopted children I would have kept them home for longer.
I did find looking for s school quite daunting tbh, it feels like such a big decision to make with little or no real knowledge of your children. I do agree that ultimately you'll get a feel for the school ethos by visiting - I know we were immediately reassured by the school our kids are in and we're very quickly put off by another.
you might be surprised what the 'nice middle class' school actually copes with. i am a governor of such a school, but we do actually have all the types of pupil mentioned in this thread.
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