I am really delighted to have a guest post by the children’s charity, Coram.
Coram have worked with adopted children, and used their experiences in school to produce a toolkit for teachers.
Some adopted kids really struggle in school, I know because both of my adopted kids did, and still do.
The Adoptables Schools Toolkit will be a real help for all teachers, who may not even know that they have an adopted child in their class.
Whether you are parent of an adopted child or not, or you just happen to find yourself reading this post please share.
Why? Because I want to get the message out, school for adopted kids can be a struggle, but now there is help with the Adoptables!
Thank you TMx
Why is school so hard for adopted children?
For many children and young people, the autumn term and either going back to school or starting a new one can be both challenging and exciting.
School involves new experiences – social and educational – for every child. As well as making new friends, feeling the need to fit in and getting to know the teachers, there is also the need to become familiar with new subject areas and handle more advanced levels of work.
For children who have been adopted, the school experience can bring up particular issues both socially and during class, for example how does the adopted child cope when the teacher announces that today the class topic is family trees?
What happens when an child mentions to a classmate that they have been adopted and receives either a negative response or finds themselves the subject of curiosity, which is innocent in intent, but which they may find very uncomfortable and intrusive?
To improve this experience, a group of young adopted people, called The Adoptables, have co-produced a Schools Toolkit with experts from the fields of Education and Adoption from Coram Life Education, the UK’s leading PSHE education provider.
How are the Adoptables supporting adopted children in the classroom?
The Adoptables is a peer network of young adopted people aged from 13 to 25 run by children’s charity and adoption agency, Coram, and funded by The Queen’s Trust. The network enables the young people to express their views about their experiences as adopted young people at home, in school and in post-adoption support.
How did the Adoptables help create the Toolkit?
As part of the development of the Schools Toolkit, the Adoptables attended workshops throughout the country where they discussed and shared their day-to- day realities of school. What emerged is that they wanted to be treated the same as everyone else, but that they wanted people to understand that sometimes they might struggle to manage their behaviour.
They also talked about certain behaviour triggers that might relate to negative experiences in the past; these could be related to the curriculum (e.g. genetics, family trees) or specific smells for example. They talked about being bullied and having their adopted status used against them. They also talked about issues of trust – who to tell, when and how.
What is the main issue for teachers?
Consultation with teachers, which was undertaken as part of the Toolkit, revealed that all Secondary teachers said the main issue was not knowing if a pupil was adopted.
Teachers all acknowledged that understanding a young person’s history would help them to better support that young person and to manage their behaviour more effectively. For example if a school is not aware that a young person has been adopted, the school cannot access their Pupil Premium entitlement, which is currently £1,900.
What can teachers find in the Toolkit?
The Schools’ Toolkit comprises two teaching resources, one for teachers of Key Stage 2 and one Key Stage 3, which enable issues to be highlighted and addressed in a sensitive and engaging way. Included are detailed lesson plans and, for the younger age group, films in which young actors enact the storylines devised by the Adoptables.
The session for the Key Stage 3 group comprises a seven minute interview-style film in which some adopted young people respond to questions such as “How has being adopted affected you at school?” and “What would you like pupils to understand?”.
- The session is delivered by one of the Ambassadors from the Adoptables. These are all adopted young people (16 – 25 years) who have helped to devise the project and who are supported by a member of staff from the Adoptables project or school support staff.
- There are discussion-based activities and, crucially, the opportunity for the pupils to put questions to the Ambassador – the ‘ask-it basket’. Pupils have responded particularly well to the involvement of adopted young people in discussing their experience via films and co-delivery in the classroom. There is also an accompanying information pack for teachers.
- So that the sessions are conducted in a way that is safe for children who have been adopted, parents/carers are asked to consent to their children taking part in the session. This way the needs of any vulnerable children are considered so that they are supported accordingly, and a stronger connection is made between adopter parents and the school.
What has the feedback to the Toolkit
The Toolkit has proved popular with pupils and teachers alike with evaluations showing:
- 95 per cent of pupils who had participated in a session found it either “good” or “very good”
- 100 per cent of teachers strongly agreed that the pupils engaged well with the session and the content was appropriate.
For Jake, (16) who is one of the Adoptable Ambassadors delivering the Toolkit sessions, the experience has not only been enjoyable, it’s also been really effective in helping him develop his presentation skills and grow in confidence.
He says: “It was a little daunting at first standing in front of a classroom full of young people, but staff from the Adoptables project are there too and with every session I felt more comfortable. When I was at school it wasn’t always easy because often other the teachers didn’t understand and my classmates thought I was different. I think it’s great that the Toolkit is providing pupils with the opportunity to see the world through the eyes of adopted young people.”
How can schools get hold of the Toolkit?
From mid-September, teachers can find out more about the Adoptables Schools Toolkit on the Coram Life Education website
Further information about the Adoptables can be found here: www.coram.org.uk/theadoptables
To find out more about getting involved with the Adoptables Network please contact Lindsay.McDougall@coram.org.uk