Adoption UK Press Release
The Wales schools’ guide Getting it right for every child is written by two adoptive parents, Ann Bell and Penny Jeffreys, and includes contributions from other adopters, adopted children, teachers and those responsible for looked after and adopted children in local authorities. The content is also informed by recommendations from internationally renowned experts on trauma and attachment.
Commissioned from Adoption UK by the Welsh Government, the booklet is available in both English and Welsh language and can be downloaded by clicking here.
The purpose of the booklet is to provide schools and parents with a toolkit to understand the educational needs of adopted children. It includes information on: support for adopted children in Wales; understanding children and stress; using PLACE (playful, liking, accepting, curious, empathy) to help children relax and it also has a table on decoding and responding to behaviours.
Ms Jeffreys, a Peer Network Coordinator at Adoption UK Wales, told how teaching staff had struggled to identify the trauma her eight year-old son Jack* was suffering from at school.
“They tried to use traditional techniques which work on children without these trauma or attachment issues but not on those on children who do,” she said.
“Jack had no academic issues but he was unable to learn because he was stressed and anxious. He felt very unsafe at school because of all of the people, the change, the different smells and sounds and the unpredictability. He was often in a state of trauma and high anxiety so he displayed challenging behaviour.”
The single adoptive parent had to leave her previous job because she was repeatedly being asked to remove Jack from school due to his behaviour. After a number of increasingly serious incidents the school sought specialist advice and implemented an individual behaviour plan for Jack. All staff knew what Jack’s triggers were and how to support him. The school also agreed to initiatives to help Jack, such as allowing him extra breaks, one-to-one supervision at play time and to be first in line for dinner so he was not over-wrought by standing in the queue.
Ms Jeffreys said: “We were lucky that the school really wanted Jack to succeed. When I spoke to staff about Jack’s issues they told me they often felt helpless. If a school is willing to make changes for these children, offer additional support and introduce different ways of working, it really can transform their experience.”
Hugh Thornbery CBE, chief executive of Adoption UK, said: “We know that many adopted children struggle in the school environment so we’re very proud to have been commissioned to produce this booklet.”
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: "The Welsh Government is fully committed to ensuring all children and young people are given the opportunity to fulfil their academic potential, regardless of their background or family circumstances.
"Many adopted children have experienced early childhood trauma, the impact of which can last for many years and beyond the child being settled in a permanent home. These negative experiences can make it more challenging for them to thrive in a traditional school environment and to achieve academically. It is important therefore that all education practitioners and families understand these issues and are able to respond in a sensitive and appropriate manner.
"We are extremely grateful to Adoption UK (Wales), Ann Bell, Penny Jeffreys and everyone else that contributed to the publication of 'Getting it right for every child'. We are sure this guide to working with adopted children and their families will prove to be an invaluable source of practical advice and information for everyone involved in the education of adopted children and will help better support them in reaching their academic potential."
* 'Jack’ is not the real name of Penny Jeffreys’ son