Adoption UK is calling on the Government to take action to improve the use of funds allocated to support adopted children in England’s schools.
Published today, the charity’s From Both Sides report reveals that although the Government allocates more than £130 million in funding to support previously looked after children in schools, the accountability for ensuring this money is spent effectively is wholly inadequate. The report concludes that, as a result, adopted children are being let down.
There are more than 56,000 previously looked after children (who left local authority care because of adoption or a Special Guardianship Order) in England’s schools. Their backgrounds make them 20 times more likely to be excluded than their peers, more likely to have special needs, and to get lower GCSE exam grades. With proper support in place, they can thrive. Yet while three quarters of adopted young people say they need more support than their peers in school, more than half say they don’t receive it.
Previously looked after children are currently supported in school through a package of measures which were originally designed for children living in care: Pupil Premium Plus; the designated teacher (DT); and the virtual school. For children in care, the local authority is the ‘corporate parent’, and these measures are part of a wider package of support, with clear accountability.
In the case of adopted children, and other previously looked after children, the difference in their legal status means that families are taking on full responsibility for knowing their children’s rights and entitlements and holding schools to account for adhering to statutory guidance when, too often, schools themselves have not been given the guidance, nor the time and resources to fulfil their obligations.
Adoption UK consulted adoptive parents who are education professionals, to explore these measures from both perspectives. Challenges highlighted in the report include: a lack of clarity around the purpose and best use of Pupil Premium Plus; the limited and vague role of the virtual school; and the lack of time and support for designated teachers, all leading to a postcode lottery of provision.
The report’s recommendations include the introduction of a statutory framework for previously looked after children, similar to the Personal Education Plan. There is also a call for all local authorities to publish a ‘local offer’ for previously looked after children, including information for families about Pupil Premium Plus, the virtual school and designated teacher, and priority access to school places.
Report author Becky Brooks said: ‘While these measures were extended to adopted children with the best of intentions, it is hard to escape the conclusion that tinkering at the edges of education policies designed for a different group of children will always be problematic. In order to genuinely give these vulnerable children an equal chance to learn, the Department for Education needs to consult about the best way to ensure their important investment in school support is used well.’
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