Adopted children 20 times more likely to be excluded

A survey of adoptive parents has found their children are around 20 times more likely to be permanently excluded from school than their classmates, Adoption UK can reveal.

The survey, which received more than 2,000 responses from adoptive parents, also revealed that nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of their children had been temporarily excluded during their time at school.

The children of the adoptive parents who completed the survey are also 16 times more likely to be temporarily excluded during the first three years of primary school when compared with other children.

Official Department for Education statistics show that looked-after children and SEND children are more likely to receive exclusions than their classmates. Adopted children share many of the same issues as looked-after children and are overly represented within the SEND cohort. But despite this, official figures around adoptees being excluded are not currently collected and analysed by the DfE.

The self-selecting survey is indicative, rather than scientific, yet raises serious concerns that adopted children are more likely to be excluded than their classmates.

Sir Kevan Collins, the Department for Education’s ‘Evidence Champion’, recently said: “Let start with what we know, rather than what we think we know.” In light of Sir Kevan’s words, Adoption UK is calling on the government to collect and analyse exclusion and performance statistics for adopted children, as they do for other cohorts.

Becky White, Adoption UK’s schools development officer, said: “The comparatively high number of exclusions of very young adopted children is particularly disturbing. Many of these children will have only recently moved to their new adoptive families and are then experiencing significant disruptions to their education at a vulnerable point in their lives.

“Adoptive parents are the experts on their children. They’re fully aware of the problems their children regularly face in school – but this survey reveals the shocking extent of these problems.”

During the school year 2015/16*, 15 per cent of adopted children represented in the survey had been informally excluded from school on a temporary basis – meaning their ‘exclusion’ is not officially recorded. Of these children, almost a third had been informally excluded five or more times that year.

More than half (55 per cent) of adopted children who have been excluded received no learning support at all during the exclusion period.

Ms White, author of a report into the survey’s findings, continued: “The true extent of this problem is being masked because schools are regularly asking adoptive parents to take their children home and keep them out of school, without recording them as exclusions. More children were informally excluded in this way in 2015/16 than were formally excluded. We need to find better ways of improving the situation for children and teachers rather than relying on exclusions.

“The challenge for us now is in convincing education professionals that extra support is needed for adopted children from the start – instead of waiting until they are at crisis-point,” Ms White added.

More than one-in-ten (12 per cent) of respondents said that their child’s school advised them that the only way to avoid permanent exclusion was for them to voluntarily remove their child – generally referred to as a ‘managed move’.

An Adoption UK member told how her son was temporarily excluded on a number of occasions before being permanently excluded.

Patricia* said: “His school didn’t understand the huge sense of shame and rejection that adopted children feel. Being permanently excluded was the ultimate rejection for him.

“His behaviour has gone drastically downhill since the exclusion and there has been a knock-on effect for the whole family.”

Another adoptive parent, Brian*, told Adoption UK how his teenage daughter, Jessica*, was managed moved in Year 10 after receiving a number of short-term exclusions.

Brian said: “Jessica, like most adopted children today, is particularly sensitive to any transition, or change, as a result of her early experiences in life. Her managed move happened suddenly so she never got to say goodbye to those teachers and support staff who had helped her.

“Moving schools is fundamentally problematic for adopted children and exclusions break the best practice for adopted children.”

Adoption UK’s purpose is to give voice to adoptive families and to ensure that the right support is there for them. Anyone experiencing difficulties is urged to become a member of Adoption UK and contact our helpline.

Adoption UK’s helpline advisers offer practical suggestions, information and encouragement. They can point callers in the right direction for specialist help, wherever they are in the process, or whatever difficulties they are having.

*We asked respondents to provide us with information relating to the 2015-16, as this is the latest academic year for which official DfE data is available, to enable us to make meaningful comparisons.

The full report can be read here. To find out more about After Adoption’s SafeBase for Schools programme, a training programme which uses a whole school approach to help schools effectively support adopted pupils, and those in local authority care, to reach their full potential, click here.

* Names have been changed.

ActionLine: 0800 0 568 578
Family Finding and Adoption Support