If you’re considering adoption, particularly adoption of school-age children, one thing to apply some serious thought to (over a huge glass of wine and a slab of expensive cheese – enjoy the finer things while you still have peace and quiet) is what your expectations of school are for your future children. Education is touched on during preparation and training, but takes a seat right at the back, with attachment techniques and childhood development grabbing the front seats, quite rightly.
As a soon-to-be parent of adopted school-age children, it’s fairly safe to assume that you aren’t going to have the next four years to get a feel for the state of the local schools. As we were nearing the end of our assessment, we thought we’d better take a provisional browse around. Unfortunately at first glance our immediate schools would feature comfortably in the remake of Dangerous Minds or (more my cup-of-tea) Sister Act 2. So, we widened our search and, equipped with the Ofsted reports of the only two good and outstanding schools within a ten minute drive, I nervously made my first phone call; asking to speak to the Head Teacher, Mr Fitzherbert (far too close to asking for Mr Tits-Pervert, thank you Bridget Jones). As you’ll find out, the conversation wasn’t encouraging.
“Hi there. My partner and I are in the process of adopting two little boys. How do I go about making an appointment to pop in and look around?”
“How did you get my number?”
“From your website – this is Mr Fitzherbert isn’t it?”
“Yes. We don’t have any room.”
“Oh. I was advised by the Education Department at the Council that you have 2 spaces in your current reception classes.”
“No. We’re full. Where did you say that you lived?”
“In [the next village]. Are you sure that you’re full? Your receptionist seemed quite certain that you would be happy to show us around.”
“You live outside of the catchment area for this school. Try another school.”
End of conversation.
Incidentally, we were within their catchment area.
So, after a quick Google to find out whether Mr Tits-Pervert’s face matched his hideous telephone manner – which it did, by the way, we decided that his school probably wouldn’t be the best environment for our future offspring. (It just so happens, weeks later, said Head Teacher was shamed in the national news after jetting off to the Caribbean during term time.)
I digress. Luckily, our preferred school in a quaint little village nearby was lovely, welcoming, and most importantly, understanding. Understanding because it is an extraordinarily peculiar scenario in which one visits a school as a prospective parent who hasn’t yet actually had children, nor is able to reveal their children’s correct dates of birth or their names.
Yet the friendly young Head Teacher listened intently and reassured me that this wasn’t a ‘first’ for his school and neither were we their first gay parents. I was given the tour, momentarily bewildered by a class of 4 and 5 year olds in an IT suite learning how to draw windmills in Photoshop and I was heartened by all the smiles and waves that greeted us en-route. And so, a quick mid-term application went in and we were accepted that very week.
Things to think about when adopting school-age children:
To offer the best fresh start possible, children in the care system are able to attend schools outside their local catchment area – when looking at Ofsted reports, look further afield if your local schools have a poor reputation.
Your adopted children will qualify for Pupil Premium; a grant which their school will receive annually. It’s a lot of money; the school are obliged to spend it carefully to benefit your child(ren) specifically.
Contrary to law preventing school age children from missing school, looked after children can take a break while they settle into their adoptive placement. There’s no rush to get them into their new school immediately.