Banbury-based charity Adoption UK and a group of leading education experts are urging a radical rethink in the way schools are judged to protect vulnerable pupils, in the wake of a report published today (Monday, January 28).
The charity believes schools’ Ofsted ratings should better reflect how they support students who have been through significant trauma, with those deemed not to be doing enough unable to get the highest marks.
Adoption UK’s Becky White, the report author and former teacher, said: “Many schools with stellar exam results do a very bad job for their most vulnerable pupils.
“No school should be rated outstanding unless it is outstanding for all its students.
“But in the current environment, it takes a very brave head teacher to invest as much in meeting the needs of the most vulnerable and complex students as they do in chasing exam results.”
The charity, based at Vantage Business Park, says adopted children are significantly more likely than their peers to be excluded from school, and to leave education with no qualifications.
While up to half of all children in classrooms across the UK have had traumatic experiences such as family breakdown or parents with drug or alcohol problems and suffer similar barriers to learning.
In a UK survey of teachers for this report, 60 per cent of respondents said there had been no relevant training on the needs of children who have experienced trauma in their school in the past three years.
In England, eight out of ten ‘designated teachers’ who responded to the survey - a role with responsibility for looked after and previously looked after children - received no additional resources, either in terms of funding or time, to help them do this work.
Joint general secretary of the National Education Union, Mary Bousted, said: “In some schools pupils are valued almost wholly for their academic attainment.
“Children who have had a tough start in life, for whatever reason, find it more difficult to get into these schools, and if they do, soon find that their personal needs are not being met.”
While Jarlath O’Brien, a teacher at a multi academy trust, added: “Over the course of 18 years as a teacher I’ve learned, sometimes the hard way, how schools can hinder the chances of children who have experienced trauma.
“Supporting these children is a matter of education and support, not retribution and punishment.”
Adoption UK has some significant concerns about education watchdog Ofsted’s new draft inspections framework, which is now under public consultation.
Ofsted has acknowledged that the current obsession with exam results is bad news for the most disadvantaged children, but Ms White believes its approach to behaviour management is not up to scratch.
“There are schools doing a wonderful job of making sure every child has an equal chance to fulfil their own potential, whatever that is,” she said.
“Some of the solutions are simple and affordable. But often what’s needed is wholesale reform of school policies, from foundational principles upwards.
“That takes courage, and schools inspectors and governments need to lead the way.”