In my previous post I wrote about a meeting between the Virtual Headteacher in our county and a large group of adoptive parents, all angry that schools did not appear to understand their childrens’ needs. I had a significant response on twitter and by email. There are clearly more angry adoptive parents out there who would love to have their five minutes with a Virtual Headteacher (or even a real one).
So for all of you here is what we did in our county to raise the profile of adopted children in schools and to improve the service they receive.
A few of us ‘angries’ and the county Educational Psychologist formed a working group. Together we decided that our children, with their parents agreement, need to be identified to schools, monitored and supported, similar to the way that children in care are.
Now I know that not all parents want their children identified as adopted, I on the other hand would wear the t-shirt, hat and car sticker (but that’s a blog post for another day). It is safe to say though that the majority of children, whether adopted from the care system, from overseas or from within families will have experienced broken attachments and worse and will need additional support in school to prevent their early experiences from becoming a barrier to learning.
The six of us met in various dusty halls and cramped meeting rooms, in far flung parts of the county, over many months. What grew out of our meetings was, not very excitingly, a form. But education runs on systems and forms, so we thought we would demand a piece of the action.
The form is called the EPAC - Education Plan for Adopted Children. It requires a meeting at the school between staff, social worker and parent. It lays out the basics of the child’s early experiences, their moves into and within the care system and their adoption. After this initial meeting, the EPAC is produced and then updated regularly at follow-up meetings.
The system prompts discussion about how the child presents themselves, their fears, needs and challenges. It demands actions with clear owners. It informs the school and empowers the parent.
The form was successfully trialled in parts of our county and then rolled out across all our schools. It has been received well. Of course any system which is not required by law, stands or falls on the willingness of those people involved in it to make it work. It will not transform a school who demonstrates no wish to understand attachment issues. But it provides some authority and legitimacy. It says that parents are not seeing ghosts and that their children are not merely ‘naughty’ and badly parented.
This morning I went to my first EPAC meeting at my son’s new secondary school. The school is situated in a different county to the one in which we live (and the one in which the EPAC was born). But the school welcomed it with open arms and already see many opportunities to use it with other pupils. Our meeting was very fruitful. We all learnt something and many useful actions came from it. I left there knowing that the school have a much better understanding of my son. I hope the staff feel that I have something to offer them too.
I know from experience that the next five years will present many challenges. I also know that key to my son’s successful school career is a collaborative approach to his education, with adults around him who are willing to listen and learn and to understand his needs. Many of us know the trajectory that these children, if failed, can follow so the stakes we are playing for are high. But if ‘Every Child Matters’ is to be more than an empty phrase, it is time that educators and politicians stopped fighting with adoptive parents and recognised that early trauma and broken attachments have left our children with specific needs that must be met in schools. So if I was Queen of Education, I would develop and roll out a national EPAC with guidance notes and training for all teaching staff. I could do it on a small budget and just think of all the money and heartache it could save. Go on Mr Gove, give me a shot at it.
PS If anyone would like a copy of the EPAC documents please contact me via this website and I will email them to you. You can use a false name and your details will NOT appear anywhere.
As an adoptive parent and a secondary school teacher I would love a copy of your ideas/paperwork. Brilliant idea
I have just sent the documents to you and I hope that you find them usable and useful.
As an adoptive parent and a teacher you must have a unique insight. I shall check out your blog right now.
Thanks for your comment.
thanks for your article, well done for fighting and working so hard. we too would like a copy of your EPAC documents. thankyou.
i also scooted over to the bread making post. how do your family like it? mine have had home made for so long they get excited if we ever have “shopbread” and say they much prefer shop. sigh.
Mine like white home made bread but are not too keen on the seeded ones. Their favourite I’m sad to say is Warburtons sliced white.
I’m sure that one day yours will appreciate your bread making skills.
I’ll email the docs to you. Hope they are useful.
Hi, would love it if you could send me a copy of these documents – think they may be really useful for us!
I am away for the next couple of days so will send the documents to you when I get back. I hope you find them useful.
Thank you for reading and commenting.
very interesting article – would be great if you could send a copy of the EPAC documents – we’re just about to get introduced to our new children (next week!) and are starting to look at schools for them – sounds like using your documents will aid us when we speak to the different headteachers
I am going away for a couple of days so will send the documents as soon as I get back.
All the best for next week, how exciting and what a fantastic new year present.
Thanks for reading the post.
I would be really interested in having the documents, I think it is a brilliant idea. Flying comment to your bread post; we gave up buying bread years ago and now a rarely shop bought sandwich just tastes horrid. Did you know that they add quite a lot fat into bread to make it raise in a short time? Not to mention the list of other ingredients. It does amaze me how many things they put in as the bread should be made of flour, water, yeast and salt only. Great articles, will come back and read more!
I will email you the documents this afternoon. Apologies for the delay (holidays …..).
Thanks for enjoying the blog! Glad you liked the bread post. Fat? Euuuhhh.
Hi i would love to see the epac. thanks
I’ve sent it. Let me know if you don’t receive it and I’ll try again.
Hi I was given a link to your blog/article by a friend and read it with enthusiasm. I too would love a copy of the epac. Many thanks for your hard work in getting it organised! Tracie
Thanks Tracie. I will email it to you.
I would love the epac too!
Read your article in the Adoption Today mag and woudl love a copy of your EPAC document. Whilst our daughter is doing fine at the moment, forewarned is forearmed and all that. Also know quite a few people who have also adopted and will be pointing them towards your blog and the EPAC.
all the best
I will email the documents to you. If you don’t receive anything over the next couple of days, let me know.
I think your ‘forewarned is forearmed’ approach is very wise.
Thanks for reading the blog.
Hi, I would really appreciate a copy of your EPAC documents as we are locked into a power struggle with our school headteacher as she refuses to accept the issues that surround an adopted child. They are refusing to accept any expert advice, although we are now due to have a meeting with our County EP in SEPTEMBER!!! In the meantime, they are getting it wrong day on day and our situation is spiralling out of control. I feel increasingly unwell and fairly desperate so any help your documents could give will be most gratefully received. Many thanks.
I have emailed you the documents so please let me know if you don’t get them and I’ll resend. Refusing to accept the massive body of evidence that our children struggle as a result of broken attachments, neglect and abuse is just not an option. I wonder why she finds it so hard to empathise with your child’s situation and indeed yours.
In my email to you I have recommended two books; Inside I’m Hurting and What About Me?, both by Louise Bomber. They provide good background to the issues and offer many practical ways to support adopted children in school.
If you really can’t get anywhere with the school then maybe consider changing schools, if this is an option. Not all schools are quite so blind and being part of a school community which understands makes a big difference. And refusing to accept expert advice is not acting in the best interests of the child.
I feel for you. It’s really hard. Keep fighting.
Sally your EPAC sounds fab would appreciate a copy
I’ve sent you a copy. Please let me know if you don’t get it.
This EPAC sounds great and I would appreciate a copy to be forearmed like Aveen. Thanks very much!
I’ve emailed you the documents so please let me know if you don’t receive them. Thanks for reading the blog piece.