House of Lords debate asks what can be done to improve the educational experiences of adopted children

Published: Wednesday 15th May 2019

The educational experience and attainment of adopted children was the focus of a debate held in the House of Lords yesterday (14 May), which was attended by Lord Russell of Liverpool, a governor of Coram.

Lord Russell spoke of the strong link between wellbeing and academic attainment, as well as the need for improvement in the collection and scrutiny of data on adopted children’s educational outcomes.

Lord Russell also highlighted that adoptive parents can often feel isolated, with a lack of support when their children struggle at school. He called for the consideration of ‘peer-models of support’ for adoptive parents and kinship carers, which could ‘complement the work of virtual school heads’.

Coram has developed a number of initiatives to support adopted children in education, including the ‘Adoptables Schools’ Toolkit’ to improve awareness of adopted children’s experiences at school.

The debate was called by Lord Triesman, himself an adoptive parent, who opened by saying: “I am grateful to the House to raise a matter that is close to my heart…there is no greater blessing in my life than this wonderful child who became part of my family at three days old.”

Lord Triesman highlighted the challenges that adopted children face in education due to their difficult early experiences, with 94% of all major research papers showing adoption to be correlated with lower academic attainment and significantly elevated levels of behavioural problems.

Lord Triesman went on to praise several schools for their work in supporting the needs of adopted children, and said: “The best results in educational attainment have been seen in schools where there is specific training in attachment and a designated lead teacher.” He called for mandatory training for teachers on attachment that cover the needs of local authorities and a requirement for specifically funded inclusion plans for adopted children.

On the same day in the House of Lords, an evidence session was held regarding the recent suspension of the National Adoption Register, which was operated by Coram on behalf of the Department for Education until its closure in March 2019.

Nadhim Zahawi MP, The Minister for Children and Families, was asked by members of the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee about the reasons for the suspension of the Register, the potential impact on children awaiting adoption, and future plans to enable matching of children with adoptive parents.

The questions raised by the Lords echo many of the concerns made by Coram earlier this year – you can read our full response on the Register’s closure here and an interview with our CEO Dr Carol Homden in the Guardian on this issue here.

Read the transcript from the debate on the ‘educational experience and attainment of adopted children’

Find out more about Coram’s work to improve understanding of adopted children’s experiences within schools

Find out more about the evidence session on the Adoption Register

Read Coram’s full response to the closure of the National Adoption Register