Tag Archives: schools

Helping Our Children at School – Using the Pupil Premium Plus

Today Garreth Marr delivers an update on the excellent work he is doing on using the Pupil Prememium Plus….

The money is coming

In my last article I set out the background to PP+ and my belief that:

  • Schools should discuss with adoptive parents the best use of PP+ in helping our children.
  • That training for teachers in caring for adopted children who have suffered abuse and neglect is a priority.
  • The responsibility of a Virtual School Head (VSH) should be extended to cover adopted children in schools as well as looked after children.

The article can be accessed here:


I was touched by the response from the wonderful twitter adoption community. There were useful suggestions of training providers, but sadly also stories of unhelpful schools with children and parents struggling to be understood. As PP+ funding will start in the summer term I thought the upcoming Easter holiday might be a useful time to plan contact with school, especially if you haven’t tried yet or not had a good response. Hopefully the following will help.

Government support.

I am grateful to Sir Martin Narey for his prompt response to my last article. He obtained a very useful response from the Department for Education (DfE) on PP+ and schools’ accountability. The DfE confirmed-

“Mr Marr is right in that the guidance does not prescribe specific purposes for which schools should use their pupil premium funding. This is on the grounds that schools are best placed to determine how to use the funding to improve educational outcomes of eligible pupils. Schools are, however, accountable for the use and impact of the pupil premium on the achievement of their disadvantaged pupils. Specifically, the Department makes it clear in the guidance that:

 i) schools are required to publish online a pupil premium statement giving their total pupil premium budget each year, how the money has been spent and the impact of that expenditure on disadvantaged pupils

 ii) schools are held accountable through Ofsted inspections

 iii) where Ofsted has serious concerns about the attainment of pupil premium-eligible pupils, a school will be required to undertake a Pupil Premium review in order to review its strategy for improving the achievement of disadvantaged pupils;

 iv) schools should be engaging with evidence on what works in raising the attainment of disadvantaged pupils – for example, by using the teaching and learning toolkit produced by the Education Endowment Foundation.

 The Department’s main guidance for schools on the pupil premium can be found at:https://www.education.gov.uk/schools/pupilsupport/premium/b00231348/pupil-premium-information-for-schools-and-ap-settings

 Schools should take steps to improve the educational outcomes of children adopted from care when deciding how to spend the pupil premium. Given the complex and multiple needs that some adopted pupils will have, schools will need to consider how best to improve outcomes for those pupils. In some cases, this will mean supporting them to improve outcomes beyond their academic attainment. children's feet

 To help them, we are encouraging schools to seek guidance from organisations and agencies, such as BAAF and Adoption UK, that have expertise around the wider needs of children adopted from care.  In addition, virtual school heads (VSHs) at local authority level, whose role it is to champion the educational achievement of children who are looked after, will work with schools to help ensure that those children benefit fully from the additional funding pupil premium provides.

 A number of VSHs already include information about the needs of children adopted from care in their work with schools.  Given that the learning challenges faced by looked after children will not disappear as soon as they are adopted, we shall encourage all of them to share that practice and act as a source of advice and information.  In this way we hope schools can maximise the benefits of this funding for pupils who have been adopted from care. 

 Finally, Mr Marr will also be interested to know that jointly with Department of Health, we have commissioned NICE to develop clinical guidance on attachment which should help professionals (including schools) fully understand the issues that can affect adopted children’s behaviour and health.”

 This is really useful guidance from the DfE. It shows the detail that schools will be required to provide on PP+ spending and the way they will be held accountable through Ofsted inspections. The paragraph I have highlighted sends a powerful message to schools.  My own feelings are that:

  •  Good schools will already be engaging with adoptive parents on how best to use PP+. (Check out the website mentioned in the DfE response to see how Pakeman Primary School sets a brilliant example on PP+ practice.) The problem will be with those who are not addressing our children’s needs now, and very often don’t think they need any help. After all they are teachers and have dealt with problem children for years haven’t they?
  • The accountability only works after a school has failed and been subject to an Ofsted report. There could therefore be plenty time to spend our childrens’ PP+ on school trips for all whilst trauma continues in class and playground.
  • The Virtual School Head should be used more. The VSH is responsible for the education of Looked After Children (LAC) in the care of the Local Authority. They are in touch with the schools where LAC are and agree personal education plans with the school. Children are still ‘looked after’ at placement until the adoption order is granted in court. Therefore all new adoptive parents should be put in touch with the VSH to help initially with school selection and settling in. The VSH will have understanding and experience of attachment and trauma and can help to make the school aware of strategies to care for our children. I wish we had that help when our little frightened 6 year old boy went to his nice C of E village primary school and got a ‘naughty book’ in his first month.

PPWhat next?

At School

The school head is key to getting things done. Sending the head some of the information in this article (especially the highlighted paragraph above from the DfE) and requesting a meeting to discuss the use of PP+ could be a good way to start.  Every school should have a designated teacher responsible for adopted and LAC. In small schools this could be the head. If not find out whom the designated teachers are and meet with them.

Prepare for the meeting. Adoption UK has a brilliant fact sheet ‘What every teacher needs to know’. It makes very clear the reasons our children can struggle in school and ways to care for them. AUK members can down load it here:


If you send this to your school and don’t get a good response it may be time to be looking for another school!

AUK also publishes ‘Education Now’. The best £4.95 you will ever spend on understanding the whole subject of caring for our children in school. It’s available here –


What you can achieve will often depend on the funding available. If your child is the only one for which the school receives PP+ it might be that training for teachers is the best option. The PP+ is £1900, a half day training session should cost less than half that. If the school has a number of children receiving PP+ the money could fund a trained TA to work with the children or pay for external therapeutic help.

If you do not get a good response from the school head the next step is to write to the Chair of the Governors. I would advise you keep records of your attempts to get the school to help if you anticipate communication problems. The final and very sad option is to move school, but if we can get our childrens’ schools to care it will avoid yet another difficult transition. If you do need to move schools you might want to let Ofsted know. You can file a report (anonymously if you wish) on the Ofsted website.

Local Authorities

At adoption panel I see many matches with 0 – 3 year old children being placed where it is obvious from the child’s history that their experience of disattachment, neglect and abuse will result in challenges later. Their new parents will provide them with the love and security to start healing and building new attachment. Then at age 4/5 these special precious children are placed into a new and scary environment with strangers to look after them. It is then the parents and children need support and the VSH is not available at that stage.

It seems obvious to extend the VSH’s role further. They are working with the schools already. They will know the schools in the area that have proven record of caring for children with attachment difficulties. There could be a situation where the VSH is working with looked after children in the same school where adoptive children need support but are not getting it.

The VSH works in the children services department of the local authority. The concept is to have a ‘virtual school’ in the LA where all children in care are looked after together for their education needs by the VSH working with the schools. The key tool used is the Personal Education Plan (PEP) that is agreed between the VSH and the school. The PEP will set out all the child’s needs and agree how these are to be met at the school as well as setting the expected achievable academic targets for the child. The link below shows an example of a PEP in use with LAC in Bristol. It is very detailed, covering all the child’s needs including the way the Pupil Premium is spent.


It is now recognised that when a child is placed with adopters fairy dust isn’t suddenly sprinkled to make everything sweet and nice. Our children have come direct from care and additionally had the further trauma of another transition. Our children need the same support in school and a PEP for every adopted child would make a major contribution to improving their education outcomes.

My Local Authority.

I had a meeting with the Director of Childrens’ Services and the VSH for primary schools at my LA last week. I managed to get the meeting through connections I have built up with child protection services at adoption panel (and being a bit pushy!). The meeting was a real breakthrough. One of those moments of serendipity where one sees that dreams might come true.

I live in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead. Many will know of one dysfunctional family that lives in the area, but there are plenty others not living in castles that need real help. The Adoption Panel covers all of Berkshire and that includes Slough and Reading where social services have real challenges. The Director of Children services is Alison Alexander, and it was her immediate response to my points that so impressed me. Alison is a care leaver herself and passionate about education being key to successful outcomes for children in or from care. See the Guardian article below.


Alison agreed the following actions:

  • All schools in the LA will have Personal Education Plans for adopted children, agreeing these with their parents in the same way as currently happens with LAC and VSHs. The PEP will cover all the child’s needs in school and give the parents the opportunity to discuss with the designated teacher matters such as training and therapeutic support.
  • The VSH will cover all adopted children when they first enter school to assist parents in managing what can be a difficult transition at age 4/5. This follows Alison’s previous extension of the VSH role to cover adopted children for one academic year post court order.
  • Research on the schools in the LA that have included adopted children on the January census. This will show which schools will receive the Pupil Premium Plus and how much.  It will also create a list of schools with whom to discuss the new PEPs for adopted children.
  • The LA holds a conference for designated teachers in June and this year will include the following:
    • The launch of the new PEPs for adopted children explaining how they will work in practise.
    • Recommended uses for PP+ including training, therapeutic support and developing a school environment that helps our children.
    • Compliance with the new Ofsted requirements on PP+ and that failure to comply could cause problems for the school and the head.
    • I will be seconded to the board of the Virtual School to assist the development of the PEPs and the planning for the conference. I would also like to look at working up a template with the VSHs for an ‘attachment friendly’ school that can be used as a benchmark.

At the end of the meeting Alison said, “I want to see our children over achieve in school”. I plan to make how to get there the theme of the conference.

These are significant steps and as the adoption services covers all of Berkshire I would hope to get these actions moving in the other four LAs in the county. Lots of work to do, but a really encouraging start.


The support from the DfE for improving adoption services and outcomes for our children is undoubtedly strong. It might help that the Minister for Children comes from a family of foster parents and has two adoptive siblings. If we can achieve such significant changes in support for adopters with school locally I would hope to use the example to make progress nationally.

I am aware of widely differing support for adopted children in school from LAs. It would be useful to carry out research get a picture nationally. This can then be used to encourage those who are failing and also help would be adopters in their choice of agency. Feedback from adopters, trainers and social workers on the support available in your LAs would be useful.

Sir Martin Narey has already been supportive and has said he will explore these issues further on his return from holiday. He has the contacts with central government and he will get a copy of this article! With a little bit of funding we could build a picture that could tell a powerful story.


Thanks to the trainers who have contacted me via twitter and email. The work already being done by dedicated professionals is impressive. I believe we could see a lack of resource available to train teachers in schools when schools realise they will need to be demonstrating that their PP+ spending benefits our children. I am looking at ways to provide a data base of trainers and other useful information for adoptive parents, schools and social workers to access. But in the meantime here are the contacts for the wonderful people who have already been in touch.

Fiona Sheikh at http://www.family-action.org.uk/ (I’ve booked Fiona for September inset at my son’s school)

The wonderful Louise Bomber’s training firm.   www.theyellowkkite.co.uk

Gail Jackson at   http://www.afteradoption.org.uk/

Jane Evans at http://www.parentingposttrauma.co.uk/ an inspiring poet as well!




The Adoption UK course ‘Children who struggle in school’ is a worthwhile day. I took our son’s head teacher and it convinced her to set up training at school.

Next steps

I am fortunate to be able to spend time working on something that really matters to me rather than for a living. As I don’t cost anything I have found that I have been able to use my contacts at the Adoption panel and a bit of chutzpah to open a few doors. I’ll keep on pushing to see how far I can get and report back. The growing online adoption community is building an impressive momentum that can do great things. If you agree with my thoughts please share this article, tweet @martinnarey, and let’s see what we can do. If you feel an online resource would be useful let me know and I’ll see if I can build it. If you are having any joy or pain with your children’s school please share it. Thanks for all the tweets and emails. It’s good to know you are there.




Using the Pupil Premium Plus – Teaching the Teachers

Today’s post on ‘The Blog’ is from adoptive father Gareth who writes about Pupil Premium Plus…if your school is uninterested or unsupportive, do direct them to this article.

The Pupil Premium Plus
This is a new payment from central government to help adopted children and their parents. From April 2014, £1900 will be paid to schools for each adopted child in the school. In brief the eligibility criteria is –

  • Adopted on or after 30/12/2005
  • From reception to year 11
  • Parent has declared the child’s status to the school
  • School records this on the January School Census. (In 2014 by 16/01)

As we know many of our children have experienced grief, loss, and poor attachment in their early lives. 70% of those adopted in 2009/10 entered care due to abuse or neglect. It is now being recognised that our children don’t suddenly experience a miracle that makes everything all right when we adopt them. Their early experiences can have a lasting impact which may affect them for years after adoption. The Pupil Premium Plus (PP+) acknowledges that teachers and schools have vital role to play in helping our children emotionally, socially and educationally to raise their attainment and address their wider needs.

Schools are required to use PP+ ‘to improve the educational and personal outcomes’ for adopted children. It is not to ‘back fill the general school budget or be used to support other pupil groups such as those with special educational needs or low attainment’. The Department of Education’s announcement did not however specify how schools should use the premium beyond the above comments. They suggest that schools might use it for staff training or tailored support for a specific child. There might be other uses but it must be used for the benefit of our children. I understand that Ofsted will be checking the use of the PP+ in future inspections and will expect to see evidence of the PP+ resulting in improved outcomes for adopted children.

What can we do?
Well, not much if the school doesn’t talk to us! It is disappointing to see adoptive parents tweet that some schools won’t discuss the use of PP+ or that they will get ‘half price school trips’. I am sure that many schools will use the opportunity to work with adoptive parents to agree the best use of the funds for their children, but it is a pity that the D of E did not specify that schools should discuss this with us.

But what we can do is go and see the Head or the designated teacher and put forward suggestions. (Every school is required to have a designated teacher responsible for adopted and looked after children in the school. In a small school it might well be the head.) It would be disappointing if a school will not agree to a meeting. After all if they didn’t have our children they wouldn’t have the money.

children's feetMy strong view is that all schools would benefit from expert training on caring for children with attachment difficulties and the effects of abuse and neglect. Our son is now 11 and came to us when he was 6 so has been through years 1 – 6 in the local primary school. We didn’t appreciate at first what he was going through at school. We knew something wasn’t right. We were told he talked too much, he couldn’t pay attention. His year 1 teacher gave him a ‘naughty book’ to mark down all the times he chatted or didn’t pay attention. He was bullied, but in a clever way. The bullies worked out that if they pushed him hard enough, he would react and they could then ‘tell’ on him. So he was then the ‘problem kid’ and we often had the class teacher/ head in the playground waiting at pick up time to tell us of another incident of his ‘bad’ behaviour.  In year 3 he was cornered by 3 boys in the playing field and in defending himself scratched on of them near the eye. He was marched to the head’s office and sat outside on his own, frightened and in tears, whilst other children walked past him taking in the afternoon register. The school equivalent of medieval stocks.

That incident happened the last day of term. It took a couple of weeks to heal our son from the trauma. Every time he was hurt at school, when he went to bed that night, the horrors of his early abuse and neglect came back to double the hurt.

One might think that this is a poor school, with teachers failing their pupils, from the story so far. But it isn’t. The problem was being unaware of the way our son’s brain works, the different way he will react to bullying and to discipline and school life. He talks too much to fill his head with sound, as he doesn’t want the memories of the hell he came from to come in. He looks around all the time because he spent 4 ½ years not knowing where the next blow was coming from. Calling him ‘naughty’ or ‘bad’ confirms what he knows. He was a ‘naughty’ and ‘bad’ child as nobody wanted him. He struggled with maths because maths is either right or wrong and he desperately doesn’t want to be wrong. He spends time scanning his surroundings to check there are no unexpected threats. Moving from class, to lunch, to play, means more scanning and more punishment for ‘talking in line’.

After the ‘stocks’ incident I met the head and went into detail on the damage that had been done to our son. I also found out she was the designated teacher for adopted and LAC. I offered to help by speaking to her staff. To her credit she recognised where she had gone wrong, apologised, and agreed that I could speak at the next inset day. The talk had a real effect on the teachers. Some were in tears when they understood the damage poor attachment and early trauma and abuse has on a child’s developing brain and how their ways of managing children can cause further damage.  After all most of them were mothers and became teachers because they wanted to help children, not hurt them.

I believe that teaching the teachers about the issues that arise from poor attachment, early abuse and neglect is the most effective way of helping our children have the best possible outcome from their time at school. The training should also be regular and for all staff who work with children. Our son is now in year 6 and there are new teachers, TAs and playground assistants who didn’t hear my talk 3 years ago. The cost should not be more than £500 for a ½ day session. Well within the PP+.

What have I done?
I am pleased to have made some progress locally. I took our head to an Adoption UK workshop in January. She welcomed refreshing and increasing her understanding. We are organising a day’s training for the September inset. Two sessions, one for teachers and TAs, one for all other staff who work with children. She also thinks that refresher sessions every 2 years will help. I managed to source a highly qualified training provider for the sessions.

As an independent member of the local adoption panel I regularly see matches where it is obvious that the adoptive parents are going to have issues to deal with when their new child goes to school. We provide a loving, secure and safe home to help heal hurt children and then when they are 4/5 they then move to a place that can be scary with people who do not understand them. PP+ can help all children like ours.  Through panel contacts I have been able to meet with senior social workers and the Virtual Head for our Local Authority (LA) on the use of PP+. I was pleased with the progress we made. We agreed –

  • The LA’s will be asked to send a letter to all adoptive parents on their records about PP+. The letter will encourage them to contact schools and ask to be involved in spending decisions for PP+, with a focus on teacher training. (I get to draft the letter!) We will ask for feedback on schools’ responses.
  • We will build a list of training providers for adoptive parents and schools in the area to access.
  • The virtual head is to try and set up central training for heads on attachment and vulnerable children.

Another breakthrough came last week when the head of children’s services for the LA announced that virtual heads will be responsible for adopted children from the date of matching to one academic year after the adoption order. (It helps that she is a care leaver and is passionate about education). Virtual heads are usually only responsible for Looked After Children, not adopted. This means that they will now work with new adoptive parents in finding schools, work with the school and be there when needed for continual help.

What else?
Further steps I would like to see are at a national level. I believe –

  • Schools should be required to discuss with adoptive parents the use of PP+
  • Teaching the teachers should be a national priority
  • Virtual heads’ responsibility should be extended to adopted children nationally. Parents need support with schooling. Consideration should be given to PP+ funds being under the control of virtual heads rather than individual schools.

Finally, I presume the cut-off date of 30/12/2005 was due to costs, but all adoptive children need this help, so let’s ask government to extend PP+ to cover all adoptive children from reception to year 11.

I have written to Sir Martin Narey and he has promised to look into this. It would also be useful if our friends at Adoption UK and BAAF supported us in these initiatives with national government.

If our children succeed at school, they will succeed in life. Working in partnership with our children’s schools we can achieve this and PP+ is the fuel that can power this partnership.

Gareth Marr
I am an adoptive Dad and an independent member of a local adoption panel. My wife and I adopted our son when he was 6, my wife was 48 and I was 57. I recently had a recurrence of throat cancer so retired from the day job to develop a new career as a Barry White or Darth Vader impersonator (depends on the audience).  My experience with our son and at panel has led me to focus on 2 key areas in adoption –

  • Encouraging non-traditional adopters. Older, single, LGBT. Many of these are willing to take on harder to place children who are older, disabled, have learning difficulties or suffered major abuse. I was older, had had cancer, and an interesting life story but a great social worker backed us and we now have beautiful boy who is doing well.
  • Working with schools. After our role as parents, schools have the most important effect on our children’s success in life and it is essential that we work together to give our children the best chances as members of society as they grow up.

If you’d like to know more, or support Gareth in anyway, please comment below, or contact Gareth via Twitter – @garethmarr or email at garethmarr7@gmail.com