“In the war, people used duck pond to get what they needed.”
This wasn’t the strangest thing this particular kid had ever said, but I was still curious and asked him to elaborate.
“There was not enough food. The Nasty Nazis blowed up the farms and the shops. Everyone had had a book of duck ponds. You swapped the duck ponds for what you needed.”
I experienced a moment of enlightenment.
“Ah yes, ‘duck ponds’, I think they are also called ‘coupons.’”
The little kid nodded as I confirmed what he had learnt.
This six year old had arrived at our house on a Friday afternoon.
We’d known for a week or two that he was coming.
It wasn’t safe for him to continue attending his Primary School, and one of our tasks was to find him an appropriate educational establishment.
For us, the most logical choice was the same Primary school that our birth kids attended.
The logistics made complete sense.
Instead of taking two kids to school, we’d take three.
Instead of making two packed lunches, we’d make three.
Instead of picking up two kids, we’d pick up three.
The school was rated “Good” by Ofsted and had served our birth kids well.
We knew the teachers, the TAs and had friends scattered throughout the year groups.
We knew the Headteacher and we knew, that as a Looked After Child, our new little man had every right to attend the school.
We got him a place and he started on the next Monday, escorted into the Infant Yard by his newly acquired older brother.
The Primary School was three form entry and is situated in a fairly densely populated area of a large Northern City.
Kids attend from a variety of backgrounds and cultures.
The staff and TA are used to dealing with kids with all sorts of histories and all sorts of aspirations.
I think for this particular Looked After Child, the diversity was very helpful.
If he could fit in anywhere, he would fit in here.
And this Mainstream Primary worked for him.
He was not the only Looked After Child.
He was not the only child with additional educational needs.
The SENCO knew something about Attachment Trauma, and was very willing to learn more.
The TAs were so child centred, that he immediately felt safe with them.
I like to think we also played a role.
We, especially my wife who is very good at this sort of thing, did all we could to keep the school up to speed on what was happening at home.
We explained that whilst he may be ‘perfectly behaved at school’, we were often on the receiving end of ‘an explosion of emotion’ as soon as he walked through our front door.
His teachers nodded when we told them, and acknowledged what we were saying as true.
This validation was important to us.
Perhaps the teachers didn’t fully understand everything, but they were very willing to learn.
The teachers reflected on how and what they taught him.
We received an email from his class teacher;
‘Hi, just to let you know…we will be learning about evacuees as part of our WW2 topic. We will be learning about kids leaving their homes and their families to live with strangers. We hope this doesn’t cause you any problems at home. Please get in touch if you want to discuss further.’
What fantastic empathy.
We knew the school was the right choice.
The school curriculum is full of potential triggers for a child who doesn’t live with Birth Family.
Bring in a baby photo.
Draw your family tree.
Draw your family tree and label it in French.
Why are your eyes the colour they are…let’s learn about genetics and DNA.
Let’s read a story about some evacuees who go and live in a big old house, find a cupboard, and discover a parallel universe.
Our school production is Oliver Twist…’consider yourself one of the family’.
Schools cannot avoid these issues, but they can be aware of them, and try and deal with them sensitively.
Alongside the curriculum, schools provide pastoral support.
Schools can be full of systems to ensure order and good behaviour, but can in fact bring shame and chaos.
Charts displaying progress or poor behaviour can bring enormous deregulation to a kid who’d rather disappear.
The same charts can encourage a kid to play up, so desperate is their need for attention.
‘Better to be on the naughty list than no list at all.’
Very few teachers receive training in knowing the difference between Fostering, Special Guardianship Orders and Adoption.
Very few teachers receive training in Attachment Disorders and the associated issues.
In 24 years as a Mainstream Teacher I’ve never received any.
I’ve no idea how many adopted or fostered kids I’ve taught, and I’m sure I’ve made many mistakes. However, if we can all keep communication clear, open and honest, with reasonable expectations, our kids will do the best they can.
If you’re a Foster Carer or Adopter, you may well find yourself as the teacher of these teachers.
I hope your child’s teachers are happy to be taught.