Supporting children of armed forces personnel in school
What do teachers and support staff need to know about supporting Service Children?
- Service children are not a homogenous group and will have different experiences
- Service children may move home frequently, with all the disruption to education, friendships and social networks that this can imply. Leaving behind old friends and making new friends is one of the biggest challenges service children say they face. Educationally, they can miss key parts of the curriculum and unwittingly re-do other parts.
- Service children may have extended periods when their serving parent is away from home. Apart from missing their absent parent, this could also mean parents being unable to attend key school events. If the parent is deployed on active service, children may be worried about their safety (something to be aware of, for example during history or literature lessons). When the absent parent returns, that can also bring adjustments for the family.
- There can be significant benefits for service children of being part of the armed forces community and the challenges they may face can also increase their resilience. They may therefore develop strong leadership, peer mentoring, organisational skills and other positive attributes reflected by the military ethos.
Why is it important for schools to be aware of the needs of Service Children?
If the school environment is responsive to the specific issues which service children can face, those service children will be better supported and thus thrive.
The Armed Forces Covenant - which all councils in Kent have signed up to - is a promise that people who serve in the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force will not be disadvantaged as a result of that service. This means, for example, that if they have to move house, their children should not be disadvantaged in the school admissions process. More generally, councils are promoting greater awareness of the needs of the armed forces community and what can be done to address them.
The purpose of the Service Pupil Premium (£300 per year)
To enable schools to offer pastoral and emotional support during challenging times and to help mitigate the negative impact on service children of family mobility or parental deployment. Schools need to account for how they spend this resource and parents may ask how it is being used. Some of the support needed by service children doesn’t require dedicated resource, but sensitivity, awareness and thoughtfulness on the part of staff.
What support might Service Children need?
- Ability to contact deployed parent virtually during school hours
- Facilitation of deployed parent to engage with child’s education (e.g. virtual bed-time reading, virtual parents’ evening, Reading Force programme)
- Connecting with other service children (although not all will want this) who understand what it’s like to be in a military family. Attendance at Kent’s Annual Service Pupils’ Conference is one way of doing this.
- Quiet space to retreat to if they are feeling particularly anxious or emotional.
- A named person they can talk to who ‘gets’ the military and understands the issues.
- Occasional flexibility to allow child special family time if this is very limited.
Find out more
Kent County Council has officers who support the Armed Forces Covenant and can be contacted by emailing ArmedForces@kent.gov.uk and will either answer your questions or know someone who can.
General information about the social and emotional needs of service children
- Naval Families Federation - Making sense of the Emotional Cycle of Deployment for Children
- Children's Commissioner - Kin and Country - Growing up as an Armed Forces child
- Naval Families Federation - Guide for Parents and Adults Supporting Children and Young People
- Naval Families Federation - Non-Operational Separations
- Forces Connect South East - Mobile App flyer (PDF, 456.6 KB)
Service Pupil Premium
With over 76,000 children from Armed Forces families attending schools in England, additional help is at hand to support these families to navigate the school admissions process.
If you have significant numbers of Service Children in your school, you may want to join the Service Children in State Schools (SCISS) Alliance or one of the Service Children in Partnership hubs.
Charities that support Service Children: