A new project is being launched in Kent and Medway to improve the support Service children receive in education settings.

The Service Children’s Progression (SCiP) Alliance Kent and Medway Hub officially launches later this year. It will aim to identify and respond to the unique challenges that can be experienced by Armed Forces families and explore how this impacts their education. It will link into the national SCiP Alliance Network, which looks to improve support and drive policy change across the UK.

In this guest blog post, Katherine Lawrence, Head of Operations at the SCiP Alliance, outlines some of the additional challenges that military service children face, and the ways schools, colleges and universities can help.

Impact on learning

While no two families will have the same experiences, children of serving and ex-Armed Forces personnel can have complex additional challenges. Evidence suggests this can have both positive and negative effects on their lives. Understanding this better can reduce the impact it has on their learning. There are a number of different factors that can have an effect.

This can include mobility challenges, for example, frequent moves resulting in children transferring schools. This can disrupt friendship groups, and it can be difficult to settle into a new school routine. Emotional pressures can have a significant impact too, such as managing long periods of separation and increased worries or family stress during a deployment. There are also practical considerations, such as whether there are educational options that work for their specific circumstances.

If these pressures aren’t recognised and families are unable to access the right support, it can affect their future educational opportunities. A 2016 research paper by the University of Winchester, in partnership with the Ministry of Defence, highlighted that statistics suggest children from Service families are underrepresented in the Higher Education population. That’s why a better understanding of the barriers faced by children of serving and ex-Armed Forces personnel is vital.

What can schools, colleges and universities do to help?

The SCiP Alliance have identified that because Service children can be perceived to be more resilient, it can be harder to spot that they may need extra help. For example, some children appear very confident when starting in a new school, but they could be trying to manage a mix of emotions underneath. Some Armed Forces families have also mentioned that they’re reluctant to identify themselves as one, particularly in areas where there aren’t many. This means that the impact of big life changes such as deployment or a school transfer can often be missed.

Education settings can help to improve this by better informing staff of the possible issues faced and working more closely with Armed Forces families to improve the support provided to them. This could include more tailored pastoral care, establishing support groups and ensuring families know how to access resources already available.

Strengthening outcomes for families

The new SCiP Alliance Kent and Medway hub is just one strand of a national alliance established to address this issue by bringing together key professionals and building strong partnerships. It works with schools and other organisations to strengthen practice and improve outcomes for families. It also provides structured engagement opportunities for Armed Forces families to gather more research and data available to help inform policy.

The alliance also aims to:

  • Call for changes to policy to support Armed Forces families and recognise the challenges they face;
  • Help schools to identify and better understand their needs;
  • Ensure better co-ordination of local resources;
  • Make it easier for children and their families to access specific resources;
  • Improve the support offered at universities and colleges.

It’s this drive for improvements that has helped to realise a key change to the UCAS application form. Applicants will now have the option to identify as being from an Armed Forces or a Veteran Family. This will help to contextualise UCAS data and personal statements, particularly where there are multiple school changes, transfers, or course changes. It also means that universities can track access, success and progression data for students, helping them monitor progress and identify students that may need support.

Improving support in Kent and Medway

Kent and Medway is home to a large population of military service children and their families, so it’s really important to understand the challenges faced locally and look at the provision offered. The new Hub, led by KMPF and in partnership with the Service Children’s Progression Alliance, will aim to address this. KMPF will work closely with its partners and other organisations in the area to ensure that Service children and their families receive the best possible information, advice and support to access education and training.

The new Kent and Medway regional Hub will be chaired by Angela Maxted, Headteacher at Cheriton Primary School, which is attended by many children from military service families from the neighbouring Shorncliffe Barracks in Folkestone.

Want to know more?

For more information about the new Hub, please contact Nathan Hazledene: N.Hazledene@kent.ac.uk

For more information on the SCiP Alliance and the resources available, visit www.scipalliance.org

Lucy King

3 Jul 2023

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