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Children of military families often move schools four or five times
in Surrey was all service children. Now he is in a Wiltshire school where they make up 40 per cent of the roll. His next will be in Northumbria and he will be the only such child. Emma said: “I am a little apprehensive about this next move. We had a choice of three schools. I didn’t choose the nearest one but one where luckily his cousin attends so at least he’ll know someone.”
North Yorkshire has been making an extra effort to deal with its service children as it has a high number of military personnel in its area. It has been working with colleagues in Wiltshire, which also has a high number, to share good ideas. That includes buddy systems so incoming children can be paired up with potential friends, packs for children to take with them when they move on so they don’t lose contact with peers, dealing with bereavement and absences, how to ensure paperwork arrives with the child, and tips on forming closer links with local military units. Olivia Denson, head of the Children’s Education Advisory Service, set up by the Ministry of Defence in 2004 to help families deal with issues arising out of mobility, said: “It is all about service children being absorbed into the system and being able to get on with their lives with the right support. What North Yorkshire and Wiltshire have achieved are models that work and other local education authorities can adopt.” Matt Blyton of North Yorkshire’s education authority, who has played a leading role in the self-help network, said: “They say one of the most stressful things is moving house. Another is moving to a new country or moving to a new job. Service children can go through all of that and the education sector just expects them to cope.”
North Yorkshire’s lessons for armed forces children
Education experts say there is a shocking lack of information about how well the children of armed forces families are performing – or even how many of them there are. The sons and daughters of military families often attend four or five primary schools as postings take their parents around this country and abroad. Such moves tend to ease off by secondary school age as a military career comes to an end or settles into longer postings. paperwork and with a parent absent for a long period. The government only began collecting figures on service children as part of its annual census in 2008. However, it isn’t mandatory for schools to fill in that section so the results are likely to be an underestimate. For instance, in January 2008, North Yorkshire found it had 77 schools with at least one service child. This year, after encouraging better reporting, that went to 137 with 2,688 children – about 3.2 per cent of the total roll. In total Ofsted reckons there are 90,000 service children, the Children’s Education Advisory Service estimates 186,000, while the current Department for Education data collected from local authorities puts the figure at about 37,000. The national picture is complicated by the fact that in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland no counting is done at all.
Apprehensive about move
Also, Ofsted makes no allowances for service children when inspecting schools, though it might note it in its report. Meanwhile attainment figures are thought to mask considerable variations between different local authorities and between schools. Emma has a husband in the Royal Signals and a seven-yearold son, George. His first school
However, during those formative years, schools are often confronted by children arriving at short notice, sometimes without any
THE BIG ISSUE IN THE NORTH · 6-12 SEPTEMBER 2010