Select Committee on Defence Eleventh Report

Conclusions and recommendations

1.  The web forum provided an opportunity for us to hear the views of, and communicate with, a broad range of people, including those based overseas. We regret that SCE staff and schools were not actively encouraged to participate from the beginning but welcome the MoD's acceptance that there is no reason why MoD employees should not contribute to fora of this kind if their purpose is to relay personal experience rather than comment on Government policy. We consider the forum to have been a valuable experience and we intend to build on this experience in future inquiries. (Paragraph 10)

2.  Moving schools is stressful for all children and frequent moves can have a significant detrimental impact on young people, particularly on their willingness to form friendships with their peers. Some schools have developed imaginative ways to help students settle in to their new schools. We recommend the DfES work with the MoD to develop best practice guidance for schools on helping Service children adapt as smoothly as possible to their new school environment. (Paragraph 19)

3.  We are very concerned that Service children may be falling between the responsibilities of the DfES and the devolved administrations. They must act in a joined-up way to ensure continuity of education for children moving between the different parts of the UK. This is an area which the DfES needs to address urgently. We also recommend greater contact between the MoD and those in the devolved administrations responsible for education. (Paragraph 23)

4.  Mobility can negatively affect a student's educational attainment, particularly in the lead-up to key stages and GCSEs and A levels. We recommend that the DfES work closely with the MoD, SCE and devolved administrations to identify ways to mitigate the impact of mobility. (Paragraph 24)

5.  The MoD and local education authorities should begin planning for the impact that the creation of Super Garrisons will have on pupil numbers in schools located near Service bases. (Paragraph 26)

6.  We note the importance of regular communications between deployed Service personnel and their families. Young people can feel particular anxiety during this time and their educational attainment and general well-being can be affected. The provision of communication facilities, and the regular opportunity to use them, can help both Service personnel and their families maintain their morale during operational tours. (Paragraph 32)

7.  The difficulties experienced by some Service families in getting their child assessed by an educational psychologist for Statementing purposes and the consequent delays in the provision of support to those children is unacceptable. Schools and local authorities should give the needs of Service children with Special Needs equal priority to those of any other child. (Paragraph 42)

8.  We are concerned at the evidence we have received that SCE lacks sufficient numbers of educational psychologists. We call upon the MoD to ensure that SCE schools are able to call on the services of accredited educational psychologists within a reasonable time. (Paragraph 43)

9.  We recommend that the DfES and the MoD consider introducing, as a priority, a system whereby Service children with Special Needs are given a Statement of educational needs which can be taken with them as they move between schools, and is accepted by schools as the basis for support which they will provide. The Statement should be time-limited and reviewed regularly. (Paragraph 44)

10.  We note the former Defence Minister's tentative suggestion of a "Statementing passport" for Service children with special needs. We recommend that the feasibility of a Statementing passport be explored further by his successor. (Paragraph 45)

11.  Service parents need reliable and accessible information when making key decisions about their child's education. We note the positive feedback we received from parents who had used the Children's Education Advisory Service but also the low profile of the CEAS amongst the Service parents we met. We recommend that the MoD provide the necessary resources to raise the profile of the CEAS amongst Service families so that it can provide its important advice service to a larger number of Service parents. (Paragraph 49)

12.  We believe that in today's information age, a website is an essential conduit for information between organisations and clients. We recommend that the MoD provide the CEAS with the necessary resources for an effective and visible website and that it do so speedily. (Paragraph 50)

13.  While it may seem curious that the MoD should be responsible for providing schools, it is unquestionably the Department with the closest interest in the education of Service children and the issues facing them. We see no reason to call for any change in the status of SCE as an MoD agency. (Paragraph 59)

14.  Both the MoD and the DfES expressed satisfaction with their current working relationship with regard to SCE schools, but saw potential for closer collaboration. We are concerned by the Minister for School's description of the DfES relationship with the MoD as "hands-off". We believe closer collaboration and a greater interest in Service children by the DfES to be essential. (Paragraph 60)

15.  The written evidence we have received, and the contributions posted to our web forum, were generally positive about the quality of schooling provided by SCE schools, particularly at primary level. (Paragraph 64)

16.  We are not convinced by the reasons given by the MoD for the governance arrangements for SCE schools and recommend that the MoD consider the feasibility of giving Schools Advisory Committees powers equivalent to those exercised by governing bodies in UK maintained schools. We believe that this would help to ensure that high standards of performance are achieved. In the short term, the MoD should take steps to ensure that members of Schools Advisory Committees assume a more active role in school life and that they receive appropriate training to do this effectively. (Paragraph 69)

17.  We welcome the MoD's commitment to give additional funding to SCE to match increases to the DfES budget, but we are concerned to ensure that this funding is provided by HM Treasury rather than from already allocated MoD resources. We expect the Treasury to make available proportional funding to the MoD whenever it increases the schools budget. We expect the MoD to ensure that parity funding for SCE schools continues. (Paragraph 76)

18.  It is vital that the interests of SCE schools are taken into account when DfES initiatives are introduced, and that SCE is resourced adequately to implement them. (Paragraph 80)

19.  We recommend that the MoD consider broadening its criteria for deciding which of its contract workers are eligible for free education in SCE schools. It appears unfair that some contracted staff, performing important responsibilities for the Services, are not entitled to free schooling in SCE schools. (Paragraph 84)

20.  We were surprised to discover that there does not seem to be a clear working definition of what a Service child is. Without an accepted definition, a reliable figure for the number of Service children cannot be determined and decisions about funding for Service children and the tracking of the educational attainment of Service children, is not possible. (Paragraph 88)

21.  We recommend that the MoD and the DfES treat as a Service child any child of school age whose parent has served in the UK Armed Forces during that child's school career. (Paragraph 90)

22.  We recognise that many LEAs do not have a significant number of Service children in their schools and would gain little benefit if the PLASC included a requirement for schools to identify Service children. For the DfES to reject the proposal on the ground that a sample focus group was not in favour is simply ridiculous, and a sad reflection of the importance which the DfES attaches to Service children. The collection of data on the number of Service children, through the national PLASC census, would bring benefit to the DfES, the MoD, SCE and LEAs. This information would assist the targeting of resources for Service children more effectively and enable trends in the attainment of Service children to be established. (Paragraph 95)

23.  We do not consider its inclusion in the PLASC exercise would prove unduly burdensome for schools and the benefits it would bring are considerable. We recommend strongly that the DfES include a Service children marker in its annual PLASC exercise. (Paragraph 96)

24.  All LEAs face different challenges and demands on their resources. Significant disparities in the funding needs of individual schools exist within LEAs. We believe that it is appropriate that funding decisions concerning individual schools are made at a local level, by LEAs, through its locally-determined funding formula. We commend to LEAs the example of Wiltshire County Council which provides additional funding for its schools with significant numbers of Service children. (Paragraph 102)

25.  While we recognise the logistical challenge and the need for occasional unexpected postings, we recommend that the MoD adopt a more rigorous target for notice of postings. (Paragraph 105)

26.  We recommend that the MoD consider how parents living abroad can be assisted better to find schools in the UK, particularly when their spouse is away on an operational deployment. (Paragraph 109)

27.  We welcome the commitment by the Minister for Schools that the DfES would advise local authorities to accept unit postal addresses from which to apply to new schools. (Paragraph 110)

28.  We note the difficulties that Head Teachers of schools located near Service bases have experienced owing to poor communication with the MoD about planned postings. Postings to, and away from, military bases can have a profound effect on a school's ability to budget and plan effectively. It is vital that the MoD informs schools and LEAs as early as possible about its intended postings. There is an urgent need to improve this aspect of MoD's performance. (Paragraph 115)

29.  We are concerned that the records of Service children are frequently transferred between schools well beyond the 15 day requirement set by DfES regulation. In the age of e-mail and instant electronic communication, there can be no excuse for not transferring records within the 15 day regulation. Delays in the transfer of student records mean that the new teacher has to take additional time to assess a child and specify suitable learning plans. In extreme cases delays could harm a child's learning development. We call on the DfES to take steps to enforce the 15 day requirement for the transfer of student records. (Paragraph 120)

30.  We recognise the importance of pre-school provision for Service families in the UK and recommend that the MoD give consideration to this. (Paragraph 121)

31.  Educating Service children is often referred to in terms of the difficulties it presents and obstacles to overcome. We note that during our inquiry we have been told about many of the positive aspects of educating Service children, which for many teachers proves to be a satisfying experience. (Paragraph 124)

32.  We recommend that the MoD commission research on the reasons for lower take-up of CEA among lower-paid ranks. In particular, this research should focus on any financial or cultural reasons for the lower take-up of the CEA by lower-paid ranks. (Paragraph 132)

33.  The two schools have different roles but both are popular: admissions to the Queen Victoria School and the Duke of York's Royal Military School are over-subscribed. While the Queen Victoria School and the Duke of York's Royal Military School are clearly anachronisms, we see no reason to recommend any change to their status. (Paragraph 138)

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