Select Committee on Defence Eleventh Report

Annex B: Report on the Committee's web forum

The web forum ran for five weeks between 18 April and 26 May 2006 (extended from 12 May) at

The purpose of the forum was to engage with a wide range people interested in the education of Service children. It was a particularly useful tool for the inquiry owing to the geographical spread of Service Children's Education (SCE) schools which are based in countries around the world. The forum received postings from Service families, teachers, and young people who were attending or had attended SCE schools.

Hansard Society

The Hansard Society was commissioned to develop the website. The Society used its latest web-based initiative as a platform for the Defence Committee's inquiry. Launched in January 2004 it creates a template and dedicated online platform to host parliamentary consultations.

The Hansard eDemocracy Programme worked on the web design and liaised with the Committee on the content and background information for the website. The forum had a clear explanation of what the inquiry was about, who was doing the consultation and for what purpose. It also provided background information and suggestions for further reading. At registration, a set of basic terms and conditions were made available, as well as a clear explanation of the forum's moderation policy.


The web forum was publicised via a series of press notice and targeted e-mails at interest groups and individual SCE schools and UK schools located near Service garrisons. Press notices were also sent to organisations such as the DfES, Ofsted, and Local Education Authorities and Forces welfare groups, HIVEs, SCE and SCE schools around the world.

Reminder press notices and e-mails were sent regularly to these groups.

Postings and Moderation

The forum went live on 18 April 2006.

In order to contribute directly, interested parties were required to create an account. Once they had created an account, they received a username and password that allowed them to access and submit to the forum. Users were also able to read the posts and discussions without logging in.

During the course of the forum, Committee staff were responsible for 'facilitation moderation'. The Committee posted comments to facilitate discussions - asking for additional comments on an issue posted on the web pages, or introducing a new topic to move the discussion along.


176 people registered to take part in the online forum at and a total of 115 messages were posted.

There were over 5,000 hits on the page.

Out of those who posted messages on the site:

  • 12 were posted on the young people page
  • 61 were posted on the service families page
  • 17 were posted on the teachers page
  • 25 were posted on the schools page

The forum was originally due to run from 18 April to 12 May 2006. For the first few weeks, there were very few postings from SCE schools and teachers. The Chairman wrote to the Minster to seek assurance that SCE teachers had not been prevented from participating. The Minister replied stating that SCE teachers would be encouraged to participate, and the number postings to the forum did pick up albeit slightly. In order to allow time for further postings, the web forum was extended to 26 May.

Out of those who registered:

  • 3.41% were under 18 years of age
  • 1.14 % were 18 - 23 years old
  • 6.82% were 24 - 30 years old
  • 3.98% were 31 - 45 years old
  • 32.95% were 46 - 60 years old
  • 1.7% were over 60 years of age

Below is a graphical representation of the age groups of those who registered on the web forum:

Those who registered were asked if they had taken part in an online consultation before:

  • 9.66% answered YES
  • 90.34% answered NO

The Hansard Society noted a high level of interaction between contributors compared with other web forums it had facilitated.

Summary of Comments Posted

The online discussion was structured around four main headings:

  • Young People
  • Service Families
  • Teachers
  • Schools

Young People

The first two contributors who participated on the site were two sisters, who expressed unhappiness about their German school. They were the children of a contractor whose contract did not include free schooling. The family could only afford to pay for one to attend an SCE school.

'I finish the German School at 1 o'clock then I don't have anything to do because we are not part of the community. I don't know any other children..'

'Why can I go to school in England for free and I'm not allowed to in Germany? My dad looks after all the soldiers and all the children and us at home but there is no one to pay for my English school.'

'My sister is lucky she gets to go to the English school but my mum can't pay for us both. I think it's nearly 5000 euros for now until the summer holidays. I want to go to the English school and when my dad goes to Afghanistan who will make sure that we are ok? Please let me go to the English school.'

Another contributor expressed the difficulty that mobility had caused to her schooling, with the differences in the curricula followed by UK and SCE schools.

'On many occasions I have found myself in a situation where I am struggling with the work set by my teachers. This is not because I am not able, but the constant moving to and from the UK to Germany. I moved to N. Ireland just before my Y9 SATs to find that none of the schools did the same examining board I was taking in the previous school, meaning I had to learn whole new syllabus for three lessons. […]In year 10 I moved from N. Ireland back to Germany and guess what? The examining boards were different and none of the classes I chose were available other than Geography to me. […] Some children aren't as able as others in school and would not be able to catch up with the work…'

The contributor also mentioned the challenges facing children adapting to life overseas, while another emphasised the importance of understanding children's needs in order to improve their experiences.

'[…].some people find it hard to meet new people. These people fade into the background and keep to themselves and be given the title of loner. Some people react to this and talk to them, but others often bully these people. I have seen cases like this everywhere I have moved!!!'

'I'm coming to the end of my PhD in which I have looked at the experiences of education of army children. In my research, it has become clear that there is a vast difference between the perceptions of army students and their teachers/policy makers. The army students I interviewed all mentioned their feelings of sadness when moving and leaving friends, whereas teachers and policy makers were most concerned about missing records/funding. It strikes me that there needs to be more understanding about what matters to the children involved - by looking at their needs, we might be able to make their experiences better.'

Finally, one contributor expressed his thoughts on boarding school:

'I first went to a boarding school at the age of 11, now at 16 I can say that compared to all other schools I recently attended, this one is most definitely the best. Without the funding of the Services, this would not have been possible. My dad currently serves in the Royal Navy - this gave myself and my three younger sisters a chance to a better education. The boarding school I am at now is excellent. Before I went there 5 years ago, I hated going to school, but now I think that one of best parts of the day is the education! […] I personally think that boarding schools are the best of education a child/young person could receive, it is truly amazing.'

Service Families

Many postings had favourable comments about SCE schooling and its importance within the military communities. In particular, contributors highlighted how SCE schools recognise the particular social and emotional demands placed upon service children.

'I was the GOC in Germany from 2001 to 2003 […] My considerable background there taught me that the schools are the backbone of our communities, often providing the focus of community spirit, especially in the smaller stations, and usually with continuity of knowledge from the past. During Op Telic, almost the only people with experience of family care and reassurance of children, derived from the first Gulf War, were to be found in the ranks of the headteachers and senior staff of the schools. For those with children of school age, satisfaction with schooling is by far the most important factor in family service in Germany, so it is worth getting it as good as possible.'

'Our daughters are in their second year at Marlborough School in Osnabruk. I have nothing but praise for the Ofsted recognised outstanding school. The cohort of pupils is of course a rich mix of ability but every child's capabilities seem to be assessed and harnessed. Class sizes are the envy of my UK based peers.'

'SCE have always demonstrated in very practical terms that they are alert to the academic needs of my children but just as importantly that, they recognised the particular social and emotional demands placed upon service children. Each class teacher, following the example of their Headteacher, has shown they regard each child's situation as unique and further that the relationship between parents, teachers and children is a partnership for the benefit of the child, in and out of schools.'

'Whilst 4Bde were in Iraq on Telic, Marlborough School […] offered huge understanding of and support for the situation the majority of children were experiencing with a parent away for 6 months. Initiatives also allowed for the experience of those children whose Daddy wasn't away and didn't want to be made to feel difference. OFSTED acknowledged the role of the school as the focal point of stability for children during this period.'

However, concerns were expressed about how complaints from parents were dealt with by SCE and the lack of support parents encountered when making formal complaints.

'Parents are not made aware of the next step if they wish to take a complaint further or have faith that it will be dealt with sympathetically. Parents also believe they may be compromising the military career prospects and indeed their employment, if they 'make a fuss' and pursue a point. The schools do this, the threat of 'the green machine', to their advantage.'

'I would like to see an independent body responsible for dealing with complaints about service children's schools. A body which has no interference from the military, SCE or the schools themselves. This could be an organisation run in the UK made available for dealing with complaints towards any school attended by service children whether it is overseas or in the UK.'

'One of the problems I have encountered is with making a complaint. On two occasions I have had reason to complain but each time I have been brushed off with a patronising comment from teachers. An independent body should be available to discuss issues in a non threatening environment to keep the relationship between teachers and parent impartial.'

'I thoroughly agree with the other contributors that there should be a proper system to complain where you are not satisfied with the Headmaster's decision. Recently I had reason to disagree with the headmaster, over a certain teacher. I had a meeting with him and the issue was not resolved. I then put my complaint in writing and delivered a copy to both the headmaster and the head of SCE in Wegburg. Two months later I still haven't had a reply!'

Several participants commented on the problem of bullying that exists in some schools.

'I have had an experience where my child was being bullied, ended up with a black eye, but was excluded along with the bully for retaliating.'

'[…] this is not an issue that is limited to SCE schools but as I have worked in the SCE secondary school for twenty years, eighteen in a pastoral role, I have some experience in the field.'

'When my child was bullied […] and I eventually managed to speak to his form tutor the teacher told me that he had an idea of what was happening due to the fact that he had days where he thought if he pretended not to be in school, no one would notice he was there and often hid himself away.'

Contributors highlighted the disruption that the timing of postings create to a student's education, particularly during GCSE and A-level years.

'It is apparent that there is no communication regarding possible postings between the people responsible for postings (MCM Div) and the soldier. Forethought should be given for children when a posting is within the GCSE and AS/A Level years. If such a course has started, it should be policy that the soldier is only posted within the school catchment, ie garrison.bde area. […] Both my children have suffered by postings within GCSE and A Level courses, one is a whole year behing their peers.'

'Postings mid-year play havoc with family life. We moved within the UK during March and could not get a pre-school place for our rising 4 yr old, nor a Reception year place for her the following September in the good local school (top of the league table)[…]To ensure we had a place and to get high quality schooling, we decided to go private.'

'The problems facing children in the UK schools does not only affect those returning to the UK from an overseas posting. The same applies to all service children whose parent is posted after the normal cut off date for school entry.

The MOD needs to work alongside the Ministry for Education to ensure that all Service Children have the same rights as every other child.

Parental choice has made a situation where children with stable lives are able to attend the best schools, leaving more 'mobile' children with no choice of school - and more often than not, the school that no other parent wants for their child.'

Many contributed to the discussion on postings, highlighting the impact that delay in the notice of quarter allocation can cause in finding schools back in the UK.

'Military families suffer two ways in the schools lottery on postings in the UK.

a)  we have no choice on address, so no choice in catchment school.

b)  if the catchment school is unsuitable we have no other choices because we have too short notice to apply to out of catchment schools or have missed appeal dates.'

'I am a Service father of 3 children who is deploying to Portugal with my family. I know that when I return to the UK in two and half years time (Sep '08)- I will not be allocated an address in enough time to be allocated a school place at a school of our choice i.e in our catchment area. The closing dates are usually around January - I will be lucky enough to have an appointment at this time, let alone an address. This is a worry.'

'Service children's education (be it returning from abroad or moving within the UK) is a huge issue for service families, especially if they choose to have their children educated in the state sector. […] The government policy of parental choice has obviously impacted on Service children's education as schools appear to have no obligation to provide places for children in their catchment area if they are full - the class limit for Key Stage 1 is 30. Also, why should a school forgo the pro rata money from a pupil to hold a certain number of school places for RAF personnel?'

'The allocation system works on the fact that you have to be able to attend the school to accept the place, so military children are constantly gazumped from school places that are available, but not when they are able to take them - it's the 'allocation of places' system that discriminates against service families.'

'The problem with finding the next school, especially back in the UK, lies not just in how much notice of posting is given but notice of quarter allocation. This issue is raised again and again by the AFF and at the CGS briefing team forums but the bottom line is that addresses are often unavailable until 28 days before the move and that of course impacts on catchment areas, finding schools and the availability of places. […] In the UK there isn't that awareness of our situation or the flexibility.'

One participant stated that the centralised allocation system had affected the dialogue between local Customer Care Officers and Service families:

'Under the old system of quarter allocation, which was done at a very local level, the Customer Care Officer was usually well aware of the problems facing Service families trying to obtain a school place on their patch. In the past I have been allocated three 'ghost' quarters by CCOs so that I could apply to the local school and get a place for my child (which you can only do if you have an address). It didn't matter that when we finally got given our quarter that the address was slightly different so long as it was in the same catchment area. However with the new centralised allocation procedures, area CCOs won't have the flexibility to do this, which leaves Service families with even fewer options.'

Several contributors looked at ways in which the situation could be improved, with suggestions ranging from postings being decided further in advance, to places 'being kept' for the children of military personnel.

'1) Postings need to be decided at least a year in advance to allow families to plan their children's education.

2) The DfES must work alongside the posting desks to ensure that addresses can be provided to the families in order for school applications to be made.

3) A more stable family life for Service men and women could be considered.

4) If none of the above can be achieved, then perhaps the Government should fund school and nursery places for all Service children, not just those wishing to opt for boarding schools.'

'Why can't legislation allow for 'military' places to be held at schools to allow one or two places a year to be reserved for military children who will be moving mid-year or at short notice to give military children a chance to get into a good schools?

Or to allow 'military postings' to be a valid reason for an appeal?

Everyone wants a good school for their children, we just don't get a fair chance to find one.'

'The admissions policy for a school local to a quarter area should allocate a fixed number of places which should be kept 'free' for service children . This would mean if one service child moved away there would be a place available to someone moving in rather than to a local child. This would mean our children are not disadvantaged by the fact they cannot get their names on waiting lists.'

One contributor commented on the need for schools with service children regularly transferring in to have additional funding.

'I would like to say that schools who have service children transferring regularly into them deserve extra funding. This could be used in the following ways:

1. To assess the children as they arrive so any gaps in building blocks can be found quickly, (this is often the case if a child has moved often in the first few years of school)

2. To then be able to give the children the necessary input to fill these gaps

3. To enable an induction programme into the school to help with the friendship groups etc.'

Following the Chairman's posting, many contributors replied to his question, 'How attractive is the Boarding School option?' As the contributors stated, the boarding school option is a hard decision for families and not lightly taken.

'Service life for career soldiers means that when your children get to a certain age 'crunch time' you have three choices as to how you are going to see them through senior school:

a)  choose to stay in your own home and use the local schools so your spouse serves unaccompanied - the down side is that you will be separated from your spouse

b)  take pot luck whilst moving around - usually the older your children get the fewer school choices there are (usually only the 'worst' schools have places as the 'best' schools have been cherry picked by people living in the area

c)  Boarding School. Great education but it will cost a lot and although your children benefit in many ways they don't see much of their family.'

'I feel Mr James Arbuthnot MP has used the wrong word here-it certainly isn't attractive having to send my children to boarding school to ensure they have a stable education. […] We could have chosen a 'cheaper' school, but after 3 years of investigations and visits, decided it was best to choose one close to family and friends, so at least our daughters had someone they knew close by, as they could not have their parents.'

'We lived in countries with different systems of education (Brunei, Kuwait, USA and UK) and frequently moved at critical stages of education - we moved 7 times during the critical exam periods (14 - 18 years old). My personal choice is to live with my husband; for us family stability is my husband and I living in the same place when possible - there are often extended periods of separation due to deployments that prohibit this. Boarding school was not always the easiest option - leaving a little boy in England whilst we went to Hong Kong was heart breaking but was the advice given by educational psychiatrists.'

The importance of good pastoral care was highlighted, essential to making the experience of boarding school a positive one for children.

'We found a school with good pastoral care and where boarding is central to the ethos of the school. I feel this is necessary to make the boarding school experience a positive one for the family…Unfortunately you have to pay over the Boarding School Allowance to find a school that meets these requirements. A state school, with a boarding house, which is the cheapest option, does not have the funding and the staff to put on the activities a private school can.'

Many postings concentrated on the issue of the Boarding School allowance, with many considering it too low, with a widening gap between the Continuity of Education Allowance (CEA) and the cost of Boarding school fees.

'The Continuity of Education allowance/Boarding school allowance is every year failing to increase to keep pace with the fee increases being imposed by Private Schools. My daughters' school today informed us that the fees per child will increase by £500 from September. The Committee should look at the mechanism for increasing the allowance as many parents board their children not through choice but primarily to secure a stable education—my eldest daughter is 9 and next term will start her 5th school!'

'I do think the rates of CEA need to be kept more in line with the increases in school fees. The rules stipulate that parents have to pay a minimum of 10% of the total fees but in reality we end up paying around 25%. When the rates are calculated they basically average out the most popular Service boarding schools and then abate the year group figures by 25% to set the rates of CEA. It would be interesting to know why this is set at 25%, instead of 10% to match the parental contribution.'

'As a single Father of 2 and Serving member of the Armed Forces I was in the position of paying nearly £5,000 per year to keep my children in school, even now I find myself paying out over £800 per term just for my daughter. When they started to board the fees came to £1,500 per term per child. It seems a combination of the school increasing their fees disproportionately and fees increasing slowly has led to this gap. […] I believe schools accepting service boarders, and they do this with open arms believe me, should have some financial limits placed on their fee increases, the MOD do after all plough a lot of money into this sector'.

'The gap between the cost of having a child at boarding school and the allowance (CEA) is wide and increasing—boarding school is an expensive option and that is before all the extra costs are considered.'

'We did not take the boarding school option lightly and were particularly concerned about the long term costs. I now pay up to £800+ a term for each child on top of the allowance. This figure rises each year as the allowance clearly has not risen in line with the rise in fees of the private schools. […] I find year on year that the gap gets bigger. […] Given the jump in fees once the child enters the 6th form the gap become even bigger. The 10% contribution of the parent is clearly a joke; I am paying 20-25%. The structure of rates for the CEA together with the manner in which it is adjusted annually really does need to be addressed.'

Some participants stated that due to the educational needs of their children, many spouses felt they had no choice but to live apart so that the children could remain in the same local school for their education.

'Our decision was that my wife and daughters would remain in the area of the country we were in at the time (Lincolnshire) and I would go wherever the RAF sent me. In practice, of the last 4 postings I have been able to travel daily to work for 2 of those tours. For the other jobs I became a weekly commuter, returning home for weekends/leave. The latter situation was far from ideal, and placed a different burden on my wife and daughters. […] I have not pursued appointments that would have contributed to my career prospects because of the location of such jobs. Moreover, I have concluded that if the only available future appointments meant becoming a weekly commuter again, I would probably leave the Service rather than accept such disruption to my family life.'

'I am concerned that my son will have to move from Germany in August to start a placement at North Devon College in the September. Point 1 being that he could not continue into 6th year due to my husband's draft not finishing until February 2007, which would mean he would have to leave school mid-year and try to gain a place in a UK mainstream school. This is hard enough at the best of time but during exam years it is NOT feasible. […] And secondly either I have to accompany my son home and try and gain a surplus married quarter so he can attend college which invariably means that my husband and myself are put into a forced separation due to educational needs…Point 2 being that there is no provision for right of entitlement for a quarter due to moving for educational reasons, I am not the only parent who is faced with this dilemma and I feel that it should be addressed.'

It was suggested that the Government should fund school and nursery places for all Service children, and not just those wishing to opt for boarding school.

'It would be very useful to have the choice of […] partially funded private day school.'

'If on returning to the UK, a service family is unable to gain places for their children at the same school, could MoD not fund their places at a local private school?''

'If the money went with the child, in the same way that the Health Service is offering Health Care in a hospital of the patient's choice, then Service children could opt for the school of their choice - be it state or private.'

Some postings were critical of the support that parents receive from Local Education Authorities (LEAs) in the UK.

'When a problem did arise (our son was bullied by a fellow pupil) we found the school completely unable to cope with the issue compounded by our son's distress at his father's absence. […]We contacted NPFS, who were excellent and offered enormous support during an extremely stressful period, attending meetings at school etc. Eventually the issue was resolved, however, it really highlighted the unique difficulties service children experience in comparison to mainstream pupils and this is often completely overlooked despite promises to the contrary.'

'I have just entered into the school experience and have been disappointed that service families are treated less favourably because of their particular circumstances which not of their own making. There is little you can do when faced with a lack of address even if you are able to have some idea of a new posting. This means that you are often a late applicant and therefore have to get what everyone else chooses not to take up. […] Families do their best to support their children within the service life. However, service children also deserve to have more support from the education system.'

The posting below highlighted the problems caused by different cut-off dates for admissions.

'When posted into Northern Ireland, parents need to be aware that 1st July is the last date in the academic year, and therefore the cut-off date for admission into year groups. Service children with birthdays in July/August are often then put into a year below that which they would be in on the mainland. With the frequent moves that disrupt education in the first place, this then causes another lack of continuity in education.'

Two postings highlighted the fact that the children of SCE teachers were not entitled to student loans on the grounds that they did not live in the UK, even though SCE teachers paid UK taxes and had the status of UK-based civilian. This issue was also raised on the Teachers web page.

'My eldest son has been refused a student loan on the grounds that he does not live in UK, despite the fact that I pay UK tax and NI, and have the title of UK-based civilian. The children of Service personnel are automatically entitled to higher education funding, but SCE teachers own children are not. This is, I think, unjust, and discriminates against our children's access to higher and further education.'

'I am a contractor based in Germany and have concerns about my children's education post 16. […] Should my children wish to go to university they will not be entitled to student loans. This will prove a real barrier, and is an issue which needs addressing, especially with the cuts to allowances (and payment for accommodation) which contractors are faced with.'

A couple of postings looked at the issue of Internet-based schooling, and commented that it should be a recognised and supported option.

'She is now educated at home over the Internet at my expense. It appears that this is not an isolated case and that several others at Ramstein have expressed concern regarding the school and have chosen other options for secondary education (internet, UK boarding, or local German School). SCE have repeatedly stated that they will not fund Internet-based home education and my daughter's German is not strong enough for her to be educated in a foreign language.'

'I decided on home education via a UK based Internet school (InterHigh) - a choice that others at Ramstein have subsequently followed. SCE have repeatedly stated that they will not fund internet-based home education and consequently, I am having to pay for my daughters' education entirely out of my own pocket.'


Participants on the Teachers web page commented on the high standard of education in SCE schools.

'It is my impression that SCE provides an education that is better than the 'English' average. This is reflected in our results and through external reports such as Ofsted. Despite being outside the UK mainstream our schools are up to date when it comes to current UK practice and indeed the resourcing we enjoy, alongside the smaller class sizes than UK, means our students get a very good education. As one recently arrived colleague who has his own school age children said to me, we offer a 'public school' education in a state sector setting.'

'I would like to say the majority of teachers I have spoken to enjoy working in well resourced schools that provide a top quality education in many different geographical locations.'

Participants noted that teachers in SCE schools faced unique challenges, such as the fact that postings occured at the most inconvenient times for children, and they had to cope with the emotional stresses affecting children when one parent was on deployment in an operational area.

'The average 11 year old at my school has been to 4.3 schools. The average stay is just 5 terms.'

'Our teachers face challenges that are different to those in England. People have commented on the turbulence of our students, the fact that posting changes often occur at the most inconvenient times for our students…Also our teachers have to cope with the emotional stresses affecting children when one parent is serving in an operational area whose dangers are brought home to them each evening thanks to the availability of 24 hour TV news. Again through hard work in school as well as support from central services provided by the Agency these complex issues are addressed.'

'The issues raised through mobility are many and complex at pupil, parent, school and teacher levels. For children, the social and emotional issues vary considerably; some appear to cope and show little sign of trauma when leaving or joining the school, whilst others are noticeably affected. Interestingly, it is not just the children who leave the school who show signs of distress, often it is the friends who are left behind who have lost someone they really care for.'

'Does the mobility of Service children cause particular issues? In my view, turbulence (moving schools) CAN have a detrimental effect on basic skills that need best be learned in the primary stage i.e. literacy and numeracy, but the truth is we don't REALLY know. Until relatively recently there was little general agreement of how to measure progress. The much derided SAT's are giving us tools to assess progress and diagnose areas of weakness but that still leaves open the question of what to do about it.'

Many participants felt that SCE schools coped well in dealing with the effects of mobility, and in preparing and supporting children through the process of moving schools.

'While there are clearly different issues facing service children with mobility and with parents being deployed to dangerous parts of the world there are also many similarities. SCE schools help children cope well with stress and meet the challenges well.'

'SCE deals with mobility well in terms of academic achievement in the primary years. This is well demonstrated by performance at KS2 National Curriculum Tests. The very good provision in the foundation stage contributes to this performance.'

Some contributors did however highlight the specific needs of children with Special Educational Needs, which had to be taken into account when dealing with the issue of mobility.

'Preparing and supporting children through this delicate period is therefore essential and time consuming if pupils are to be able to enjoy and achieve. For children with Special Educational Needs this is particularly the case.'

'Issues over special educational needs, in particular with emotional and behavioural needs are probably harder to deal with since there is less support than there would be in the maintained sector in UK.'

Particular issues caused by moving schools are the difficulties caused by the differences in curricula - not only between between UK and SCE schools, but also the differences in curricula between home nations.

'Having moved to and from Northern Ireland and with a child whose birthday is in August I can confirm that the different cut off dates within the two education systems IS a problem. When we were in Northern Ireland our son was put in the class below the class he was put in on our return to England. This had obvious consequences for his educational development.'

'The difference between the Scottish and SCE systems did cause problems both in terms of syllabuses followed but also in more basic issues such as which year should a student be placed. The system in Scotland is so different than that in SCE the arrival of a battalion previously stationed in Scotland was quite challenging. A different start time to the school year meant some students were in the wrong year group compared to their English system colleagues […] If whole battalion moves are to continue between Scots based units and areas where the education is provided by SCE schools then issues like this need to be addressed in the interests of the children.'

'At curriculum level, teachers frequently comment on the different experiences and approaches to learning that children bring with them from previous schools. Particularly for children arriving from Scotland, Ireland and Wales, the lack of ability to work independently and make their own decisions is a frequent concern when adjusting to the demands of the National Curriculum.'

Some suggestions were put forward as to how issues caused by mobility could be reduced - with, for example, no movement during exam courses or timing major battalion moves so that they had less affect on schools and children.

'Children suffer if they have to move during an exam course. […] Not all your correpondents seem to be aware that once the second year of a two year exam course has begun, the family have an entitlement to stay in quarter and therefore at the same school until the exam is done, even if this means Mum staying to see the child through while Dad goes off to his new posting. Not an ideal solution but better than no support at all.'

'The biggest single impact on standards and children's family lives would be to try to make all major battalion moves happen through the summer holiday and/or less often. Mid year diruptions are the hardest to the school, the incoming children and those children not affected by the move who are already settled in class. […] Service children are wonderful and have great personality and enthusiasm. They do cope with change well on the outside but the older they get the more they are affected by loss of friendships. Again for those left behind it can be equally upsetting.'

There were several postings on the web page regarding the transfer of children's records as they moved from school to school. It was felt that children often arrived at new schools with insufficient records, and that much improvement was needed in this area.

'In my twenty years teaching for SCE, 18 were spent inducting new children in to the school. Information generally fell into two classes: other SCE schools (excellent transfer of information) and UK schools (non-existent information). The most common comment made by parents moving to Germany from the UK was "The school said they were too busy to give us any information but something will follow in the post" but of course it hardly ever did.'

'It never ceases to amaze me, the number of children with SEN who appear to have 'lost' their SENs en route from their previous school, only after a call to their last school to confirm our initial assessments does the level of support previously given to a child become clear. This is an area where improved school to school liaison would enable us to prepare for needy newcomers more quickly.'

'In my experience, it has always been a little difficult gaining the required records for children who have Special Educational Needs and a greater deal of consistency needs to be applied in this area. It is particularly helpful if records are posted directly to the new school and not necessarily given to parents to pass on themselves. […] When transfer between schools works well, it involves as much notification to receiving schools as possible and in the case of children with SEN, as much information as can reasonably be provided to ensure transfer is smooth and the child's needs are met quickly.'

Many contributions discussed the financial management of SCE schools; although matters had started to improve, there was still work to be done in this area.

'Now working for a LEA, I believe that there are areas that SCE could improve upon such as financial management for the schools with more delegation and less centralised control. Some form of carry forward from financial year to financial year would lead to less waste. Fewer headquarters staff and more delegation of responsibilities would also help to make this more efficient. A closer liaison with a UK LEA would ensure that staff such as Inspection/advisory staff were kept up-to-date.'

'[…] things have begun to change for the better; since April 05, secondary and middle schools have had fully delegated funding and a group of 4 primary schools are trialling this during 06/07, in anticipation of primary heads deciding whether to go down this route or not from April '07. SCE has tried hard to convince MOD that we need financial 'roll over' but the MOD cannot/will not change their rules. SCE has looked at how we can successfully work round this; planned and agreed overspend/underspend is being supported where possible, to try and alleviate the problem of annuality. There is no doubt that staff at HQ SCE are trying to ensure that there is transparency in their financial management and are involving head teachers in decisions regarding funding, mirroring UK practice where possible - but we aren't the same!'

As on the Service Families web page, the issue of higher education funding for the children of SCE teachers was raised.

'I am a teacher employed by SCE serving in Germany. I am, of course, a UK tax and NI payer because of my UK-based status. My son was however refused a student loan on the grounds that I am not resident in UK. This is inequitable: the children of Service (ie. Army, Navy, RAF) personnel do qualify for student loans wherever in the world they live, but the children of the UK-based civilians working for MOD do not. The cost of fully funding a child through university is punitive, and is in no way recompensed by the Cost of Living Allowance.'


As on the Young People web page, the absence of schooling in the contracts of UK based civilians was raised. David Crausby MP also received replies to his question, addressing the fairness, or lack, of different levels of provision to the children of officers, other ranks and contractors.

'I would really like to know why the MOD will not put schooling into my husbands firms contract. We are entitled to everything else apart from the schooling…I have just paid 4,762. euros for the eldest to attend an SCE school from the 24th April till the end of July. That works out roughly at £60.00 a day! My husband only earns about £70.00 a day. The DMWS is a charity organisation to help soldiers and their families, and my husband with 27 years in the Army is very good at his job.'

'Why is it that DMWS are not entitled to schooling when they are providing a valuable service and are deployabel and regularly posted. […] We understand that the MOD pays for the schooling of service children but maybe government needs to look into providing civilian support staff with a grant from the Education budget to enable us to give our children a sound British Education.'

'[…] whilst there are contractors working for the MOD on high wages who could probably afford the cost of education for SCE or who have this included in their 'package', I feel that contractors' on low wages, working for non-profit making charities who (as I have previously mentioned) are posted regularly and deployed with the Army are an exception to the rule and should have education included in their contract.. At present some people with families working as UKBCs are discriminated against due to the lack of free schooling. […] Surely the fact that DMWS are deployable strengthens the case for the MOD to provide free schooling for families of DMWS Welfare Officers.'

'I am an 'entitled but paying' contractor from a charity/non profit making organisation where schooling with the SCE is concerned. When we come to work here in Germany we give up the free schooling we receive for our children in the UK… To pay for my child to go to school with SCE is costing me around 55% of my income. Should the other child insist on going to the same school, or have problems I would have to take up a second job in Germany so as to pay the fees and feed my family!'

'I have asked SCE what is taken into account when the school fees are set for fee paying parents of contractors children. The answers that I received from different sources were to me unsatisfactory. From what I have been told I have worked out for myself that the fees are set, so as to deter local ex patriates who are here in business or well paid jobs from flooding the schools with their children. There are after all a lot of ex patriates in Germany. I believe that SCE who are after all themselves UKBCs should set different rates for UKBCs who have to pay and these ex-patriates. […] I think if the system cannot be fair and allow people like me, free schooling while I am here supporting the services, that SCE should set a fair and manageable rate for entitled UKBCs and another for Ex Patriates who wish to send their children to SCE school and can afford it.'

As on the Teachers web page, the issue of the transfer of children's records was raised. It was felt that generally there was good communication concerning childrens records between SCE schools; however the transfer of information on posting from UK schools was generally poor.

'To summarise, we experience good two way communications with other SCE schools. The transfer of information on posting from UK schools is generally poor although better in areas where there is a significant MoD presence.'

One user commented on the fact that support for children with special needs in SCE schools needs a great deal of improvement in terms of funding and staff commitment

'I am a civilian working alongside service personnel. I do believe that support for children with special needs warrants a lot of improvement in the terms of funding and staff commitment. I have a child with some special needs and SCE schools should be given the resources to allow similar support for children with special needs like British state schools.'

Several commentators looked at the timing of postings, and how they affected childrens education, with one user stating that moves for family personnel should be reduced in order to minimise the impact.

'I pushed my unit to keep me in the same unit or move me to a unit within the Rinteln catchment area, for my daughters last two years education. Unfortunately they moved me when she had completed 6 months of her options. On arrival to Northern Ireland she has had to drop 3 exams due to class sizes or the School not doing her options. I think this is wrong.'

'My husband (RAF), his 15 year-old son and I were recently posted to Italy. There are two good schools nearby that accept teens but they both teach the American system not a UK curriculum or the International Baccalaureate. The issue we have is that our posting is for the standard 3 years but it takes 4 years to complete the American High School Diploma so we are due to leave 6 months before graduation. […] Therefore we will have to apply to extend our tour here in order for our son to graduate. However, I was told by CEAS there is no guarantee that we would be allowed to extend on these grounds, even if it means a child will have wasted years of expensive education by leaving before their qualification is attained.'

'I think the question I would like to ask as an ex service child is it really necessary to move us so often?? I had 18 postings during my school years. I have heard of postings lasting as little as six weeks? Is there no other way? In terms of this affecting / impacting schools/ schooling clearly it does. At the age of 7 I still needed my parents! I probably did until I was at least 14! Did we really need to move so much?'

LEAs were criticised by some participants; comments were made criticising the inflexibility of LEAs with their policy on the allocation of school places, and it was felt that LEAs needed to better recognise and accommodate the needs of military families.

'[…]I cannot put my daughter's name down for a school without an address. DfES will not give me an address until our turn for allocation is up. Having contacted the schools in the area we think we will be housed in, the majority of them are full with big waiting lists. Those that are not full, cannot accept our details without a) an address or b) a confirmed date (our move is scheduled for August when the schools will be closed). Any places available now cannot be kept open for my daughter as we don't move until the summer, when my husband returns from Afghanistan. […] Can the process for housing/schools not be made easier/quicker/less stressful for service families?'

'DfES should issue addresses earlier (The AFF have campaigned for long enough!)and surely schools within military catchment areas must be aware of, and try to be sympathetic to, the needs of our mobile population, it's the LEAs that seem to be inflexible with their allocation of school places policy.'

'[…] once you do have an address you find that the better schools are of course full. […] Whilst recognising that civilian familes may also struggle to get their first choice of school, we feel that we will always be left with the worst schools because of our moves with the military. We are simply not prepared to allow our moves to disadvantage our children in this way so we are currently paying for private school. Something that we never intended to do at primary level. Unless the LEAs can recognise and better accommodate our needs we believe that financial assistance should be available so that our ability to have decent choices for our children is addressed.'

As raised on the Service Families web page, it was stated that there needed to be an independent body to deal with complaints regarding SCE schools.

'I too would like an Independent body set up who would have the responsibility for dealing with complaints and problems parents have with SCE schools. […] An impartial body would help us to deal with problems that we feel the school is neither willing nor able to understand. Our children are fearful. If I tell them I will go in to school and sort out the problem, they comment that it will make it worse or our letter will be read out in front of the whole class, giving the children that do bully even more of a reason to pick on our children...'

This question was put by one user: 'Why do SCE not provide extended child-care facilities as is being trialled in many areas of UK?'

'In Osnabrück the pre-school provision is offered to all children from the start of the term after they turn 3. This means that some children can have nearly 2 years of pre-school education. Whilst it is optional I know of no parent who hasn't opted in at the earliest opportunity! […] In response to parental pressure at least 2 of the pre-schools are about to offer the option of extended hours, until 1415, twice a week. Parents will pay circa 10 euros per session. It's a requirement driven by the shortage of childcare in the garrison, recognised by GOC UKSC(G), and is being widely welcomed.

Having compared notes with UK colleagues and friends I am in no doubt that we are very well served both in the quality, standards and availability of our pre-school provision which I believe is well above the government target.'

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