Armed Forces Covenant Annual Report 2018 Contents

4Education

Mobility and Service children’s education

63.In January 2019 there were 103,620 children of UK Regular personnel.85 This was comprised of 90,020 children under 18 years old and 13,600 who were 18 and over.

64.The Children’s Commissioner for England has highlighted the “unique nature of childhood in a serving military family”,86 which means that many children grow up “quite differently from their peers”. This is due to the mobile lifestyle of Service families which often leads to children repeatedly moving schools. The report stated that children who experienced multiple moves had been left feeling “unsettled and anxious about achieving good grades”. For children who have special educational needs, this process “can add another layer of complexity, with the need to find suitable schooling and the transfer of support plans often a complicated and frustrating task”.

65.In a letter to the Committee, the then Minister for Defence People and Veterans, Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood MP, set out the progress being made in improving the transition of Service children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND):

The MoD’s Directorate for Children and Young People has my Department’s lead for SEND. DCYP is working closely with local authorities through the MoD Local Authority Partnership to improve the transition of Service children with SEND between the 15 English local authorities with the highest numbers of Service children (as formed within the MoD/Local Authority Partnership).87

66.He added:

At the time of writing, this group of authorities are in the process of drafting a series of agreed principles, which local authorities in this group would follow when supporting the transition of Service children with SEND into or out of their local authority area. Further work is planned to explore how similar local authority constructs in the Devolved Administrations may be able to connect to improve the experiences of children with SEND, when transitioning between local authorities in different UK administrations.

67.The Covenant Annual Report 2018 provided data from the National Pupil Database for 2016/2017 which showed Service children’s performance in schools in England across all key pupil progress and attainment measures. It demonstrates that, on average, Service children were on a par with or performing better than non-Service children: however, average attainment levels at the end of key stage 2 and at the end of key stage 4 were lower among Service children who moved schools on multiple occasions than children (both Service and non-Service) who moved less frequently.88 The report acknowledges that “more needs to be done to understand the causal relationship between the mobility of Service life, educational attainment and general welfare”.89

68.According to a 2019 survey conducted by the Army Families Federation (AFF), 47% of families said that their children had experienced a gap in their learning due to changing schools.90 The same survey revealed that 89% of families often consider, sometimes consider, or have decided on leaving the Army due to the impact of Service life on their children.91

69.In 2018, the Service Children’s Progression (SCiP) Alliance was commissioned to conduct the first UK-wide stakeholder consultation on Service children in education. The SCiP Alliance is a partnership of organisations funded by the MoD seeking to improve outcomes for children from military families. In written evidence, it reported that the research identified a lack of data which hampered understanding of “the complex experiences of Service children and the impacts on their education progression”.92 This data would be fundamental in ensuring that limited resources were targeted effectively. The SCiP Alliance recommended the development of “a coherent government approach to tracking the number and location of these children and young people across all four UK nations (and internationally), which could be shared with researchers”.93

70.The Tri-Service Families Continuous Attitude Survey (FAMCAS) 2019 reported that 19% of families with school aged children experienced difficulties with their children’s schooling in the preceding 12 months.94 The most common concerns included getting a place at the school of their choice (7%) and the unsuitable educational standard of their local school (6%).

71.In its observations for the 2018 Covenant Annual Report, the Service Families Federation said there had been a “distinct spike in school admissions issues being raised with the Families Federations”95 with the process of finding school places described as a “key source of anxiety for Service families”.

72.The MoD stated in the 2018 Annual Report that it was reviewing the assignment policy to see if more flexibility could be given to Service families when their children are “at critical stages of their education and [to] those with Special Educational Needs and/or Disability provision”.96 It goes on to state that the MoD and the Department for Education will be reviewing the provisions for Service children in the School Admissions Code.

73.Louise Simpson from the Army Families Federation identified pinch points in Hampshire and Wiltshire for school admissions—counties which will be the most affected by rebasing from Germany.97 In written evidence, the Federation recommended legislative change to the School Admissions Code to allow priority allocation for Service children who are in highly mobile families, at critical stages of their education, or with special education needs or disabilities.98

74.We are concerned that the mobile lifestyle expected of Service personnel may disadvantage their children. Data in the Armed Forces Covenant Report 2018 suggested that a career in the Armed Forces may negatively affect Service children’s attainment levels since they have to move schools often. The challenge of finding and securing a suitable school, especially at critical stages of a child’s education or for those who have special educational needs or disabilities, is understandably a “key source of anxiety for Service families”.

75.We agree with the recommendation made by the Service Children’s Progression (SCiP) Alliance that a coherent Government approach should be developed to track the number and location of Service children across the UK and internationally which can be shared with researchers seeking to understand the causal relationship between the mobility of Service life and the effect on educational attainment. The Department should also set out the steps it has taken in coordination with the Department for Education and local authorities around the UK to improve the admissions process for Service children, especially those with special educational needs, so they are not disadvantaged. This should include an update on the review into the provisions for Service children in the School Admissions Code.

76.Research conducted by the SCiP Alliance indicated that Service children are less likely to go to University than the general population.99 This was confirmed in oral evidence by the then Minister, Mr Ellwood:

We don’t fully understand that but we are looking into it. A study is being conducted by Winchester University specifically to try to learn more about that and see whether we can create more pathways to encourage Service children to have a gateway into universities.100

77.He continued that this was a joint responsibility with the Department for Education, who would need to be encouraged to track Service children beyond 16.101

78.There is evidence that children from Service families are disadvantaged in accessing higher education compared to the general population: this is unacceptable. In response to our report, the MoD should set out in detail what actions it is taking both unilaterally and in coordination with the Department for Education to address this disadvantage. This should include plans to collect data on Service children post-16. Data and analysis of this cohort should be included in future Covenant Annual Reports.

Service Pupil Premium and Education Support Fund

79.Since 2011, the Department for Education has used the Service Pupil Premium (SPP) as a form of additional funding to help schools improve the educational outcomes and wellbeing of children from Service Families,102 mainly through pastoral support.103 State-funded schools in England attended by Service children or those who have had this status in the last six years are allocated a premium of £300 per annum for every eligible pupil.104 Currently, SPP applies to children from Reception to Year 11.105 The funding is used “to help mitigate the negative impact on Service children of family mobility or parental deployment”.106

80.According to the Army Families Federation 2019 survey on Service children, 52% of Army personnel and their families who were surveyed stated that they felt that their school’s use of SPP did not provide any effective support.107

81.Although the MoD’s Directorate for Children and Young People (DCYP) published updated guidance on how to use SPP through examples of best practice,108 the Service Families Federations expressed concern in their joint observations for the 2018 Annual Report. They noted a mixed response from parents who are concerned with how their children’s schools were using SPP and would like to see “additional guidance and case studies of effective practice provided to schools with low numbers of Service pupils”.109

82.The best practice examples offer no case studies for schools with low numbers of Service children. However, in written evidence to the Committee, the SCiP Alliance stated that their initial analysis suggested that “approximately 90% of schools receiving SPP in England have fewer than 12 Service children and 31% have only one Service child”.110

83.Schools with low numbers of Service children may need additional support in identifying the types of challenges that Service children encounter and how SPP can be tailored to their needs.

84.The Service charities also told us that there was confusion felt by families in respect of the provision of support to Service children across the devolved administrations.111 SPP only applies to England, although the devolved administrations have their own provisions. In supplementary written evidence, the MoD set out the different approaches with Wales introducing their equivalent of an Education Support Fund (£250,000 per annum) to support Service children across Wales and Scotland’s provision of Additional Support for Learning which includes Service children.112

85.Maria Lyle, Director of the RAF Families Federation told us that families are accustomed to SPP in England and they are concerned when they see that it is absent in the devolved administrations.113 Anna Wright from the Naval Families Federation told us that there was a lack of transparency:

There is a perception that you have the Service Pupil Premium in England and then there is nothing in Scotland. However with GIRFEC [Getting It Right for Every Child]114 every child is taken care of.115

86.The specificities of the different systems in the devolved administrations are not well understood. The education data in the Covenant Annual Report 2018 only covers England.116 Written evidence from the Royal Caledonian Education Trust, a Scottish Armed Forces children’s charity, stated that “there is a notable lack of accurate data about Armed Forces children and young people in Scotland”, and where there was data, it was not publicly available.117

87.Despite publications such as Welcome to Scotland: A guide for Service personnel and their families moving to Scotland (2018)118 and Welcome to Wales: Supporting and investing in our Armed Forces Community in Wales (2016),119 there are difficulties communicating information to Service families.

88.In our previous report we expressed concern that the Education Support Fund (ESF) was due to close. 120 We welcome the MoD’s two-year extension of the ESF, this is essential considering the drawdown from Germany and the defence rationalisation plan. We look forward to monitoring the Fund’s progress and future relevance.

89.We welcome the MoD’s extension of the Education Support Fund and its guidance for schools on how to spend Service Pupil Premium effectively. However, we would like to see more examples of best practice which include schools with low numbers of Service children—the majority of schools receiving Service Pupil Premium. In response to our report, the MoD should provide additional guidance and case studies of best practice for schools with low numbers of Service children. These examples should be circulated to all schools with Service children and made easily accessible to Service families.

90.We commend the publication of the ‘Welcome to’ packs for families moving between devolved administrations. However, we are concerned that the key information contained in these documents is not reaching Service families. We are also concerned at the lack of data from devolved administrations about Service children presented in the Covenant Annual Report. In response to our report, the MoD, in coordination with the devolved administrations, should improve its outreach processes to Service families to ensure that they are fully informed of differences in the way support is provided for Service children across the devolved administrations. The MoD should ensure data from the devolved administrations is collected and incorporated into future Covenant Annual Reports.


85 Ministry of Defence, Freedom of Information, 19 February 2019. The figures are estimates based on Service personnel self-declaring children on the Joint Personnel Administration (JPA) system and have not been validated.

86 Children’s Commissioner, Kin and Country: Growing up as an Armed Forces child, June 2018, p 1

87 Ministry of Defence (CAR0021)

88 Ministry of Defence, Armed Forces Covenant Report 2018, 21 November 2018, p 56

89 Ministry of Defence, Armed Forces Covenant Report 2018, 21 November 2018, p 51

90 Army Families Federation, AFF Listening to our Service Children survey, June 2019, p 2

91 Army Families Federation, AFF Listening to our Service Children survey, June 2019, p 1

92 The Service Children’s Progression Alliance (CAR0002)

93 The Service Children’s Progression Alliance (CAR0002)

94 Ministry of Defence, UK Tri-Service Families Continuous Attitude Survey Results 2019, 25 July 2019, p 13

95 Ministry of Defence, Armed Forces Covenant Report 2018, 21 November 2018, p 18

96 Ministry of Defence, Armed Forces Covenant Report 2018, 21 November 2018, p 52

97 Q24 [Louise Simpson]

98 Army Families Federation (CAR0003)

99 The Service Children’s Progression Alliance (CAR0002)

100 Q154 [Mr Ellwood]

101 Q156 [Mr Ellwood]

102 Ministry of Defence, Armed Forces Covenant Report 2018, 21 November 2018, p 54

103 Ministry of Defence, Service Pupil Premium: what you need to know, 8 August 2019

104 Ministry of Defence, Armed Forces Covenant Report 2018, 21 November 2018, p 54

105 Ministry of Defence, Service Pupil Premium: what you need to know, 8 August 2019

106 Ministry of Defence, Service Pupil Premium: what you need to know, 8 August 2019

107 Army Families Federation, AFF Listening to our Service Children survey, June 2019, p 3

108 Ministry of Defence, Service Pupil Premium: examples of best practice, 8 August 2019

109 Ministry of Defence, Armed Forces Covenant Report 2018, 21 November 2018, p 18

110 The Service Children’s Progression Alliance (CAR0002)

111 Q28 [Maria Lyle and Anna Wright]

112 Ministry of Defence (CAR0020)

113 Q28 [Maria Lyle]

114 GIRFEC is the national approach in Scotland to improving outcomes and supporting the wellbeing of children and young people.

115 Q28 [Anna Wright]

116 Ministry of Defence, Armed Forces Covenant Report 2018, 21 November 2018, pp 56-64

117 The Royal Caledonian Education Trust (CAR0014)

118 Scottish Government, Welcome to Scotland: a guide for service personnel and their families moving to Scotland, June 2018

120 Defence Committee, Ninth Report of Session 2017–19, Armed Forces Covenant Annual Report 2017, HC 707, para 137




Published: 25 September 2019