How long is your school run? Do you walk, drive or take the bus? How about crossing continents on an aeroplane? Some Service children regularly travel thousands of miles to get to school. Army&You caught up with some of the intrepid youngsters racking up air miles at an early age…
Name: Jack Lock // Age: 16 // Lives: Washington DC, USA // Boarding in: Shrewsbury, Shropshire // School run: Nine hours via Manchester and Heathrow
“I spend a night at gran’s to counter jet-lag. Usually I travel alone but sometimes I travel with friends which makes queueing a lot more exciting. I always take my headphones – they cancel out the noise of the plane and the occasional screaming baby.
“One flight a few years ago was packed with bored Service children. A small argument between me and a mate turned into a huge pillow fight enveloping the back of the plane in a cloud of pillows.
“I was nervous the first time I flew as I did not know what to expect, but now it seems routine. I used to be escorted from security in England to my parents in arrivals, but really I wanted to fly alone. It didn’t help that I was usually taller than the staff!”
Name: Marc Fletcher// Age: 16 // Lives: Mount Pleasant, Falkland Islands // Boarding in: Cumbria // School run: 29 hours via Ascension Island and RAF Brize Norton
“My favourite part of the journey is definitely the views you get from the plane, especially amazing sunrises. I usually travel with a member of my family but occasionally I fly with friends.
“I take at least two days’ clothes, cash and my phone and laptop are must haves.
“Now I’m at an age where I don’t need to be escorted, it has given me a whole new perspective on travelling.”
Names: Georgie, Ben and Jessica // Age: 15, 13 and 11 // Lives: Nanyuki, Kenya // Boarding in: Somerset // School run: 30 hours via Nairobi and Heathrow
“We are at different schools. When we come home we leave at 3.30am to catch the day flight. Mum meets us and we spend the night in the Nairobi welfare flat because we can’t travel back up to Nanyuki in darkness.
“We leave early the following morning and are home by lunch as long as the traffic’s good and there aren’t too many broken down lorries, cows and donkeys on the road.
“On our first overnight flight, we spent the entire journey with our seats bolt upright not realising they could recline. Now, we take headphones and pillows. We like the sushi at Heathrow as we don’t get that at school – or home. Initially, flying to school was fun but the novelty is wearing off, especially if we arrive back eight hours before everyone else.”
Names: Kieran and Piers Brown // Age: 16 and 13 // Lives: Kingston, Jamaica // Boarding in: Cheltenham // School run: 13 hours via Heathrow
Mum Janelle said: “Fares must be secured two terms in advance and inflated holiday flights costing £1,200-plus mean we welcomed extra School Children’s Visits (SCVs).
“Sleep and revision have proven elusive on the ten-hour flight, whereas four movies back-to-back seems perfectly achievable. Preparing our eldest’s gluten-free meal means I ease my guilt about being a miles-away-mum.
“Whilst it has become less emotional saying goodbye, it’s hard as they’re not down the road. After waving from the far side of security we drive to the coastal headland at the end of the runway and wait for them to fly overhead.
“I remember a text they sent me the first time we said goodbye: ‘Mum please don’t worry. It has to travel further now but love will always get there in the end. It might just take a little longer’.”
AFF is delighted that, after much campaigning, SCVs have increased from three to six-per-year, meaning children such as these youngsters can see their families more often.