ARMY&YOU caught up with Phil Dent (pictured above), head of community engagement, social justice and impact at the University of Winchester, to find out more about its role in the Service Children’s Progression Alliance…
“SCiP hopefully does what it says on the tin. It’s an alliance of organisations focused on helping Service children progress through their education journeys,” he said. “The Alliance is supported by the MOD. The University has a long-standing commitment to helping children and young people progress through further and higher education options.”
University research has identified the considerable potential benefits that Service children gain as a result of their diverse experiences.
“Adaptability, maturity and leadership skills are often cited as strengths held by Service children and undergraduates from Service families are often far better prepared to succeed at university than their peers,” said Phil. “But our research also suggests that Service children are around one third less likely to access higher education – even though academically they perform very well.”
While university is not the right option for everyone, the Alliance wants to make sure that Service children are not being disadvantaged. Evidence suggests that separation from parents can impact on children’s learning and mental wellbeing.
“We also know that higher levels of mobility, especially four or more school moves, has an impact on attainment,” said Phil. “We are undertaking research to understand why and how Service life affects [military] children and we are advising government agencies on how to change policy to improve their lives.
“Importantly, we are supporting schools, colleges, universities, local authorities and charities to provide better support.
“Future plans include building a much stronger national network and online resource bank, so that all education professionals can find evidence-based, high-quality support, wherever they are working. And we are developing tools to help schools understand how to improve their support, based on what is best from practice across the country.”
A good relationship between parents/carers and schools can also help. You can assist by keeping your school up-to-date about deployments, separation or moves.
“Best practice starts with listening to children and understanding their circumstances,” added Phil. “That way, schools can understand their strengths and interests and help to integrate them into the life of the school.
“They can also respond to the child’s concerns and needs on a one-to-one basis.”
One of the key messages that Phil is keen to get across is that Service children are individuals. He said: “We need to hear from the children themselves, so that we can develop support that is tailored to the individual. That’s why we are so pleased to be working with AFF to create a stronger voice for Service children ñ they are individuals and uniquely precious.”