Moving to a new school can be a daunting prospect for any child and especially so for those from military families. With the new academic year underway, we asked educational establishments for their advice on how teachers, parents and pupils can make the transition easy for everyone involved. Here we feature the answers from Bristol’s Clifton College


How many Service children do you have at your school?
Approximately 50 children

What are the main concerns you find that Service pupils have when they arrive?
We find that Service children often want to make sure they will be able to stay in touch with their parents when they arrive at the school. However, we are able to reassure them that we see our role within the school Houses as a partnership with our pupils’ parents to make sure they are able to contact us at any time and that their children can also contact them.

Pupils also soon discover that the College has a strong sense of community among its boarding and day Houses and they soon feel right at home. We have around 50 children from military families at the school so there are also plenty of fellow pupils to talk to who know what it’s like to have parents in the Forces and understand the challenges associated with having family members posted abroad.

What help does your school offer to new pupils from a military background? Do you have any strategies in place to provide assistance when a child’s soldier parent deploys?
Clifton College has provided a base for the children of serving Forces families for more than 150 years. Currently nearly 20 per cent of our boarders come from military families (the national average is around 6 per cent).

As a result, we are cliftaug164experienced in providing a stable, friendly and supportive home-from-home for pupils from a military background. The House Matrons, Tutors and Housemasters/mistresses are on hand to provide support whenever needed. The Matrons at Clifton in particular take on the role of helping pupils keep up those precious family routines, this may be reading to a child before they go to bed or baking with them at the weekends.

To help pupils settle in when they first arrive, we assign a ‘buddy’ to them from the same House and class to help them get used to the routines of the school and to introduce them to the rest of the year group. There is also always a member of staff in the House throughout the day, therefore if a child feels unsettled during a lesson they can return to the House to talk to Matron for a friendly ear and some support before carrying on with the normal school day.

What can Army families do to prepare their children for starting a new school? Equally, what can the children themselves do?
New families are welcome to visit the school in advance of their child’s first term to have a tour of the school and the boarding facilities and ask any questions they may have.

We can also arrange for them to chat to a current pupil about their time at the College if they wish. Some of our new pupils also like to bring with them a selection of their favourite family photos when they join the school so that they can make their dorm feel like home and it means they can also share the stories behind the photos with their friends in the House.

What are the challenges faced by boarders and how do you help the pupils to overcome them?
Children may feel anxious when they join a new school about whether they will be homesick or whether they will fit in. Once they have settled into school life, they may also have concerns they would like to speak to someone about from time to time. We have a strong network in place to support all of our pupils from their first day onwards.

In the daytime, cliftaug162Matron becomes a second mother, a confidant with whom to share any worries over a drink and a biscuit. The Matrons at Clifton have years of experience and develop a close relationship with the children in their House. They always seem to know just how to make everyone feel better. The Tutors and Housemaster/mistress are also available for children to talk to and they become the primary carer for the children in their House in the evening.

The Housemaster/mistress has their accommodation within the boarding house as do a number of Tutors and there is a member of staff on duty 24 hours a day. The children will spend a of lot of time with the House staff, not only during lessons but also less formal situations such as activities and trips. A strong relationship is built and one in which children feel comfortable sharing their concerns.

Why should military parents pick your school for their child?
One of the main advantages of Clifton College for Forces families is that it is co-educational for children from age 2 to 18, providing stability as well as enabling siblings to remain at the same school throughout their education. Boarding starts at cliftaug163the age of 8, in Year 4.

This continuity is valued highly by the children and their parents. We also have around 50 children from military families at the College and we find military families enjoy the security of having other families at the same school. People also choose Clifton because of our high quality teaching, our pastoral care system and the exceptional facilities, including 90 acres of dedicated sports facilities, our own Forest School for younger pupils, a professional theatre, and excellent music and drama facilities. We also offer a wide range of co-curricular activities.

There are 40 after-school clubs, including 14 music groups and 8 dance groups, plus many drama productions throughout the year. From baking to rock climbing, table tennis to theatre trips, the biggest problem is often choosing what to do!

About The Author

Related Posts