AFF decided it was time to understand more from families about the unique challenges service children face and the contributions they make. In our recent survey, we asked you about your children’s experiences and opinions on many aspects of army life. Here’s a snapshot of the results…


The positives

  • Many of you said that army life offered your children the opportunity to make new friends from different cultures and backgrounds
  • There was a sense that it helps build your children’s resilience, confidence, tolerance and adaptability
  • 40 per cent somewhat agreed with the statement “I feel positive about being part of an armed forces family and community”.

“Both of my children are resilient, confident, and accepting of differences. They have lifelong friends that only lived locally for a short period, but now travel great distances to meet up.”


Challenges

  • You commented on the impact on your child’s mental health, citing issues with anxiety, loneliness, bullying, low self-esteem and low confidence
  • The impact of mobility led to a sense of uncertainty, distance from extended family and having no roots
  • 34 per cent lost close friendships due to a posting – difficulties making new ones was a significant negative.

“The children get very sad when having to leave their friends. It takes a long time to build strong friendships, then it gets torn apart and they have to start all over again.”


Friendships

  • 69 per cent of children experienced difficulties making close friendships at a new posting
  • Almost four out of every five felt lonely or isolated due to a move
  • You wanted less frequent postings and more effort from schools to help children settle in, with more activities on the patch to allow children to meet each other.

“I don’t see the point of making friends anymore when I know I’m going to leave and they’ll forget me.”


Gaps in learning

  • Almost half of you stated that your child has experienced a gap in their learning
  • Of these, a quarter said that the impact was severe
  • Many of you stated that gaps or repeating topics also affected your child’s mental health and wellbeing.

“Having gaps in knowledge has damaged my son’s self-esteem. Instead of thinking ‘I don’t understand this maths because I’ve never learnt it’, he thinks ‘I’m stupid/terrible at maths.”


Impact on the family

  • 90 per cent of you either often consider, sometimes consider or have decided to leave the army due to the impact of service life on your child
  • Some of you felt that the chain of command, local authority and the MOD were not currently listening to the views of parents
  • Almost two thirds of you turn to other parents with your concerns.

“If I had known the effect it would have on my children, I would have given my husband the choice – us or the army. You can’t have both!”


Support

  • Many of you were concerned about the time it took to gain access to child and adolescent mental health services, leading to delays in receiving a special educational needs diagnosis
  • Some of you have paid privately for support due to long waiting lists
  • There were comments about the inconsistency of provision.

“Constant changes in posting mean no continuity of care, always going to the back of the queue, fights for referrals every single time.”


Service Pupil Premium (SPP)

  • 52 per cent felt that schools don’t use the SPP to provide effective pastoral support
  • There was a concern that the SPP was often absorbed into the main budget with no targeted use for service children
  • You want more transparency on what the money is used for.

“Some schools are very effective with pastoral care. However, some use the premium to benefit all students and may miss those service children who are in need.”


Boarding school

  • A significant number of you commented about the importance of Continuity of Education Allowance (CEA) to provide stability, stating you would leave if it wasn’t provided
  • Many of you felt boarding had been the only solution to mitigate the impact of multiple moves on your children
  • There was significant concern about the change in eligibility for CEA in sixth form.

“How can continuity be achieved if a child who has been boarding since age eight is disallowed sixth form and forced to attend a new school? This concern will affect my future posting choices.”


What’s next?

We’ll continue our focus on the ‘service child’s voice’ in partnership with the Service Children’s Progression Alliance at the University of Winchester so that our children are instrumental in informing future change to policy.

Activities throughout the rest of this year will provide a wider understanding of the life of service children amongst teachers, local authorities and education practitioners.

A final report will be published by the University of Winchester, which will allow us to make recommendations to improve support for service children, and ultimately improve their progression and outcomes.

Look out for updates at aff.org.uk

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