Your children’s education is bound to be a priority if you’re posted overseas and, in some locations, schooling is provided by Defence Children Services. So what can your child expect if they’re enrolled at a MOD school or nursery? Before you go, you must make sure your child’s needs (0-18 years) are supportable in your new location. If you’re moving to somewhere supported by an MOD school or setting (nursery), you should contact them directly for further information about admission and the supportability process. 

Rich curriculum

“With 22 schools or settings across the world, the diverse locations along with the dedication of the staff, ensure pupils engage in a rich and fulfilling curriculum,” says Andy Yeoman, Chief Education Officer at DCS. “This enables young people to move back to UK-based schools, nurseries, or universities with the minimum amount of disruption.

“Settling into a new school overseas can be daunting, but our team of experienced professionals helps youngsters to adapt to life in a new country by ensuring schools are at the heart of the communities they serve, providing a ‘home from home’ experience.”

While AFF receives some enquiries from families about the logistics of moving, particularly on return to the UK, it’s rare that issues are raised about MOD schools during their posting.

Army spouse Charlotte Squib is full of praise for Hornbill School in Brunei, where her sons Oliver, George and Toby go: “Hornbill has shown my children what a school is supposed to be like. For my eldest, this is his third school in five years.

“The staff take every child, cherish and nurture them, and help them reach their full potential. It isn’t just about teaching, it’s about experiencing and using every opportunity there is to make learning fun and interesting. As a parent I’ve never felt more confident sending my children into school, knowing they have their best interests at heart.”

A place to talk

MOD schools and settings receive specialist training and direction from its Specialist Services Team on a range of educational matters including child mental health and wellbeing, Special Educational Needs and/or Disabilities, language and speech therapy, and more.

Schools have support staff who your child can speak to if they are feeling anxious about settling in or making new friends. Each school gets involved with its garrison community too, taking part in many events, making it easier for your children to meet others who may be going through the same process.

“Our schools have smaller classroom sizes so children can get to know one another better, and they’re home to wonderful Pastoral Hubs with experienced staff who can offer a safe space for students to discuss any issues they may be facing,” adds Andy.

Extra support

Children with SEND can often be more affected by change. The DCS Specialist Services Team advises schools, settings and families on support for young people with SEND, ensuring your child’s individual needs are considered.

“Our schools have SENDCOs who provide specific, tailored support, helping children to adapt to life overseas and ensuring all their educational needs are met.

“The DCS teaching community understands the challenges our young people face and is on hand to provide care and advice,” explains Andy.

Rowley Bucknill, Assistant Chief Education Officer, adds: “Our schools and settings have a culture which is committed to ensuring that children who move regularly are well supported, that learning time is not lost and that each new move brings new adventures and opportunities.”

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International understanding

Hornbill Primary School in Brunei hosted a day of celebrations for International Day with the help of SSAFA and British Forces Brunei. It helped youngsters to understand more about the people and culture in Brunei and to feel more comfortable about life in the garrison. Pupils enjoyed food, music, dancing and the opportunity to make friends.

Further choices

Every year, MOD secondary schools arrange career-themed activities for Key Stage 4 children, supporting them to make decisions about their futures. Last year, St John’s School in Cyprus joined the National Careers Week Virtual Careers Fair, featuring a scavenger hunt and Q&A sessions with universities and colleges to help students feel more at ease and excited about heading back to the UK for higher education.

STEM in Cyprus

The RAF Youth and STEM Team led workshops in Cyprus to educate service children about the importance of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, showing them how to make their own robots. The day helped to inspire the next generation of STEM professionals and was valuable and insightful, ensuring young people have the best opportunities and experiences even when overseas.

Making memories

When children leave Ayios Nikolaos Primary School in Cyprus, they all get sessions with a Wellbeing and Emotional Learning Support Assistant, who they can speak to if they need a little bit of extra emotional support.

Just before a child goes, they are presented with memory books, which include photos of their time at the school, along with special messages from their friends and teachers, plus an Ay Nik bear which is a treasured departing gift.

It’s a similar story when they arrive. Headteacher Sarah Ballie says: “As well as gathering information from a child’s previous school, we arrange for a virtual meeting to give them a chance to ‘meet’ their new teacher and friends. We then send a postcard to let children know we’re looking forward to them joining.”  

Related articles: It pays to think about your medical needs before you go overseas and Before you go: Overseas checklist for army families

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