AFF Chief Executive Sara Baade and Major General Sharon Nesmith, the army’s new Director for Personnel, share their thoughts on the importance of supporting our service children…
When I first started at AFF more than three years ago, a military mum said to me ‘we can deal with most things army life throws at us as long as the children are settled and happy’ – and this has resonated with me over the years, writes Sara.
As a mum of nine-year-old twins, I can really relate to this. Getting it right for our children, their education and seeing them thrive and grow, is one of the most rewarding experiences any parent can have – but the opposite can also break us.
We know that the mobile army lifestyle can be particularly challenging for your children and moving schools regularly can, for some, become the norm.
This, together with the stress of time apart from their serving parent, can at times paint a rather hectic picture for many children. Army children, their education, wellbeing and support is therefore something that is always high on AFF’s agenda.
We constantly look at how we can make the Armed Forces Covenant work to support children, such as with school admissions, and ensure families’ voices are heard when policies relating to them are developed.
Recently we have seen more external bodies starting to pay attention to service children’s issues, which is excellent news. The University of Winchester has done some interesting research into military youngsters’ progression on to university (compared to non-serving).
The Service Children’s Progression Alliance is currently undertaking more research following on from that report focusing particularly on the voice of service children.
This is exciting news because the research provides us with the important evidence needed to ensure your children’s education and wellbeing is considered at the highest level. We’ll continue to work closely with these partners and others to champion the voice of service children.
AS A proud mum of two very energetic and slightly exhausting near-teen boys – I recognise just how important our families are to the heartbeat of the army, writes General Sharon.
While I love just how much army life can contribute to a happy home, I am very alive to just how challenging this can also be.
Within the Directorate, we work hard to protect aspects of service life which are vital to easing the burden, particularly on our children, and to ensure we improve how we communicate what support is available.
The Service Pupil Premium, Education Support Fund and Continuity of Education Allowance are good examples.
The recent introduction of Flexible Service now offers us the chance to have greater certainty in our working life, at a time of our choosing.
The Families Resilience Project, being developed in partnership with the Army Welfare Service, is another great initiative to focus on supporting our children better.
But I know that there’s more for us to do. I hugely appreciate the contribution made by the Army Parents Network, and especially the Army Families Federation – not only for the invaluable direct support provided, but for being the voice of my immensely supportive husband and much-loved young boys.