Last year, under the Early Years Programme, the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust provided 18 grants to childcare providers across the UK. The funds were allocated to projects which aim to improve early years education and childcare settings to ensure they meet the needs of young children from armed forces families.

The grants aimed to address outdoor learning environment improvements, accessibility or training of early years providers which operate on defence estate land or within five miles of a military base.


In February 2023, White Rabbit Preschool in Catterick received £23,700 through the Early Years Programme for its project ‘Achieving Really Magical Military Years’.

The objective of the project was to create an imaginative outdoor area where children from military families could thrive in nature. The idea behind this was to empower children by giving them the ability to make choices, as well as pursue independence and develop imagination in an inclusive environment.

Nursery Manager Cathy Roberts said: “Children will learn to respect the environment with tools and equipment that offer them the chance to independently make choices and select resources, learning to take responsibility by returning them when they are finished. The ability to self-select may be crucial in the early days as service children transition into a new nursery, as they may not have the confidence to ask to get things out. The garden is a safe and secure environment that naturally lends itself to opportunities for making new friends and developing social skills whilst being supported by adults, allowing children the opportunity to explore and process their feelings in a situation they can control.

“The space is ideal for group activities, providing opportunities to practise empathy and develop understanding of others as they work collaboratively on tasks such as moving heavy tyres. They will plan a safe route to avoid obstacles, determine roles and achieve their end goal together.”


Caterpillas Under 5s in Tidworth received funding in February 2023 for its project ‘Operation Muddy Boots’.

The aim of the project was to redesign and improve the outside environment to support military children’s mental, emotional and physical development. The outdoor area was designed as a welcoming and inclusive space to make meaningful connections with others, therefore reducing isolation.

Melanie Robertson, Caterpillas Manager, said: “We had sent in our project plans and we were awarded £51,200 which we were incredibly grateful for… we could not be happier with the end result.

“The funding helped us to create an outside classroom which could be used in all weathers; a safe, fun engaging environment for all of the children.

“Without the grant we would still be trying to collate funds to be able to carry out the project and the children would not have the learning opportunities outside that they have now that the work has been completed.”

Melanie adds: “The difference the funding has made has been so positive for the children, having such a safe outdoor space, we have seen a reduction in accidents since installing artificial grass. Plus, the new outdoor climbing equipment has resulted in children being able to learn and develop new skills.”

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