One of the biggest decisions parents must make is about their child’s education. For Army families, a posting overseas is an additional factor to consider. What are the schools like? Should your child board in the UK? The AFF Overseas team explores what’s on offer abroad…
What are your options?
Service Children’s Education (SCE) schools are located around the world where Service families are based.
Some places have both primary and secondary whilst others like Gibraltar only cater for Early Years learning.
One of the positives of SCE provision is that children of serving personnel and MOD civilians are admitted to their local school on an entitled basis. There’s no cap on numbers in any year group or in the school as a whole.
Due to the length of the average overseas tour, SCE schools generally only have pupils for a short period in their educational journey, so it’s important that they make the best of that time and minimise disruptions.
In recognition of the frequent moves, schools follow the English National Curriculum.
Hannah Shannon is an Army mum with three boys. She said: “Having moved five times since my eldest son started school, I sometimes feel like I have looked around more schools than an Ofsted inspector.
“In the UK, the whole process of finding a school while waiting for your SFA allocation can be time consuming. It took all of five minutes to be allocated a place at the SCE school in Cyprus and it would have been top of my wish list had we had the luxury of choice.
“SCE schools are focused on filling in any educational gaps children have, the inevitable result of moving too often.”
Special Educational Needs
Children with learning difficulties are catered for in SCE schools through SEN Co-ordinators. However, you should contact the Children’s Education Advisory Service (CEAS) in the UK to register your child’s needs before moving overseas. Contact the organisation on +44 (0)1980 618244.
Some SCE schools offer further specialised support through educational psychologists and speech therapists for example, but it’s important to note that access to these services may be limited in some locations. Ask your soldier to check out JSP 820 and AGAI 108 on the Defence Intranet to ensure your family’s SEN needs can be supported overseas.
Yvonne Horton’s family are much travelled. She commented: “Luke our eldest, who is just eight years old, has had three schools in four years – in Germany, the Falklands and now Cyprus.
“Whilst we did have a few worrying moments in the Falklands due to lack of speech and language therapy, overall our experience of SCE schooling has been very positive.”
Whenever possible SCE schools ensure that children have an understanding of living and learning in another country and another culture.
One of the best features of SCE schools is that they fully appreciate the added pressures of being overseas away from family, and of soldiers being away on duty.
Esther Thomas, Regional Manager for AFF Cyprus, explained: “We only have positive comments to make about the SCE school provision. All of the three SCE schools our daughters have attended have been good to outstanding and the transitions between them have always been seamless with minimal administration.
“Our children have learned new languages, experienced cultural diversity first hand and had some amazing educational trips.”
Dan Browning, Executive Principal for the Federation of St John’s and King Richard Schools in Cyprus, said: “Our schools are here for one reason, to deliver outstanding learning for Service children and give them the best educational experience possible.”
What if there are no SCE schools?
In Isolated Detachments and Extra Command Areas the type and standard of education will vary. In all cases, planning is essential. Parents with children due to undertake exams such as GCSEs are advised to only remove them from school for a posting overseas if they have access to a UK curriculum so that their education will not be disrupted at a key stage.