Moving to a new school can be a daunting prospect for any child and especially so for those from military families. With the new academic year underway, we asked educational establishments for their advice on how teachers, parents and pupils can make the transition easy for everyone involved. Here we feature the answers from Chris Russell (pictured above), Executive Principal of Dover’s Duke of York’s Royal Military School

How many Service children do you have at your school?
70 per cent of students at DOYRMS have parents who are either currently in the Forces or who have previously served (486 students on current roll).

What are the main concerns you find that Service pupils have when they arrive?
Their education has been significantly disrupted due to the mobile nature of service life.  They may have covered some areas of the primary and secondary school syllabus more than once, and other areas not at all.

DOYRMS assesses every student when they join us to understand what additional support they may need. They are grateful that the school can provide stability and continuity of education to them (and in many cases their siblings) knowing that they will be able to have a solid secondary school education as they both prepare for and then sit their GCSE and A Level examinations. They are reassured when they join us that other students from forces families will understand their worries and provide friendship in a close knit community.

What help does your school offer to new pupils from a military background? Do you have any strategies in place to provide assistance when a child’s soldier parent deploys?
The school has an understanding of the pressures of service life. We look to support our service children through focused pastoral care within our friendly boarding houses. Our Health and Welfare teams work together to ensure that each and every student knows what support is available. House parents and Pastoral Leaders offer guidance, and our on-site counsellors provide additional support if needed.

The “Service Pupil Premium” is also received, which is designed to help the school provide mainly non-educational support (i.e. pastoral care) for the children of Service personnel. Catch-up Premium Funding is also received for those in year seven who did not reach at least level four in reading and/or mathematics at the end of key stage two.

What can Army families do to prepare their children for starting a new school? Equally, what can the children themselves do?
We would encourage all of our potential parents to make a personal visit to the school and to receive a guided tour by a student who is a similar age and already at the school. They can ask any questions and discuss any concerns that they may have. Make arrangements and choose a new school as soon as they can, so that the place is guaranteed. Long daily journeys can have a negative impact on health and well-being. If parents haven’t considered boarding, we would encourage them to visit a state boarding school like The Duke of York’s Royal Military School to see how the school can offer extra-curricular activities and help develop a well-rounded child.

What challenges are faced by boarders and how do you help the pupils to overcome them?
Homesickness in the first month (we offer pastoral support and counselling to support them).
Travel time (the school has a transport service that chaperones students to and from the London airports). Disrupted education – the School prides itself on identifying the gaps in a student’s education, and working with them to help them catch up and make rapid progress.  

Why should military parents pick your school for their child?
This is an exciting, happy and vibrant community which provides extraordinary unique opportunities for young people to develop both their academic and personal qualities. The School has undergone a transformation over the last five years, with £24.9 million pounds being spent on new boarding houses and teaching blocks, a new black box drama studio, a sports hall and running track.

We are non-selective, but do have a suitability for boarding interview for students, to ensure that they are happy with boarding, and to understand what it entails. Academic achievement is key as we encourage every student to achieve the very best they can, and monitor their progress closely.

We encourage leadership and self-discipline which can be developed through various opportunities offered at the school. Whether it’s playing an instrument in the military band, performing on stage, excelling at drill or competing on the sports field, there is truly something for everyone at The Duke of York’s Royal Military School. We have been graded “Good” in all areas by Ofsted and continue to grow steadily year-on-year in student numbers. Our best advocates are our parents and students, and the majority of those who join us have been recommended by others.

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