Written by: Cally Worden
Military Families: How to Keep a Child’s Education Stable
Children in military families can be subject to unpredictable and irregular living arrangements. Redeployment can occur as frequently as every few years, or even months, and can often mean a move to a new country, with a vastly different educational system. Ensuring that children in these situations receive a well-rounded and comprehensive education can be difficult. In response to this problem, the MOD fund the Children’s Education Advisory Service, or CEAS, a tri-service organisation that aims to provide advice, support, and information to civilian MOD personnel and service families on all aspects of education.
Before even leaving the UK military families can face challenges in educational consistency. Each of the four countries that make up the United Kingdom has a degree of freedom in choosing and providing their own curriculum. Primary education across the UK tends to be reasonably consistent, but for older children working towards exams there is a need to maintain a consistency in curriculum studies if they are to be prepared for success. A simple move from England to Northern Ireland can significantly disadvantage a child studying for their GCSE’s or A’Levels, for example.
The CEAS has full time advisors on hand to guide parents on issues such as these, and can provide detailed information on the education service provision in each country, and contact details and links to sites where parents can find additional help. Some personnel may also be entitled to an allowance towards boarding school fees. For military personnel who move a lot, choosing to educate their children outside of the state system can be a more practical option. Tapping-in to overseas educational systems can also be a preferred solution in some cases, and provision and support depends on the particular location of the posting.
Continuity of Education Allowance, or CEA
The MOD has put in place a number of provisions to help parents achieve the best continuity of education possible for their children. As a part of this, some families can benefit from an entitlement to the Continuity of Education Allowance. This can be available for children over 8 years of age, and may be increased if a child has Special Educational Needs, to reflect the higher costs of education this can demand. The CEA is designed to help children receive a steady education, whilst allowing a spouse to accompany a military partner on any posting away from home.
Successful applications for the CEA can provide all or part of the fees for day school allowance or boarding school fees. Personnel whose children who remain under the care of a trusted guardian may also be eligible for a Guardian’s Allowance to ease the financial burden of their commitment. One further offering from the MOD under the umbrella of educational continuity, is the entitlement of children under the age of 18 to three free return journeys abroad each year to visit their parents on posting. Children aged 18-21 in full time education can enjoy one such trip each year.
In many parts of the world the British military have a long-term presence. In these areas Service Children’s Education is often offered. This is provided in the form of primary, middle, and secondary education from schools funded by the military, and situated on appropriate bases around the world. SCE aims to follow the English education system as closely as is practicable, and can be a great solution for families who wish to remain together as a unit when they are deployed to these locations.
Other Types of School
- English-Speaking – postings to locations where English is the first language will open up the possibility of attending a local school. The curriculum will differ from the UK, but each system can be assessed on its own merits
- Non-English-Speaking – with an allowance to help learn the local language, attending a truly foreign school can provide children with insights into a different culture and way of life. It can be an interesting experience for children who enjoy language, and a nightmare for those who don’t
- International Schools – allowances can be available for parents who wish their children to attend an international school. These are typically fee-paying independent schools, teaching in English, and following a UK or US curriculum
- Boarding Schools – best for continuity, but lacking in family cohesiveness, boarding schools can be the better option for some families who are subject to frequent changes in posting
There are many things to consider for military families in respect of education for their children, and these additional points are worth noting in respect of moving schools, whatever the location:
- Age bands may differ between schools – some areas in the UK run primary, middle and upper, others run only primary and secondary systems, for example
- Admissions policies – these vary widely, and it may not be possible to find a place for a military child mid-term in an already over-subscribed school
- Going Equipped – having details of the curriculum a child has covered to date will help ease the transition into a new school
- Additional Lessons – ask any new school if additional catch-up lessons can be provided to fill any gaps in a child’s education in relation to their particular curriculum