Service child definition
A person whose parent, or carer, serves in the regular armed forces, or as a reservist, or has done at any point during the first 25 years of that person’s life.
Service Children at Alexander First School
Our Service pupil population (85-95% of the school cohort) mainly comprises of pupils from the Coldstream Guard Regiment, Mounted Household Regiment and Welsh Guard Regiment. However, as Windsor is located on the ‘Guards corridor’, our parents also service the London District (Greenwich, Knightsbridge, Uxbridge) as well as Aldershot, Chessington and Pirbright. This means that our Service pupil population is subject to more frequent changes and movements compared to other schools with a similar MoD pupil population. Additionally, our Service families join the school at times other than the start of the academic year due to being relocated to the Windsor area. Our Service children typically stay at Alexander First School for 2 years or less.
In July 2018, we experienced a significant turnover of Service pupils as the Household Cavalry was decommissioned from Windsor and relocated to Bulford. Luckily, in September 2018 we were privileged to have the Welsh Guard join us.
What we have learnt at Alexander First School about Service pupils
• Our Service children are not a homogenous group and have different experiences.
Our Service pupils come from a wide range of cultural backgrounds including:
- White British
With this comes a richness of cultural experiences, languages and life-experiences. We draw on these strengths from our pupils and their parents as we recognise the immense value this brings.
• Our Service pupils move home frequently, with all the disruption to education, friendships and social networks that this can involve. Leaving behind old friends and making new friends is one of the biggest challenges our Service pupils say they face.
We recognise that the emotional needs and welfare of our pupils, and that of their parents, are key to our achieving academic success.
For some of our pupils it is their Dad who is serving in the British Army, for others it is their Mum and for some, it is both. Our Service parents are subject to frequent deployments (Iraq, Kenya, Afghanistan, Oman, Falkland Islands etc.) in addition to Ceremonial duties and responsibilities which often take them away from the family home for days or weeks at a time. Given this, Alexander First School adapts to meet these needs. We change events, schedules and activities such as Parents Evening, assemblies and Christmas performances to ensure our Service parents are present to share in these precious moments.
We work closely with both Regimental Welfare Teams to ensure we are prepared in advance to support pupils and spouses during deployments. During the most recent Falklands deployment (September 2019 to January 2020) we held regular ‘Mum’s night off’ evenings in which teachers entertained pupils, whilst other staff members hosted Mums in the school hall with evenings of pizza night, bingo and quiz night. We recognise that support needs to be extended to our parents as well as pupils.
• Educationally, they can miss key parts of the curriculum and unwittingly re-do other parts.
Our Service pupils enter the school year at differing times and points in the academic term. This can result in pupils missing topics entirely or repeating others. At Alexander First School we have adopted research led approaches to knowledge acquisition to combat this.
Mastery learning (Bloom, 1968; Carroll, 1963) is used in order to advance an individual’s potential for learning. Compared to traditional learning models, sufficient time, attention, and help are afforded to each pupil. Our teaching is characterised by the:
- Teaching of specific knowledge
- Teaching of prerequisite skills
- Developing skills, which are necessary prerequisites to a particular learning task.
We believe that these are better predictors of later achievement. We also believe that this approaches leads to improvements in attitude, self-confidence and motivation.
• Service children have extended periods when their serving parent(s) is away from home. Apart from missing their absent parent(s), this could also mean parents being unable to attend key school events. If the parent is deployed on active service, children may be worried about their safety. When the absent parent returns, that can also bring adjustments for the family.
Social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) difficulties create a barrier to learning and progress. We recognise that this requires support, patience and an unyielding commitment. At Alexander First School a nurturing philosophy permeates through the school.
All of our support staff are ELSA (Emotional Literacy Support Assistants) trained, with time given in the school day to supporting pupil’s mental and emotional health. We are part of the Nurture UK network with staff trained to deliver Nurture groups (a short-term, focused intervention for children with particular SEMH difficulty). Our Nurture practitioners also support and provide advice to parents/carers to ensure consistency between home and school.
During deployments we team up with ‘Reading Force’ to facilitate remote bedtime reading sessions with pupils and their serving parent(s). The scheme also provides a positive talking point and a distraction from stresses and strains of a long separation. It also ties in with our desire to raise the profile and importance of reading with our parents.
Our Sports therapy and coaching team (Kickstart) provide one-to-one and group sessions in a fun and non-invasive way. The sessions are based on the needs of the child(ren), but themes of resilience, team-work, working under pressure and self-belief are features of all sessions.
We also provide Play Therapy sessions through which children are able to express themselves, try new things, and learn about social rules and restrictions. Filial Therapy sessions are also provided.
Our Filial therapy sessions aim to reacclimatise a parent with their child(ren) with whom they have been separated from. Over a course of sessions, our therapist trains and supervises parents/caregivers as they hold play sessions with their child(ren). This then empowers parents/caregivers to be the primary change agents for their own child’s emotional and behavioural needs.
• There can be significant benefits for service children of being part of the armed forces community and the challenges they may face can lead to strong leadership skills and other positive attributes reflected by the military ethos.
We are proud to serve our Army community and aim to raise the positive profile and benefits of being a Service pupil/family. We explore aspects of military life in areas of our curriculum (Alexander First School Military Week, Forces Day, STEM Week etc.) and draw on the expertise of our pupils and parents in doing so.
We have a proactive and assertive School Council who engage with outside agencies (such as Family Friends, Army Welfare, Army Families Federation) to bring about positive change and discourse.
Our STEM Connect curriculum offers first-hand experience of what it's like to be a physicist, architect or engineer, thereby applying and developing leadership skills. The curriculum embodies the UN Sustainable Development Goals, through which pupils experience hands-on challenges that require them to analyse and solve problems relating to real-world issues.
The following links contain easy access to the relevant information required by our Service families.