Scottish Armed Forces Education Support Group: March 2021 (core meeting)

Minutes from the second meeting of the Scottish Armed Forces Education Support Group held on 3 March 2021.

Attendees and apologies

In attendance:

  • Scottish Government (SG) Learning Directorate (Chair)
  • SG Armed Forces  Veterans Group (AFVG)
  • Education Scotland (ES)
  • MOD Directorate Children and Young People (DCYP)
  • ADES Adviser
  • ADES National Transitions Officer (NTO)
  • Royal Navy (RN)
  • RAF
  • Royal Caledonian Education Trust (RCET)
  • Head Teacher Representative


  • Army Representative

Items and actions

In attendance and apologies 

Agreement of last notes     

The notes from the last meeting had been agreed and were now published. 

Main agenda items    

The Chair thanked everyone for joining the second SAFESG meeting of the morning.  

Additional Support for Learning – Action Plan progress

The Chair advised that Scottish Government has made some good progress towards the Action Plan. The Coordinated Support Plan (CSP) group looking at CSP plans has met and will focus on CSPs over the next few months. Group members with anything to feed in should send details to the Chair. An update from the Ambassadors for Inclusion statement is being prepared. Scottish Government is working to flesh out timings of the action plan, with some target dates for October this year. Some work had to pause due to COVID but now that schools have started to reopen, focused work will restart. 

Action: all

The ADES Adviser highlighted the need to identify issues for Armed Forces (AF) children, in particular the posting timelines - the CSP assessment timelines can take up a high proportion of the duration of the posting period. He also highlighted that the problems are less in the education arena, and more in the health arena with challenges around completion of the health assessment. The CSP system should also consider and have due regard to any previous assessments done in other jurisdictions. This is important to meet the needs of the child and to avoid situations where the family with a child with complex needs takes the decision to remain in one place rather than move on posting – the biggest strength is in functioning as a family unit. Other mobile families will also be affected.  

The ES representative also sits on the SCP group. She updated that the group are not looking at changing legislation, they are looking more at improving understanding, awareness, guidance and information. 

The NTO requested this item to be a standing agenda item and this was agreed. 

Collection and use of data

The NTO had circulated the SEEMiS data collected to Group members and had received some comments. This is the first time this group has discussed the data, and this is welcomed. A meeting has taken place with SEEMiS to request  development of 2nd generation work which had been delayed. It is hoped that by the summer there will be additional data collected from early years, including AF children. There will also be an addition to the indicator asking families to identify which Service they are linked to. Availability of the updated indicator will align with the 2022 Scotland census (Veterans). The NTO will need to work with partners to develop communications and to plan the next collection of data. The NTO explained that the lack of spikes in numbers around some MOD bases is due to families living in private housing rather than Service Families Accommodation. Further discussion is needed within the SAFESG about how best to support the next collection of data. Other points raised are:

  • options available for dual serving parents from different Services – it was confirmed it is possible to record dual service 
  • early contact with families arriving in Scotland is important
  • having the narrative and awareness on how to answer questions will be helpful, to be made available for families
  • encouragement and examples will be provided for schools/settings to support initiating conversations
  • timing is important in collecting data

The DCYP representative stressed the importance of being clear on the purpose of the data collection. Where schools know they have AF children they should be able to generate data on outcomes, including achievement and attainment, and wellbeing. This will help in understanding if there is any targeted activity needed to support specific cohorts of AF children.

A discussion followed on the importance of getting information about education in Scotland to parents before they arrive and why it is helpful for schools to know they are an AF family. Parents talking to each other, tailored packages of information, video clips, information on posting notices were all options discussed.  

All were in agreement on the need to collect data and to look at the broader picture. It had been hoped to collect data again last year but this was put on hold due to COVID – the intention is for this to take place in Autumn 21 provided this does not place unreasonable demands on schools. The NTO will be reviewing the question set ahead of the next data collection and will share with the group for comments. 

Action: NTO

The Chair sought clarification on what wellbeing information would look like. It was suggested that the SHANNARI structure could be used to shape this, although it is acknowledged that schools are not all using the same thing. It was noted that there is a lot of discussion on how to measure wellbeing and the Glasgow Wellbeing Profile was also suggested. Clarification was sought on whether there is a Scottish Government wellbeing survey and the Chair agreed to check and report back. 

Action: Chair

The Head Teacher representative advised that wellbeing indicators individualised to the school would be preferable in order to respond to the changing picture and different circumstances within schools. A national picture for benchmarking would have to be straightforward and simple. The NTO will look into the SHANNARI app that was used in North Lanarkshire a few years ago to engage with families and report back to the next meeting. 

Action: NTO

There is a national remit focusing on wellbeing and this being discussed as part of the ASL action plan. The lead on this work will be invited to join the next meeting to discuss this. 

Action: ES

The MOD is working towards a point where they can track outcomes of children when they move to a new area, and to make sure they have effective transitions. There may be an opportunity for some research into the impact on children when they move between education systems.  

Event evaluation and future planning

Ideas for a future event are being considered, including around ASN support and information and how to access support, address challenges, signpost information. The Chair is considering asking Educational Psychology colleagues to talk about accessing support. The audience will need to be agreed and could include education professional and parents. All were agreed that the event should not be a talking point, it should have a focus of impact. Linking the event to the Angela Morgan review could be a be a positive draw for attendees. It was agreed that this needs to be considered more broadly and the Chair will share some thoughts with the group before the next meeting.

Action: Chair

Research opportunities – working group update

RCET updated on the Thriving Lives toolkit. An evidence-based project has led to the development of this CPD toolkit rolled out to schools in England. It has relevance across the UK and the SCiP Alliance is keen for this to be reviewed for use in Scotland. The best method to review this is still under discussion and will hopefully include focus groups and two short webinars to incorporate polling enabling attendees to vote. Argyll and Bute Council are keen to receive a presentation on the toolkit. 

The Chair outlined that there are opportunities for research linked to the ASN action plan and projects linked to this. 

RCET updated that a smaller scale literary review has now been completed and the results will be shared.  

Action: RCET

SAFESG web page

The SAFESG web page is currently only available by following the link that has been shared. The Chair is investigating how this can have proper indexing so that it can be located through a search. Group members were asked to share ideas on other information that could be shared on the web page. The NTO asked if a statement can be provided outlining what the web page offers that can be shared widely. 

Action: all

Living in Our Shoes (Andrew Selous report) update

The Scottish Government is preparing responses to the recommendations in the report, and is accepting most of them with the caveat that systems are different, but can be applied in different ways. The next steps are discussions on how to take this work forward. The NTO asked that this report be a standing agenda item and this was agreed. 

Updates from Group members

Education Scotland – ES continues to work on professional learning resources with RCET and the NTO – these should be available to go live soon.  

RCET – The RCET manifesto is about to be launched. This has been influenced by CYP voices. This is being externally reviewed and the outcome is awaited. RCET is going through a rebranding process. The RCET will hold a digital conference on 3 November 21. 

DCYP – The MOD is running a wraparound childcare pilot at a limited number of sites, the findings of which will help inform the value for money case for rolling out the benefits to all eligible service personnel. There are a number of gateways to go through to progress this. 

The DCYP Early Learning and Childcare Fund (ELCF) may be a source of additional support to develop early learning and childcare infrastructure, including financially supporting expansion of the number of childcare places available to armed forces families. At the time of writing, it is unclear whether the current levels of ELC funding will be maintained for subsequent financial years, as this will depend on the outcome of the Integrated review. 

The DCYP representative asked that safeguarding be added as a standing agenda item for this meeting. Members felt that this group should be routinely considering safeguarding matters specifically affecting the armed forces community, thereby establishing a channel to the Scottish Government for referral of issues (at a strategic, policy and statutory practice level). The Chair will discuss this further with the relevant Scottish Government teams.  

Action: all

Royal Navy – Most of the points were covered in earlier discussions. Ongoing partnership, with A&B Council SPA - working together continuing to mutually support children and families with work ongoing to raise the profile of the role of the NTO. Together we are looking into how best to publicise information, perhaps through a central point. The additional COVID quarantine measures for deploying ships and Submarine crews that had impacted on Service Children’s separation/anxiety before Christmas have eased and are not expected to be an issue going fwd with Vaccine roll out.

Army – No significant change to the last report. Currently 6 Regular Battalions are in the deployment cycle (including to support COVID tasks including Advisers to Scottish Government and NHS, and the vaccine roll out), some Battalions are either deployed or on short notice to move timelines. Some Reserve unit personnel have also been mobilised to provide support. 

RAF – The RAF Benevolent Fund has undertaken some qualitative research involving 90 AF children in England, seeking first-hand the experiences of the child that will feed into a platform for ongoing work. The DCYP funding for the RAF Lossiemouth Childcare Centre will enable sustained wraparound care during COVID and beyond. The MOD will be playing a positive role in wider society in enabling the centre to be used in the Moray Early Years STEM pilot where age and stage appropriate learning can take place in a STEM environment. A lack of wrap around childcare for school age children is starting to create a pinch point for serving parents including where both parents are serving, impacting on posting decisions and spousal employment. DCYP are involved in discussions around this which may be a wider tri-Service issue. The MOD wrap around childcare pilot is ongoing and is due to report in the Summer. For wider situational awareness the Moray Dandelion Project has not yet launched due to COVID. The project will be reviewed again by Easter to consider if it is still viable to run in the context of the current restrictions. The project will focus on both training of education staffs whilst building a forces family friendly network in schools. It will also include a school recognition scheme with gold, silver and bronze awards. 

ADES Adviser – ADES held a conference last week focusing on the UNCRC, attended by 130 people, that indicated the level of importance and relevance for local authority communities. Discussion focused on the incorporation of UNCRC into the Scotland Act.  This will bring a high level of awareness when the bill receives royal ascent (currently at stage 2). This will also bring significant legal responsibilities and accountability to local authorities.  One of the key aspects is to make sure that children and young people understand that they have a right of complaint and that the Children’s Commissioner has a role in supporting them. The question was asked if this legislation was being brought in elsewhere. The Chair agreed to check. The commencement of the new legislation means that the legal rights of children will change when they cross the Scottish border from, and to, other parts of the UK, and to be meaningful this requires to be made clear to young people and their families when they move.

Action: Chair

ADES NTO – Current work strands include collaborating on the SEEMiS indicator and further development of the website. Visits have increased to the site. An FCE Facebook page has just been launched and the link will be available soon. This will help to promote information. A number of networking meetings have taken place including the ADES AF Working Group and Head Teachers meeting with issues being raised that will warrant some further engagement. The NTO is engaging widely in order to establish the reach across Scotland. There is a lot of engagement and interest within the RICS. A mapping exercise is underway to map out engagement with families and to collect information – existing networks will also be used. The NTO updated that Head Teachers welcomed the opportunity to participate in this group with colleagues nationally to focus on similar themes.

Head Teacher Representative - The invitation to join this meeting had been appreciated and it is useful to see the wealth of work going on to support AF children. The last few months have been dominated by the COVID response and it is good to think of other things and the wider picture for children. The school has been very well supported through the Education Support Fund, RCET and the NTO, all of which has made a huge difference, especially during recent times and the 2 SCOTS deployment. It has been a challenging time for all.  

Actions from last meeting    

Armed Forces Covenant Legislation

In general terms the AF Covenant Legislation is going through its second reading in Parliament. This does not need to go through the legal process in Scotland. Statutory guidance will follow and there will be an opportunity to feed into that process. 

Dispersed families – sharing good practice

The purpose of gathering examples of good practice is to raise situational awareness and to be proactive in considering some of the challenges and opportunities that are emerging in relation to FAM. Specifically, in relation to communication with families who are not situated close to Bases/Station/Units. Examples have been gathered across Scotland from the Navy, Army and RAF-FF who have developed focused research on this topic. Next steps will be a mapping exercise that reflects modes of communication, themes and concerns; followed by discussion and development of action items.

Collaboration across UK home nations (twinning between Scotland and England schools)

The emerging work of the National Transitions Officer (ADES NTO) through the Professional Leadership Network, which involves school leaders, is pleasing to note. Joint learning and exchange of knowledge and information is expected to develop into resources that can inform a wider group and positively impact on processes to improve transitions for children and families.  Regular updates will be provided.

Skills Development Scotland

A pilot project is being undertaken, in collaboration with ADES NTO, to improve on the data they have available. Local authority SEEMiS information is not yet part of the data exchange via the data hub, for their use. SDS are looking to increase their data knowledge to ensure that AF children are receiving their correct entitlements and access to SDS services. Three secondary schools, within the Northern Alliance Collaborative have been approached and invited to work together to share information. Further update will be provided at next meeting. 

Education Support Fund

Group members were thanked for their input to the review of the ESF forms. 

Any other business    

The revised version of the Welcome to Scotland Guide is ongoing and due for publication in April. 

Arrangements for next meeting    

The dates of future meetings are detailed below. Timing and format will be confirmed by the Secretary. All were asked to let the Secretary know if they are unavailable for any of the dates. 

Action: all

  • Wednesday 9 June 2021 
  • Wednesday 1 September 2021
  • Wednesday 1 December 2021
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