- 10 May 2021
Attendees and apologies
Scottish Government (SG) Learning Directorate (Chair)
- SG Armed Forces and Veterans Group (AFVG)
- Education Scotland (ES)
- MOD Directorate Children and Young People (DCYP)
- ADES Adviser
- ADES National Transitions Officer (NTO)
- Royal Navy (RN)
- Royal Caledonian Education Trust (RCET)
- Head Teacher Representative
- Naval Families Federation (FF) Representative
- RAF FF Representative
- Army Representative, Army Families Federation Representative
Items and actions
Welcome and introduction
The Chair thanked everyone for joining the call and welcomed the Families Federation Representatives.
Update from Families Federation representatives
The Naval FF Representative updated that they are monitoring trends that are emerging from families. One of which is education and the impact and pressure of COVID. The Navy have been involved in some cases regarding key worker status and parents being able to secure spaces in schools. These cases have involved dual Serving parents (including those working from home), which they have been able to resolve. There have been some issues for children with additional needs, where adaptations have not always been achievable in the home learning situation.
The RAF FF reported that there are no particular issues ongoing from families in Scotland. The RAF Benevolent Fund is undertaking research on voices of children and young people on life as an RAF child, which has included children in Scotland. The RAF FF is working in partnership with the SCiP/RCET on the Thriving Lives project and has contributed to the update of the Welcome to Scotland Guide. They are also presenting at the Firm Base conference in March. They highlighted the importance of children and young people in policy development.
ASL Review – parental engagement and information
The Chair outlined that the focus of his team’s work is Additional Support for Learning (ASL) and reviewing and responding to the action plan and report published last year. One of the key themes is ensuring parents are fully engaged in securing Additional Support Needs (ASN), to be part of the process and to feel involved. The report had highlighted there is some good practice out there but welcomed thoughts from the FF Representatives. The ES Representative added that they are keen to understand what works well for AF families coming to Scotland. Focus groups with parents in 2016 had highlighted positive aspects of the experience in Scotland but also that there were concerns and that families were sometimes apprehensive when moving.
The Naval FF Representative echoed the point made by ES in that a lot of families have a positive experience when moving to Scotland but that this needed to be tempered with those who struggle when moving in the opposite direction. The process can also be personality driven. We need to remain mindful that we see two extremes, but on the whole there is a good holistic approach.
The Head Teacher Representative outlined that it is helpful for a school to remain quite flexible and that it comes back to understanding what the changes are for parents. It can be quite straightforward but also unsettling. There is a need for more focus on transition. The broad definition of ASN in Scotland is good but needs to be understood that it is not just a medical diagnosis, and that it can be short term. This can sometimes be difficult for parents to understand.
The ADES Adviser stated that where difficulties are encountered there should be sufficient information available locally to assist parents and schools in getting the issue resolved. Education authorities should be able to intervene, in the best interests of the child, where a matter is unresolved as a consequence of being personality driven. All education authorities should have information available on ASN matters that is sufficiently clear to ensure parents, and schools, know where to go to if there is an unresolved issue.
The RAF FF Representative highlighted the issue over the need to look at the whole picture, including how long the child will stay in Scotland and what is happening next. This may mean different help and support might be needed. The Chair agreed that for transitions in and out of Scotland discussions need to look at the medium to long term. The RCET Representative added that there may be short term non-medical needs as well as high tariff needs and that there is uncertainty for parents on where to go for help and advice. The NTO together with ES will look to progressing joined up meetings with parents once COVID restrictions permit.
- NTO and ES
The Chair is keen to explore what good information looks like, and how to access this. The Group were in agreement that there needs to be different levels of information/clear signposting. Video clips and podcasts could be options and some work is already being undertaken by the NTO and ES to explore different communication formats. Some films have already been produced and a marketing campaign may be needed to raise the profile of these. Families use informal social media channels to seek this type of information, sometimes more readily that through the formal channel of the Service. Establishing a single entry point for signposting to information would also be a useful way ahead. There may be scope to develop and use the SAFESG web page as a central point. All were in agreement that a partnership approach to reviewing communication and improving communication is needed – it was also agreed that ensuring parents feel empowered to ask questions is important going forward.
ASL Review – young people’s views
The Group discussed how best to involve young people from Armed Forces families in policy discussions that affect them. RCET is already engaged with young people and this engagement could be used as a platform to build on and develop further. Pre-COVID, 7 youth participation forums were taking place enabling the Military voice to be heard. These are currently taking place on ZOOM and participation has tailed off following the return to school and some ZOOM fatigue. The feedback so far has been clear in that young people feel that school staff don’t understand their experiences. Young people want to see action taken, rather than more questions asked. The FF Representatives added that they would be happy to collaborate on future activity to engage with young people.
The Head Teacher Representative advised that when asking children questions, they will expect action. Children enjoy the opportunity to share information and share experiences. It is important to let them know that schools are interested in their particular experiences and that their view is important and will be heard. Some caution is needed in choosing questions, which should be around what you can change. Another important factor for young people is the timing between questions and responses.
Any other business
There being no other business the Chair thanked the FF Representatives for taking the time to speak to the Group today. A brief record of the meeting will be circulated.