Publication - Minutes

Scottish Armed Forces Education Support Group minutes: September 2021

Published: 3 Nov 2021
Date of meeting: 1 Sep 2021
Date of next meeting: 1 Dec 2021

Minutes from the meeting of the Scottish Armed Forces Education Group held on 1 September 2021.

Published:
3 Nov 2021
Scottish Armed Forces Education Support Group minutes: September 2021

Attendees and apologies

  • Scottish Government (SG) Learning Directorate (Chair)
  • SG Armed Forces & Veterans Group (AFVG)
  • Education Scotland (ES)
  • ADES Adviser
  • ADES National Transitions Officer (NTO)
  • Royal Navy (RN)
  • Army
  • Royal Caledonian Education Trust (RCET)
  • Head teacher representative

Apologies:

  • RAF representatives
  • MOD Armed Forces Families and Safeguarding (AFFS)
  • COSLA representatives

Items and actions

Standing agenda items

Additional support for learning – action plan progress  

A vision statement from ambassadors for inclusion has been published. A pledge pack for schools is being developed, more information on both is available at the links below:

More information on the Vision Statement

Pledge-Pack_Final.pdf (childreninscotland.org.uk)

Thoughts are being developed around reporting on progress for the year to the Cabinet Secretary. A measurement framework will be used to measure achievement and success, and a report against the Autism Action Plan will be included. The Group will be kept updated on this work.

The announcement on SQA changes will be of critical importance to everyone, no timescale has been set as yet and this is work in progress. Engagement with young people remains central to Scottish Government working, policies aimed at young people should involve young people.   Group members may be interested in the link shared by the ES representative https://www.gov.scot/news/national-qualifications-and-assessments/.  In response to questions around UNCRC, ASL and the review of SQA the Chair explained both the linkages, and the differences. ES is also currently doing work with the ASL Team to understand connections.  

Safeguarding

The AFFS representative is the lead for this item but was unable to attend the meeting. Since the last meeting a discussion had taken place with Armed Forces representatives and some follow-up action was ongoing. The NTO added that some safeguarding points had been raised at 2 other recent meetings that would require some follow-up. The Chair will seek an update from AFFS.

Action: chair

Living in our shoes report update

Nothing significant to report. Work will be taken forward through the draft MOD Families Strategy. An action plan will be set up to include all work streams. Once published this will be shared with the Group.  

Action: AFVG

Collection and use of data

The ADES Executive is reviewing the data request process and the NTO is expecting feedback this week. The draft letter to Directors of Education had been prepared for circulation. Agreement is being sought from Directors for data to be shared to create a national picture, and also to share with partnership groups. A template has been created to request information and has been reviewed by the AFWG. The data will be requested as at 1 October, with a response being submitted to the NTO by 1 November. The Census data collection takes place on 15 September. Early Years data will be included at a later date.

On receipt of the data the NTO will prepare charts and graphs and present this to ADES in the first instance. It is thought likely that the numbers will be an underestimate, creating a partial picture. It is not a mandatory requirement for Armed Forces families to declare but messages of encouragement to MOD units will be explored. Not being aware of children from Armed Forces families can be challenging for schools and can have an impact on achievement and attainment. The NTO is working with Skills Development Scotland on a pilot project to identify children and young people from Armed Forces families in some secondary schools. The Chair will be joining discussions with LAs to understand their points of view on data collection, and what this should look like.

Scottish Government Wellbeing survey

A letter has been sent out to the Directors of Education regarding the delayed 21/22 Health and Wellbeing survey. This will include a series of general questions around physical and mental health. The Chair will seek further detail on the nature of the survey and will update the Group.  

Action: chair

SHANNARI App

The NTO continues to work on this with North Lanarkshire and other LAs.

Updates from group members

RCET is currently going through rebranding, with the launch due on 30 September. The Charity will be renamed Forces Children Scotland and will have a new tag line. The website is being redesigned and rebuilt, and a new strategic plan is being developed, with input from young people, and is expected to be published in the New Year. Staff consultation around the structure of the team will conclude on 23 September, and some changes are likely. A new Mental Health and Wellbeing service will launch on 13 September. RCET had become aware that some young people were finding the news around the recent events in Afghanistan challenging – weekly ZOOM meetings have been arranged for 12-18 year olds supported by 2 members of staff. A telephone helpline for parents and carers is also available. RCET also highlighted some concerns about children of Veterans, which are less on the radar. The RCET Conference will take place virtually on 3 November – places can be booked at the link https://www.rcet.org.uk/2021-virtual-conference-registration-open/.

Royal Navy

RN Families are experiencing the same as the rest of society in terms of children being sent home to isolate due to COVID however, when partners are away this can create additional challenges for the parent at home. Regular meetings are taking place with the Service Pupil Adviser and Argyll & Bute Professional Learners Group.  Naval deployments continue and can cause some uncertainty for children. The Future Accommodation Model (FAM) project may see more families settling in the Faslane area following the move of the RN Submarine Service from Plymouth.  FAM allows families to Buy or rent within a 50 mile radius of the base which may see greater numbers of dispersed families, which the Navy will monitor. RCET added that an additional Participation Worker will be employed for central Scotland linked to FAM, liaising with schools with smaller numbers of Armed Forces children.

Army

Brigadier Ben Wrench has taken over from Brigadier Robin Lindsay as Commander Headquarters 51st Infantry Brigade & Headquarters Army in Scotland. Colonel Tony Phillips has also taken over from Colonel Sandy Fitzpatrick as Deputy Commander. The Tri-Service Families Continuous Attitude Survey has been released and is available at the link https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/tri-service-families-continuous-attitude-survey-2021 . There is a voluntary questionnaire for families. This indicates that 80% of Armed Forces families have children, 55% of which are of school age and 41% require breakfast or after school care. The numbers are down from last year but likely due to the COVID context. In terms of turnover, 15% of children changed school last year.

There are currently no major moves in Scotland. Turnover of personnel is mostly amongst the Officers who usually have a 2 year posting, all efforts are made to move personnel in the summer months. It is acknowledged that families may not declare to schools that they are Armed Forces and the Brigade will explore communications to encourage families to declare.

ADES Adviser

ADES continues to support the work of the NTO.

NTO

The NTO is delighted to advise that the ADES website Forces Children's Education is a recipient of the Armed Forces Covenant Bronze Award. A number of network meetings have taken place and will continue on line. Members appreciate participation in meetings that enable communication between key education stakeholders and sharing of ideas. Data collection and its use was a topic for discussion in the last meetings. At the Head Teachers Forum, the educator’s toolkit and Forceschildrenseducation website were discussed. The website is supported by MOD and offers examples of good practice. A transitions survey is being explored with schools and families. Concerns remain around deployment and Mental Health and Wellbeing, with some children finding it more difficult at the moment, linked to COVID and recent events in Afghanistan. Some attainment issues have been highlighted through the Professional Learning Network – which is a UK wide group, some cross jurisdiction issues have also been highlighted. Partnership working continues with ES/RCET/SCiP Alliance, and meetings with Families Federation Reps. ADES Lead Officer guidance – in line with Armed Forces Covenant legislation – is also being developed.  

Education Scotland

Collaborative work underway and supporting RCET with webinars. A new Education Officer will be starting work in the National Improvement Hub.

Head teacher representative

The school has a high proportion of Armed Forces children and is currently supporting 130 children with a high level of need. An ASN post for 18 hours per week has been funded through the MOD Education Support Fund (ESF) and is assisting in supporting, and getting it right, for these children. So long as funding is available the school is happy to bid to the ESF however they anticipate that funds will run out at some point, and the needs will continue, and need to be met.

The Chair welcomed the perspective given and acknowledged that greater recognition of the needs of Armed Forces children is needed across staff and the 32 senior leaders in Scotland - the availability of data will help to identify where some of the Armed Forces children are by LA. The Chair added that Armed Forces Covenant legislation and MOD statutory guides have an aspiration to raise the profile of Armed Forces children in general and will bring a focus to LAs to think about how many children they have and the support they need. Information sharing will be key, the Welcome to Scotland Guide is available and could be shared with families before moving to Scotland. In terms of parent’s perception, which can be that of a different system which is lesser, it would be good to find ways to get information out there in a more positive way.

RCET added that young people have said when they moved to Scotland they were held back, and this can permeate down to other children. There are multiple challenges around this perception, and it is a really important issue. The ADES Adviser asked if there is any scope to get detailed independent research carried out around this topic. The Chair agreed this was something to explore – in terms of inclusion for all children, not just Armed Forces. The Secretary added that the AFFS Representative may have a view to share on research and would arrange to discuss this.

Action: secretary

RCET also added that young people are keen to facilitate introductions to their schools for other children, through the RCET website, showing them around and talking about the school, through a peer to peer model. This type of model might also be relevant for parents and could possibly include videos, podcasts etc.

Other Agenda items

Actions from last meeting:

SAFESG web page

Members of the Group were happy for additional relevant links to be added to the SAFESG web page.

Education Support Fund

All were reminded that the closing date for the ESF was 30 September. The Scotland Regional Panel meeting will take place on 14 October. Reminders have been sent out to the MOD and education communities.

Armed Forces Covenant legislation

The MOD are consulting with stakeholder groups on the draft guidance. Requests for examples of good practice to include in the guidance have been sent out. If anyone has examples to share, please send them to the Chair. An updated draft of the guidance is due in the New Year and expected to be finalised in mid-2022. The Chair will keep the Group updated.

Date of next meetings

The dates for the next meetings are 1 December 2021 and 9 March 2022.

Action: all