Scotland’s education system is underpinned by policy and legislation designed so that services adapt to meet the individual needs of children, and work to identify and overcome disadvantage.
This year we have seen developments in these overarching policies which we expect will serve Armed Forces children and families well - for example: the expansion of early learning and childcare; further funding to support implementation of additional support for learning; and the SG commitment to develop counselling services for schools. In delivery of our policies, there has also been targeted work to support Service children and their families.
Early Learning and Childcare
The funded early learning and childcare (ELC) hours that all 3 and 4 year olds and some 2 year olds are entitled to in Scotland, is set to almost double from 600 to 1140 hours from August 2020. In addition to this increased entitlement, the introduction of the national standard and the funding follows the child model means that parents and carers will have increased choice and flexibility in terms of the type of setting and the way that ELC is accessed.
Two campaigns are being run in relation to the expansion of ELC. The first aims to help families make informed choices when choosing ELC. The parental information campaign includes a dedicated ELC hub within the Parent Club website along with leaflets and posters which have been distributed nationally to all ELC settings. In addition to working with partners, including colleagues in Skills Development Scotland, a targeted approach has been taken in both Moray and Argyll and Bute with leaflets being distributed across Armed Forces welfare centres, families centres and outreach hubs.
The second is a national recruitment campaign which encourages people to consider a career in ELC. Similarly, it has a dedicated website and a number of resources which have been distributed. The Scottish Government are engaging with the Career Transition Partnership team to ensure relevant information on potential careers for Service leavers, as well as family members of Service personnel, is available and they are fully informed about career options within the ELC sector.
Scottish Service Children Strategy Group
In collaboration with the Scottish Service Children Strategy Group (SSCSG), which works with key stakeholders to support the education needs of children from Armed Forces families in schools in Scotland, we held a Scotland-wide good practice event for Education professionals and Armed Forces personnel in May 2019 to celebrate and share work and explore future priorities. We also: supported the National Transitions Officer to continue to develop resources for the Forces Children’s Education website, including guidance on Early Stages Transitions and a National Parent Forum for Scotland resource; and contributed to the Education Support Fund process, including managing and participating in the Regional Panel.
Education Scotland has launched a suite of resources - ‘The Compassionate and Connected Community and Classroom’. The first is a professional learning resource to raise awareness of the effects of adversity and trauma, and provides a range of supportive relational approaches to use with children and young people. All 32 education authorities were offered training in the use of this resource. A second free curricular resource is now available to support children in upper primary to cope with challenges and adversity and develop their confidence, resilience, compassion and empathy. These resources are beginning to be used in schools to support Service children.
To help improve the sorts of universal and targeted services which help mitigate some of the challenges Service children may face, the Scottish Government is providing £12 million in 2019-20 and £16 million in following years from 2020 onwards for education authorities to develop counselling services. We know that Service children are a particular group which may face challenges which affect their mental wellbeing. Should they need support, school counsellors will provide a quicker, more effective response.
We are investing an additional £15 million to further enhance capacity in education authorities and schools to respond effectively to the individual needs of children and young people. We are engaging with CoSLA to agree how this commitment will be implemented across Scotland.
We are undertaking a review of the implementation of Additional Support for Learning to ensure every child and young person gets the support they need when they need it. This includes children and young people who need support for a short time – to help them transition to a new school, or because a parent is deployed, for example. Service families, their children and practitioners supporting them can feed into the review via the Scottish Government website.
As committed to in ‘Learning Together: Scotland’s national action plan on parental involvement, parental engagement, family learning and learning at home 2018 – 2021’, we are supporting the positive involvement and engagement of specific groups, including Service families.
Further and Higher Education
The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring all learners, including veterans and their families, have the same opportunities to access Further and Higher Education. We are working collaboratively with partners from the education sector and representatives from the Armed Forces to take forward work in this area. A Veterans Group, first established in 2017 and led by the Scottish Funding Council (SFC), is driving forward progress of specific actions around Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG) for veterans.
The SFC has been supporting Veterans Scotland since January 2019 to work with key stakeholders to develop an HE:FE Armed Forces Champions Network; to date, approximately 70% of Scottish universities and 60% of Scottish colleges have signed up to be part of the Network. They launched a dedicated web page in March 2019 with sources of information, advice and guidance for veterans, service leavers and their families on the support and funding options available to those who may wish to study at a Scottish college or university. In addition, the SFC is funding a Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework Partnership project on mapping learning pathways and accrediting prior learning for Service leavers and veterans detailed in the Employability and Skills section.
Supporting Service Children into Further and Higher Education
The Scottish Government and SFC are continuing to engage with stakeholders to explore the barriers to Further and Higher education which may exist for children of Service families. This includes continuing to support the work of the Service Children’s Progression (SCiP) Alliance Scottish Hub; established in 2018 and led by the Royal Caledonian Education Trust (RCET), it is hosted by Heriot-Watt University and includes representatives from Scottish universities, colleges and the Armed Forces. The Hub brings together stakeholders to work collaboratively with practitioners and professionals to champion the progression of children and young people from Service families into Further and Higher education. The Hub is also developing an evidence base to inform what kind of interventions are required, and will coordinate existing practice and policy to address systemic issues impacting Scotland’s Service families.
SFC identifies children from Service families as those who should be considered for participation in the activities of its schools programmes: Access to High Demand Professions and Schools for Higher Education Programme.
Work is underway to consider how to improve access through the use of data analysis including veterans data in the college sector SFC began collecting in academic year 2017-18. They have also arranged with Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) for the inclusion of a field in the 2021-22 Student Return to identify Service leavers in the university sector. Once the data is gathered and returned in the wider HESA record, SFC will be able to consider veterans representation, success rates, and how many are supported by articulation and other routes such as the Scottish Widening Access Programme (SWAP).
SAAS, on behalf of the Scottish Government, is developing an information portal that will cover Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG) on funding across Further and Higher education. This will be delivered within the 2019-2020 academic year and will function as a signposting tool which will route students to specific information and guidance for Armed Forces members, their families and veterans on the SAAS website.
Supporting Armed Forces Children in Our Scottish Schools’ Event:
The Scottish Service Children Strategy Group (SSCSG) includes representatives from the Armed Forces, MOD, Association of Directors of Education Scotland (including Scotland’s National Transitions Officer), the Royal Caledonian Education Trust, Education Scotland and the Scottish Government. From the end of 2019, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (CoSLA) will join the group.
In May 2019, the SSCSG held a Scotland-wide event for education professionals and Armed Forces personnel. Its purpose was to acknowledge and share work in support of Armed Forces children, consolidate networks and identify future priorities. Attendees discussed challenges and opportunities around supporting service children, shared examples of effective practice from across Scotland –with presentations from Argyll and Bute, Angus, Moray, Midlothian and Fife - and received an update on the final round of the MOD Education Support Fund (ESF).
Nearly 50 education professionals and Armed Forces personnel attended the event. Feedback was very positive. All of those evaluating the event rated it as ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ in terms of ‘fulfilment of intended outcomes’. Delegates said it was a valuable networking opportunity for local authorities, schools and Armed Forces representatives, and a welcome chance to discuss ESF application ideas.
Some of the content from the event has been shared on Education Scotland’s National Improvement Hub. The SSCSG are using the input from delegates to shape future work. Given the excellent feedback, the SSCSG will hold a similar event in 2020.
Angus Council Support for Service Children:
Angus Council employs a small, dedicated team of staff in schools who work with children from Armed Forces families.
The team provide academic, social and emotional targeted support on a needs-led basis. Using money from the MOD Education Support Fund (ESF) Angus has developed Loss, Change and Separation resource packs which are available to all schools. These include information, books, resources and activities to help support pupils during times of transition and loss. The local authority has introduced various approaches to help alleviate the concerns and confusion of moving to a different education system. On enrolment, a bespoke Service Families Welcome Booklet provides information about Angus Council and the Scottish curriculum, and a Children’s Booklet encourages children to share previous learning and experiences with their new teacher and school. Pupils are given a Transition Passport to record their learning and experiences in Angus, to share with their next school.
Angus has developed a training resource to support all staff to acquire the knowledge, confidence and skills to respond appropriately and effectively to the challenges Armed Forces children and their families might face. Also, with a strong focus on Health and Wellbeing, a variety of approaches to support children’s resilience, motivation, self-reliance and self-esteem have been implemented. For example, an authority-wide resource helps further work around ‘getting it right for every child’ by supporting pupils to build confidence, emotional resilience, independence, language and communication skills. All developments in the authority are designed to be sustainable as far as possible, for example by building the capacity of staff and embedding practice in core work.
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