Today, as well as attending the Two Minutes Silence and wreath laying ceremony at County Hall, I also attended some training about the role of the Military Covenant and Military Champions in local government. During the training, Education emerged as a key concern for many service families. Despite the almost complete removal of our forces from family accompanied postings in mainland Europe, many service families are still expected to move location to a new posting, possibly as frequently as every two years.
These moves can play havoc with children’s schooling. Of particular concern, in this age of academies, is the lack of the same degree of oversight of in-year admissions as for the September round of admissions. Indeed, most academies act as their own admission authority for in-year admissions. Most moves within the services do not conform to the school year for obvious operational reasons.
One person said at the training ‘well, if one pupil moves out and another moves in, what is the issue?’ For many in education the answer is obvious in terms of the ages of the children and the schools that they might attend. Unit moves where only the local primary school is affected are now something of a rarity, and even then the ‘march out’ and arrival of the in-coming unit might not coincide. Differing numbers might mean that the school might not immediately receive the appropriate level of funding, depending upon when the move takes place.
One solution would be to return oversight of in-year admissions, at least for service children, to local authorities, with the power to direct academies to admit pupils arriving mid-year. Another person at the training told a story of a senior officer being told there was no place for his son at a secondary school while overhearing the person on the other end of the phone say to someone that the school didn’t want any more service children on roll: how disheartening.
I know that children of service personnel are eligible for the Service Children Premium, but the amount hasn’t been increased and is, therefore, of less value than when introduced, and it is not clear how the spending is monitored.
There are also stories of children being denied free transport to school because they arrived mid-year. I wonder about the legality of such a move by any local authority, and whether any authority has put such a clause in their Home to School Transport Policy? I also wonder whether service children posted into areas such as Kent and Essex where there is selective education receive a fair deal over access to grammar schools. Indeed, do other children moving mid-year because a parent has been relocated by their employer also suffer if they arrive into selective systems?
One final military gripe is the difference in funding between Cadet Units and Combined Cadet Force Units. The former are community based and the latter school based. However, that should not affect the level of funding each receives for the same tasks.
These are all issued for the new government after the general election.