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Service pupils

“Children of service personnel will join your school bringing with them a wide range of strengths and needs but, in many cases, they will also have a variety of educational and personal experiences to provide you and their fellow pupils with an exciting and different dynamic. They may also have had (or have whilst they are with you) experiences of a more stressful nature”

(Guidance – Service children in state schools handbook 2013 Dfe MoD)

Service pupils are more likely than their peers to attend a number of different schools during their time in education and this can impact upon their experiences, behaviour, interaction with peer groups and the curriculum.  They can experience increased emotional pressures specifically in relation to mobility and deployment.  Family life changes both when the active parent goes away on deployment but also when they return – family dynamics will change.

It is essential that schools and teachers are aware of these pupils and the issues that they face.

Service pupil premium

The Department for Education (DfE) introduced the SPP as part of the commitment to delivering the armed forces covenant.

State schools, academies and free schools in England, which have children of service personnel in reception to year 11, can receive the funding, which is designed to assist the school to provide mainly pastoral care to these children.  The service pupil premium is currently £300 per child.

Who is eligible?

Pupils attract the premium if they meet the following criteria:

  • one of their parents is serving in the regular armed forces
  • one of their parents served in the regular armed forces in the last 3 years
  • one of their parents died while serving in the armed forces and the pupil is in receipt of a pension under the armed forces compensation scheme (AFCS) and the war pensions scheme (WPS)

Schools may wish to consider ways of identifying those students who are eligible for the student pupil premium as part of their enrollment process.

Issues facing service children

 “Pupils may arrive with very little prior notice and with little or no documentation from their previous school. Children may have gaps in their education through having missed certain parts of the curriculum or conversely, they may have covered a particular topic many times over. Many Service children have had thirteen–fourteen moves by the time they reach secondary school and often for Service families the only consistency is inconsistency”

(Ofsted, 2011)

Department for Education – Support for Service Children  –  National   General Article updated 29 August 2012 states

  • Service children are more likely than their peers to attend a number of different schools as they progress through the primary and secondary years.
  • Service children experience greater social and emotional pressures than their peers. One parent may be away from home for long periods of time and may be serving in a war zone.
  • Service children have lower attendance rates than their peers.

The possible problems this can create include:

  • Poor transfer of information from one school to the next
  • Difficulties in identifying appropriate provision for SEN and lack of continuity with any such provision
  • Complications around the curriculum in particular subject examinations
  • Social and emotional pressures and difficulties in making commitments to relationships with peers, adults and schools.
  • A sense of loss at each move
  • Extrovert or introvert behavior, especially if a parent is on active service
  • Topic sensitivity – war poetry for example need to be sensitive

Potential school support

Issues facing children and young people from service backgrounds will vary according to their age and their experiences. Schools and childcare providers should understand these issues and have clear procedures in place to enable them to respond in an appropriate way. It is essential that these pupils settle quickly and feel valued and teachers need to learn about the new children as quickly as possible.  Staff should be alert to changes in children’s behavior that could indicate that they may be in need of help or support.  School staff should use their professional judgment identifying children who might need additional support and act appropriately.

The government guidance on service children in state schools handbook 2013 suggests

In general terms, schools can take a number of steps to ease any problems, for their children and for them, arising from service-induced mobility. These include:

  • early liaison with the school(s) from which children are coming, to discuss information transfer protocols (for information in addition to that provided in the common transfer file), curricular issues and any individual pupils of special interest or concern (including SEN); planning for curricular discontinuity
  • ensuring the child(ren)’s current school(s) provide access to helpful information (e.g. details of and rationale for a school’s policy for term-time holidays) about their new school(s), including contact details and points of contact; schools could, for example, provide (in consultation with parents) children taking term-time holidays with homework to enable them to keep up with their peers
  • making every effort to smooth the admissions process and, if places are not available in a particular year group, ensuring that the requirements of the school admissions code are adhered to
  • establishing effective induction arrangements for new pupils and their parents
  • devising strategies for preparing children, parents and receiving schools for children moving on
  • establishing clear policies and procedures about mobility and identifying clear roles responsibilities for staff in this respect
  • considering the EAL needs of incoming children and the implications for the school’s EMTAG provision
  • considering the role of the school SENCO and support staff in relation to meeting effectively and quickly the SEN of mobile children of service personnel
  • ensuring service/service parent representation on governing bodies
  • ensuring that the implications of pupil mobility for school performance are properly considered during self-evaluation.
  • participating in SCISS regional events to ensure that DfE and MOD are kept up to date with the issues around providing for service children and to be kept up to date with developments nationally

Curriculum resources

Historical Association

The Royal British Legion

Examples of good practice

Schools across England have put the service pupil premium to good use in a variety of ways including using the funding to purchase books for school libraries, which have been written by parents with a military background who have experienced deployment.  Some schools have placed wall maps in the classroom for pupils to mark where their parent is currently deployed or where they have previously been deployed.  Others have provided mentors to help service children interact with their peers and form new friendship groups. Where there are higher numbers of children in receipt of the service pupil premium schools have set up ‘nurture’ rooms which can cater specifically to the needs of children of service personnel, giving them a place to gather together and talk about their experiences.

Updates and changes


These pages are updated regularly and should be used as the main source of information.  Printed versions should be used with care as they can become out of date.