As always, keeping lines of communication open is key. If you have military children starting or if they are leaving you or maybe regularly you have both in your school, preparation is key to helping children and parents cope with the changes transition brings, and you as the school can greatly help this process.
- Prepare leavers packs in advance for parents to keep a copy and suggest that they don’t send this in removals. That way if there is any delay or loss they have this to hand.
For some parents, the most stress when being posted is around finding the right school and settling the children. For one parent in our case studies they said just that “once the kids are sorted, I’m fine”.
It is up to schools to do the best they can to eliminate any worries or concerns for a new starter.
What information is easily accessible? Does the prospectus contain all the useful housekeeping information? Is there a clear induction for new families? Is it possible to arrange a meeting with the parents to enable them to ask any questions, meet the teacher, allay any worries?
- Find out a little about the previous school. Parents have noted that transition is more difficult for children when leaving a small village school to start at a larger school, feeling that they had to ‘compete’ with other students for attention.
- Encourage parents to always let school know of deployment dates, even short periods of time. Pop a note in the school newsletter sporadically reminding parents of the importance of this
- Introduce parents to the designated member of staff who will work on a regular basis with the children. Can they have contact details? Many parents still feel apprehensive about going into schools so knowing who this point of contact is can be really useful.
- To help with transition, it is useful to inform new parents of any school specific policies that may differ from the previous school – handwriting, calculation policies for example may have only minor differences that can make a positive impact on transition if they are known about in advance.
If possible, keep a data base of all military families, noting how many schools the children have been to and keep a check on key dates. Parents may not remember to tell school that they are going away for a period of time and, on occasion, a whole unit may be posted or deployed as one. This is potentially a lot of children needing extra TLC all at once! By the time school is aware, it could be too late or more difficult to put in any extra emotional support needed.
Just you we want your classroom environments to reflect our culturally diverse society, and to ensure boys and girls are depicted in non-stereotypical roles, it is worth taking a moment to audit how the military are reflected. Absorbing families into the community so that they too are ‘the norm’. One little boy in a school with a very low percentage of military families found himself in a terribly sad situation when his friends accused him of being a ‘liar’ after he spoke about men passing his house with guns (he lived behind the base perimeter fence) and that his daddy wore camouflage clothes to work. How would your school handle this? In his situation it was the parents who decided to send Daddy to pick up at home time, still in uniform, to try to prove the child right, but there was much more that school could do.
Finally, and it seems a minor one (it’s not for a lot people), try to adopt the term military or service families. There is a temptation to refer to all as Army families but there should be a distinction between British Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force.