Some of the best experts when it comes to understanding military children are their parents. There is so much that schools can learn from engaging with military parents and finding out more about the various pressures families are under at home and what support they would like to see from schools. In this special edition of ‘meet the expert’ we spoke to Aishlen Taylor, a serving soldier and a military parent to two young children, about her views on supporting service children in education.
What is your connection to the military?
I am serving, along with my husband.
Tell us about your children.
My eldest is 6 and in year 2. My youngest is 9 months and attends nursery.
Why do you think it’s so important for schools to have a good understanding of military life?
School is hard enough as it is at times, and when you add in extra layers of complexity such as mum and dad going away, sometimes at short notice, it can bring up so many emotions that they don’t know how to cope with. The schools need to be able to identify if a child is worrying more, acting out etc and put in measures to help them understand their emotions, but also acknowledging that mum / dad are away and involving the other school children so they’re also aware of why their friend might be a bit sad.
Has forces life had an impact on your own children’s experience at nursery or school?
Our son had separation anxiety in pre-school. We had pre-warned the school about this when he started reception and informed them that dad was going away for nine weeks. His behaviour declined in this period and he was being labelled the ’naughty’ child. There was a lot of banging my head against a brick wall before the school actually started listening to me.
What would you like the school to have done differently?
Identify that this could have been an issue addressed before it escalated (he was excluded for a day at one point). Listened to me as a military parent, I might not be an educational professional but no one knows their children better than a parent.
How would you like to see schools using their Service Pupil Premium budget?
I would like it communicated to the parents how it is used – not just on the website. I want to see something for all the money they get, other than an ELSA, I am unaware of anything that is provided to military children.
What is the main thing you think schools can do to improve how they support service children?
They’re all unique, know the child, know when they are sad, know how to make them feel included, include the parents, I for one would love to support my son more in school if I thought it would help.
What’s the one thing you would like all schools to know about forces life?
No one forces family is the same and it’s not always dad that is the soldier.