For our latest meet the teacher, we spoke to Rebecca Grinter, a primary school teacher from Wales who talks to us about the impact that change can have on service children and why she thinks all military children should have an individual package of support at school.
Tell us about yourself and how you came to be a teacher:
I always wanted to work with children, I initially started to train as a paediatric nurse, but it wasn’t for me. I went back to university and studied Early Childhood studies and continued to complete a PGCE in Primary education.
Do you have a connection to the military? If so, do you think this helps you when interacting with the service pupils?
My partner is in the military and we have three children together. I find having lived experience myself makes me more understanding and able to understand different situations without asking unnecessary questions.
How do you think primary schools should support forces’ families?
I think that all teachers should have training in how to support children with change, whether it is a move of a house, move to a new school or something significant happening in the child’s life. Young children are very adaptable, but will always need support when moving around.
Children in the forces, should be able to have access to support therapy, with someone who is trained to provide this, such as a play therapist or a member of support in the school. There should also be support available for the families, with some knowledge provided for the parents on how to support and adapt to these changes to support the child as a team.
Why do you think it’s important to offer targeted support for military children in school?
Every child is an individual and will deal with situations in life differently, so every military child will need an individual package of support. Despite children being resilient, they go through massive adaptions when moving around. Even as a teacher, when you move to a new school, following the same curriculum, adapting to the new school’s way of teaching takes time to adapt. The child might have learnt in a completely different way in the previous school, for example the use of a different scheme of work and they then would have to learn in a new way.
Additionally, the child will have to make new friends, live in a different environment and start again. No matter how many times this happens, it is a big change. The children may also have very extended periods of time where a parent is away on deployment. This can be extremely hard. As a partner of someone in the military, I find this difficult myself at times. The child will need to be supported through this, with someone they trust and feels safe with, it is important that a school can put this in place for a child.
In your experience, what are the biggest challenges faced by military children in school?
In primary schools, I think the biggest challenges can be the change in learning styles and curriculum, especially with the curriculums being different in the early years of schooling. It can take a child so long to grasp a skill, then it can be easily lost if the consistency doesn’t continue. It can also be difficult if the child is receiving any special educational needs support, for example if receiving speech and language therapy support in Wales and then moved to England/ Scotland, a new referral would need to be submitted, which takes a very long time to be assessed and seen. This then results in many months with no support and can lead to more delays.
What advice would you offer to other teachers and schools working with military children?
Ensure that the child has someone they can go to, whether it’s a safe space and ears to be heard. There will be times when they need this more than normal. School is a busy place, there isn’t always the time there and then, but somewhere or something to be able to make the child feel safe and heard until there is time is always beneficial. Just always make sure that time is made so the child can be heard.
What’s the one thing you think is most important for schools to do for forces children?
Forces children need to have the support they need; the individual child and family should be included in shaping those plans. Include them, support them and ensure that they have equal opportunities for learning, despite moving around.