Tell us about yourself and how you came to be a teacher
I’ve been a Nursery Teacher at Baglan Primary School for the last seven years. I always wanted to be a teacher from a young age. I love my job and take great pleasure in watching the children develop and progress during their time in my class. It is a joy to come to work every day to see the children, knowing that I play a part in helping to develop their skills, personality and independence. My hope is that I am remembered as an influential person in their school life.
Tell us more about how many service children are in Baglan Primary School and how you support them?
Only 4.2% of students come from a service background but we work closely with SSCE Cymru (Supporting Service Children in Education Wales) to support these children and their families with a range of opportunities and experiences following the SSCE Cymru framework.
We run a weekly Little Troopers session which gives the children a chance to be together and share their pupil voice. We have also built up connections with outside agencies to provide support when needed. We have a monthly check in with all our service families so they can share any information they feel is relevant, such as an up-and-coming deployment or house move. We also share helpful information and resources regularly with the service children and their families.
SSCE Cymru has awarded the school a Silver Award as an Armed Forces Friendly School and we are working towards our Gold.
What is the biggest challenge that schools face when supporting service children?
Initially, some service children can be reluctant to talk about and share their experiences. You need to spend time building relationships and trust with the children so that they feel comfortable to talk to you. Another challenge can be the additional time needed to run the Little Troopers club and provide additional experiences and support for the service children. School is always busy and sometimes the service children may have other lessons/activities they need to attend.
What initiatives or projects have worked particularly well?
There is a long list of things we have found helpful as a school. A few examples are:
- Little Trooper Club- weekly Sessions for the children to meet up and chat
- Little Troopers Military Child Wellbeing Course – a six week programme for small groups of children
- Little Trooper Assembly – a resource from the Month of the Military Child pack where service children share experiences
- Feelings Journals/Worry Monster
- Forces Fitness
- Ospreys/Action 4 Children
- Never Such Innocence
We also regularly engage with the local community, including serving and ex-serving personnel. The children gain a great deal from this. We had a special Remembrance Day Service in school and there was a community competition where one of the service children came second.
Why do you think it’s important to offer targeted support for military children in school?
Service children have been through unique experiences that many children will not be able to relate to. Running our weekly Little Troopers group allows them to be with peers who have gone through similar experiences and are able to relate to what they are talking about.
What advice would you offer to other teachers and schools working with military children?
I would encourage schools in Wales to engage with the SSCE Cymru Armed Forces Friendly Schools scheme and to consider setting up a Little Troopers Club. It has played a huge part in helping us support the service children and their families in our setting. SSCE Cymru also offers funding opportunities for you to support and provide initiates and activities for the service children and their families which are invaluable.
My advice to all teachers working with service children is to spend quality time getting to know your service children to build up a relationship and trust with them. I would encourage you to build a small team of staff to help with the Little Troopers as it can be time consuming to try and support and provide a variety of experiences for all the service children. My team are fantastic and I could not do it without them! On a personal level, it has been an eye opening experience as we build a picture of the lives and experiences of the service children.