We recognise that the children of Service families face additional obstacles in accessing the curriculum due to the nature of their parents' postings in the Armed Forces. There is a challenge, then, in ensuring that these children benefit from the same standard of, and access to, education as any other child or young person in their area.
The Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 places a duty on Local Authorities to meet the requirements of additional support needs for all the children for whose education they are responsible. Additional support needs encompass a wide range of issues, including those which might impact on children from Service families, such as interrupted learning through moving between parts of the country and dealing with bereavement.
We are working closely with the Children's Education Advisory Service (CEAS), the tri‑Service organisation funded by the MoD to provide information and support to Service families and eligible MoD civilians on all aspects of the education of their children in the UK and overseas. Within the wider Firm Base framework, we are also currently working with the MoD Directorate for Children and Young People and CEAS as part of a stakeholder working group which consists of representation from local authorities, the voluntary sector, the independent education sector and the MoD in Scotland.
The purpose of the stakeholder working group is to consider the particular challenges facing children and young people of Service families, to share best practice and to identify what more can be done to ensure that the necessary support is available.
A strategic committee, drawn from the stakeholder working group, has also been established to focus on the Strategic Defence and Spending Review announcements made in 2011, and to identify and address the impact this may have on Service children and local schools.
Since its creation in 2009 this stakeholder working group has developed a range of useful information resources on the curriculum in Scotland and the additional support to which these children and young people may be entitled. These resources are made available to parents by the Children's Education Advisory Service.
We will continue to manage the Children from Service Families Stakeholder Working Group and its action plan. Issues that will be examined and developed are:
- Co‑ordination of arrangements for bidding for and supporting the allocation Scotland's share of £3 million from the MoD to help mitigate the impact on schools with Service children of increased mobility or the effects of Armed Forces deployments;
- The identification, consideration and recommendation of solutions to the additional challenges that children of Service families may face in accessing the curriculum due to the nature of their parents' postings in the Armed Forces;
- The provision of accessible information about Scottish education, including the additional support for learning legislation and the provision of additional support for children and young people with additional support needs;
- The sharing of best practice and the identification of what more can be done to ensure that the necessary support is available;
- The development of processes and suitable information packs for parents in collaboration with partners; and
- Providing the Firm Base Forum with advice on how Service children access the Scottish education system and on best practice in order to inform future policy and strategy.
In addition, we will work in partnership to assist the development of a Pupil Transition document with MoD and cross‑Government UK Departments. This concept would mean a universal document for all Service children will exist for use by schools and to help inform both parents and children. Schools will be able to interpret data and identify immediately where a child is in their learning.
We also need to consider provision for Scottish domiciled students studying at Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. They currently have access to tuition fee loans of up to £3,375 per academic year. The Scottish Government has agreed to extend tuition fee loans to cover the higher fee rates of up to £9,000 that will be charged at institutions in the rest of the UK from 2012‑13. In respect of Service families who would normally be identified as Scottish domiciled, these arrangements will mean they are treated no differently from Scottish domiciled students.