The aim of this guide is to provide Armed Forces families living in, or moving to Wales with practical information and advice regarding the education system in Wales.
This guide is for Armed Forces families where either/both parents currently serve in the Armed Forces and whose children go to school/ will be going to school in Wales. The guide focuses on compulsory primary and secondary education for children in maintained schools in Wales (5-16 years).
If you have children who are preschool age or over 16, we have provided some basic information regarding the arrangements in Wales, but this is not the focus of the guide. There are links to additional information that may be useful.
If you have recently left the Armed Forces or are a reservist, some of the information contained in the guide may still be relevant to you. Where we have added specific information for you, it will be indicated under a separate heading.
(All information is correct as of May 2015. Any changes to relevant education or defence policy and legislation that may affect this will be updated online through subsequent additions.)
SSCECymru is a Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) project, established in July 2014 to raise awareness of the potential challenges Service children in school in Wales can face as a result of deployment and/or mobility (moving home/school). The project aims to give schools and local authorities a better understanding of the potential needs Service children may have and strengthen links across Wales to help develop and share good practice.
SSCECymru would like to thank the many parents we have spoken to when developing this guidance. We would also like to thank colleagues across Welsh Government, the Children's Education Advisory Service (CEAS), the Ministry of Defence's Directorate of Children and Young People (DCYP), the Armed Forces in Wales, schools, the Welsh Local Government Association(WLGA), and the Army Families Federation (AFF) for their input into the guidance.
The All Wales Standing Committee for Service Children in Education is a group of head teachers, local authority and Welsh Government representatives, members of the Armed Forces, Ministry of Defence officials, and other third sector organisations who are working together to raise awareness of the needs of Service children in education, and to develop and share good practice to help schools and local authorities meet the needs of Service children in education across Wales.
The Children’s Education Advisory Service provides information, advice and support for Armed Forces families who have children in education throughout the UK and overseas.
CEAS also runs a helpline for parents from 9.30am to 3.30pm, Monday to Friday:
Telephone: 01980 618 244 (military: 94 344 8244) Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | Fax: 01980 618245 (military: 94 344 8245)
More information can be found on their website
Although defence is not devolved to Wales and remains part of UK government policy, there are arrangements in place to ensure that Welsh Government and local authorities are able to work together with the Ministry of Defence and members of the Armed Forces at all levels in Wales.
In 2011, the Welsh Government Armed Forces Package of Support for the Armed Forces Community in Wales was established to ensure that members of the Armed Forces community are not disadvantaged in accessing public services as a result of their service. The package of support was updated in 2013 to include further signposting for the Armed Forces community to a range of public services including education, housing, health, childcare, employment and more.
Armed Forces Community Covenants were created as part of the Armed Forces Covenant, the key principles of which were made law in the Armed Forces Act 2011. All 22 local authorities in Wales are signed up to an Armed Forces Community Covenant. Each Community Covenant is designed to meet the needs of the Armed Forces community within that particular local authority. Fulfilling the Covenants’ commitments will involve working in partnership with a variety of organisations including Welsh Government, local health boards, housing associations and further and higher education establishments.
Apart from providing the opportunity to honour the UK’s Armed Forces, a Community Covenant aims to:
As education is devolved in Wales, there is a different approach to grant funding which is moving away from targeting specific groups and towards ensuring all grants are inclusive of different groups of learners, including Service children. This means that although there is no distinct funding for Service children through a Service Pupil Premium, funding is in place to support all leaners to ensure they are not disadvantaged.
Schools and local authorities in Wales also have the opportunity to apply for Ministry of Defence funding through the MOD Education Support Fund for Schools with Service Children for specific projects that will benefit Service children within the school community. SSCECymru is working closely with schools, Welsh Government and local authorities to encourage more schools to apply for this funding where there is a need. The Education Support Fund is scheduled to end at the close of the financial year 2017-18.
Education in Wales is devolved. This means that the Welsh Government has the ability to make laws and decisions regarding education in Wales that are made separately from UK Government. If you are moving into Wales, there will be some differences in the way your child is educated and the assessments they take in school, but there are also many similarities between the Welsh system of education and the systems used in the rest of the UK.
Schools in Wales are divided into voluntary, local authority-maintained and foundation schools. There are also independent schools. Compulsory education in Wales is between 5 and 16 years.
Early years is defined in Wales as the period of life from pre-birth to the end of Foundation Phase, or 0 to 7 years of age.
The Foundation Phase is a holistic curriculum for 3 to 7-year-olds based on the needs of the individual child to meet their stage of development.
Up until the September before a child’s 5th birthday, 3 year-old and 4 year-old children are entitled to attend a Foundation Phase early education setting (e.g. nursery) for a minimum of 10 hours a week during term time (about 38 weeks of the year), should you want this. This early education place can be either in a school or a private childcare setting approved by the local authorities as a Foundation Phase early education provider. The local Family Information Service (FIS) will be able to provide further information or signpost you to other information providers. http://www.childreninwales.org.uk/in-your-area/family-information-services/
Depending on where you live, you will be entitled to a certain number of hours of free childcare for children aged between 2 and 3. This is based on whether you live in a ‘Flying Start’ area. Flying Start is a Welsh Government scheme which focuses on supporting families with young children in the most deprived areas of Wales.
Welsh Government have a ‘Choosing Childcare’ document and a ‘Support for parents and financial help with childcare costs’ leaflet that provide useful information. You can find them here: http://gov.wales/topics/people-and-communities/people/children-and-young-people/parenting-support-guidance/childcare/choosingchildcare/?lang=en
In England most children start primary school in the September before they turn five but are permitted to start school in each of the terms in the school year within which they turn five);
In Wales children start primary school in the September before turning five but are permitted to start school in each of the terms in the school year within which they turn five;
In Scotland children with birthdays between March and August start school in the August following their fifth birthday. Children with birthdays between September and February start school in the August before their fifth birthday (but this can be deferred until the following September);
Northern Ireland has the lowest compulsory school starting age in Europe: children who have reached the age of four on July 1st start school the following September.
|Age in school year||Wales||England||Northern Ireland||Scotland|
|National Curriculum Wales||National Curriculum||Northern Ireland Curriculum||Curriculum for Excellence|
|4-5||Foundation Phase||Reception||Reception||P1||Nursery/Early level|
|5-6||Year 1||Year 1||P2||P1 (Early level)|
|6-7||Year 2||Year 2||P3||P2 (First level)|
|7-8||Key Stage 2||Year 3||Year 3||P4||P3 (First level)|
|8-9||Year 4||Year 4||P5||P4 (First level)|
|9-10||Year 5||Year 5||P6||P5 (Second level)|
|10-11||Year 6||Year 6||P7||P6 (Second level)|
|11-12||Key Stage 3||Year 7||Year 7||P8||P7 (Second Level)|
|12-13||Year 8||Year 8||P9||S1 (Third/Fourth level)|
|13-14||Year 9||Year 9||P10||S2 (Third/Fourth level)|
|14-15||Key Stage 4||Year 10||Year 10||P11||S3 (Third/Fourth level)|
|15-16||Year 11||Year 11||P12||S4 (Senior phase)|
|A-Levels and SCE Highers - not compulsory|
|16-17||Post 16||Year 12||Year 12||P13||S5 (Senior phase)|
|17-18||Year 13||Year 13||P14||S6 (Senior phase)|
|Term and Holiday Dates||Dates|
|Start of school year (Autumn Term)||1st September|
|Autumn half term||26th-30th October|
|End of Autumn Term||18th December|
|Christmas holiday||21st December-2nd January|
|Start of Spring Term||4th January|
|Spring half term||15th-19th February|
|End of Spring Term||24th March|
|Easter holiday||25th March-8th April|
|Start of Summer Term||11 April|
|Summer half term||30th May-3 June|
|End of Summer Term||20th July|
NB: Whilst term dates and times will be similar to the above table for subsequent years, they are not yet confirmed. You will need to check with your school/local authority to confirm future dates and any inset training days. Term dates in Scotland and Northern Ireland will differ considerably from the dates given above.
Primary education in Wales is from 5-11 years. It covers the Foundation Phase and Key Stage 2 of the National Curriculum in Wales.
In Wales, the Foundation Phase covers learning outcomes for children aged between 3 and 7. This covers Nursery and Reception, as well as Year 1 and Year 2 in primary school. The Foundation Phase is the statutory curriculum for both maintained and non-maintained schools in Wales and encourages children to be creative and active in their learning. The Foundation Phase has 7 areas of learning which are delivered through practical activities and learning experiences, both indoors and outdoors. The areas of learning are:
Key Stage 2 covers the National Curriculum for 7-11-year olds.
Children are taught the core subjects of mathematics, English,
Welsh and science and the non-core subjects of design and technology,
information technology, history, geography, art, music, physical education, and religious education.
At Key Stage 2, children begin to be assessed for literacy and numeracy as well as end of Key Stage assessments.
Secondary schooling in Wales is for children aged 11-16 years. The curriculum is split into Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4. In Key Stage 3, children are taught the core subjects of mathematics, English, Welsh and science and the non-core subjects of design and technology, information technology, history, geography, art, music, physical education, and religious education. Near the end of Key Stage 3, pupils will be asked to make choices regarding the subjects they want to study in Key Stage 4 alongside the core (compulsory) subjects.
|Key Stage 3||Key Stage 4|
|Welsh first language or Welsh second language||Welsh first language or Welsh second language|
|Modern foreign languages (this will vary between schools)||Religious education|
|Design and technology||Physical education and Personal and Social Education (PSE) (Lessons not assessments)|
|Information and communication technology||Additional options offered by schools on an individual basis|
|Art and design|
|Age in School Year||Wales||Exams and Assessments|
|National Curriculum Wales|
|4-5||Foundation Phase||Reception||No compulsory assessments. Teachers are required to make notes on attainment and development to help with transition to Key Stage 2|
|7-8||Key Stage 2||Year 3||Annual national literacy and numeracy tests (May)|
|10-11||Year 6||End of Key Stage 2 assessment (Summer Term) + annual national literacy and numeracy tests (May)|
|11-12||Key Stage 3||Year 7||Annual national literacy and numeracy tests (May)|
|13-14||Year 9||End of Key Stage 3 assessment (Summer Term) + annual national literacy and numeracy tests (May)|
|14-15||Key Stage 4||Year 10||GCSEs (level 1/2) | Welsh Baccalaureate | Vocational qualifications|
Since May 2013 all Year 2-Year 9 children have taken these tests at schools in Wales. The tests are part of a new National Literacy and Numeracy Framework (LNF).
The main aims of the national numeracy and literacy tests are to:
At the end of Key Stage 2 (Year 6) and Key Stage 3 (Year 9), teachers are required to make statutory assessments for every child. Most learners will be 11 or 14 years old at the end of Key Stage 2 and 3 respectively. It is possible that some may be older and some may be taught in a class where the majority of learners are of a different age. For each key stage, learners must be statutorily assessed (i.e. they must receive an end of key stage teacher assessment) once only.
These assessments are made up of 4 components:
GCSEs are still the main general educational qualification in Wales. They come in two levels: level 2 (grades A*-C) and level 1 (grades D-G). Entrance into either level 1 or level 2 will determine what range of grades a pupil can achieve. Pupils in Wales are required to take GCSEs in some core subjects (English, mathematics, science) and short courses in Welsh and religious education. Pupils are then also able to choose additional subjects to study to complete their GCSE options.
A short course is the equivalent of half a GCSE which can be taken in about half the time (approx. 3 terms).
The additional subjects and qualifications offered will vary between schools, so it is important to speak to the schools regarding their syllabuses, so you and your children are able to make the most informed decisions.
From September 2015, there will be changes to the mathematics and English GCSE qualifications in Wales. Children will be required to take two GCSEs in mathematics (mathematics and numeracy) and two GCSEs in English (language and literature). For Welsh first language children in Wales, the same applies for Welsh language and literature.
For more information you can visit:
Many secondary schools in Wales currently offer the Welsh Baccalaureate Qualification. The Welsh Bac, or WBQ, is an officially accredited and established qualification delivered by schools, colleges and training providers across Wales. It combines personal development skills with existing qualifications, like A levels, GCSEs and NVQs, to make one wider award that is valued by employers and universities. Students get experience of the world through a variety of work-related experiences and learn how to apply skills in practical situations.
The Welsh Bac is currently available at foundation, intermediate and advanced level. At Key Stage 4, pupils would undertake the Foundation Diploma. From September 2015, the qualification will be changed to include Key Stage 4 national (higher level) and foundation (lower level) qualifications and post-16 national/foundation and an advanced qualification.
For more information on the Welsh Bac visit:
It is important to start making arrangements for your child’s school move as soon as you can. There are several different ways you can find out about schools locally:
If you can, speak to/visit the school(s) you would like your child to attend. Let them know you are an Armed Forces family and give them as much background as you can regarding your child’s education so far and any additional learning needs they may have.
Once you have decided on a school(s), you will need to apply through the local authority for a place. Some schools may be able to apply on your behalf when you speak to them about a school place for your child.
NB: the Armed Forces Community Covenant advises that you can apply for a school place for your child prior to moving to the area as long as you have a postcode (this can be the base) and proof of posting.
“In Wales admission authorities must treat a Forces family as meeting the residency criteria for a school catchment area, so long as they can provide evidence that they will shortly be posted there. You should make sure that you identify your child as being from a Forces family when you complete the relevant application forms. Every Local Authority has its own information for school admissions”
If you are leaving the Armed Forces to settle in Wales or have recently left the Armed Forces, the above criterion does not currently apply.
The full current admissions code for Wales can be found here:
If you have not been able to access the school place(s) you want for your children, you are able to appeal through the local authority’s appeal process. The appeal process will vary between local authorities, with information available on their websites.
If you require further advice on school appeals, CEAS has a helpline which is open from 9.30am to 3.30pm, Monday to Friday:
Telephone: 01980 618 244 (military: 94 344 8244)
Email: email@example.com | Fax: 01980 618245 (military: 94 344 8245)
The more information the school has about your child’s education and background, the more it will help them in ensuring they can settle your child into school.
Your child’s current school and the new school you have chosen should make contact to transfer information.
The Children’s Education Advisory Service has developed a PIP (Pupil Information Profile) form that schools can use for transferring information on Service children across educational systems. Not all schools will use this, but SSCECymru are promoting the use of the template for schools as an example of good practice.
Alongside the information your child’s previous school will transfer to the new school, you may wish to utilise the Children’s Education Advisory Service’s ‘Moving School Pack’ which is available online for parents (your local welfare officer/HIVE officer may also have hard copies of these) and provides a useful guide for what to pass on to your child’s new school.
There is also a pack for children which can help with preparing them for a new move:
A common challenge children face when moving between schools (particularly between different countries where curriculums may vary) is that gaps in learning may occur; where they have simply missed a part of the curriculum because it has already been covered by the new school, or because they are picking up a new subject later than other pupils for the first time.
Often these learning gaps will be picked up by the school when your child’s information is transferred, or you will already be aware of them and have spoken to the school about this. If you become aware of any gaps or are worried about your child’s progress, you should contact the school to see what can be done to help your child get on track. Many schools have a range of resources such as homework clubs to support children where they may have fallen behind or need some extra support.
In Wales, an independent organisation called Estyn inspects the quality and standards of education and training providers. As with Ofsted in England, it is a Crown body and was established in 1992 under the Education Act.
You can access Estyn school reports, inspection information, and good practice examples from their website:
The policy in Wales and England strongly discourages parents from taking children out of school during term time unless it is for an ‘exceptional circumstance’. There are strict criteria in place from local authorities and Welsh Government relating to the percentage of unauthorised absence allowed.
SSCECymru is promoting awareness across Wales regarding the consideration of authorised term-time leave for Service children who are affected by a parent’s active service, for example, when families are able to take a holiday together due to restricted leave.
If you are planning to take your child out of school for term-time holidays or other reasons relating to your/your partner’s deployment/service, it is important that you speak to the school and explain your circumstances. As in other parts of the UK, local authorities have a process of implementing fines and legal proceedings in extreme cases. Welsh Government and local authorities stress that the decision regarding unauthorised absence rests with the discretion of the school, so it is important to make your case clearly where absence relates to you/your partner’s service.
If your child currently receives additional support through School Action or School Action Plus or has a statement of special educational needs (SEN), you should ensure that the new school and local authority are aware of their needs when making an application to the school.
If you are concerned that your child may have a special educational need and is not currently receiving any additional support, you should speak to your child’s current school/new school about your concerns.
In Wales, there is currently an SEN Code of Practice which details the statutory obligations of schools and local authorities when providing additional support for children in school.
Contact a Family has created a really useful guide to explain how the SEN code of practice works in Wales and what your rights are as a parent. It also includes information on applications for a statement, statutory assessments, and appeals and complaints procedures:
The current SEN Code of Practice for Wales can be found here:
Additional advice and support for Service families who have children with SEN is available from the Children’s Education Advisory Service. Families are also encouraged to register their children with CEAS to provide ongoing advice.
As the national language of Wales, Welsh is an everyday part of school life and is a compulsory part of all children’s education. Many parents we have spoken to who are moving from outside Wales have expressed concern about what this means for their children.
Whilst you are living in Wales, your children will be required to learn Welsh. This will be as a second or additional language (WAL). At the end of Key Stage 2, 3 and 4, they will be assessed (according to their prior education, knowledge and ability). At Key Stage 4, the curriculum currently requires all pupils to take a short course in Welsh (equivalent to half a GCSE).
Welsh Government recognises the challenges that may come with learning Welsh as an additional language and states:
“The Welsh Government recognises that learners for whom English or Welsh is an additional language (EAL/WAL) have different
challenges in relation to language and literacy acquisition. EAL/WAL learners may be accessing English/Welsh for the first
time and will, therefore, require additional focused support to help them acquire appropriate literacy skills. Material should
be provided that is appropriate to their ability, previous education and experience, and which extends their language development.
The year-by-year nature of the expectation statements allows schools and settings to ensure that they are incorporating the
appropriate skills into their curriculum delivery.”
If you are worried about your child’s attainment or the challenges they may face when starting to learn Welsh for the first time, it is important to speak to the school to see how they can best support your child.
The North Wales Day School Allowance may be available to Service families who are serving in an established post in an eligible unit and are resident within the counties of Gwynedd, Conwy, Denbighshire, Flintshire or the Isle of Anglesey and who meet all the criteria for payment of a Continuity of Education Allowance (CEA). It is specifically designed to allow children who move to North Wales, following a posting, to attend an independent day school as an alternative to a maintained day school (community/foundation/voluntary) which is operating the bilingual teaching policy i.e. where English and Welsh are spoken equally in the school setting. Further information on the allowance is available via CEAS and by contacting your unit.
Across North Wales, there are primary and secondary schools that teach through the medium of English as the main language. You will be able to find out from your local authority website which schools these are. N.B. Where a school is described as ‘English with significant Welsh’, that means it is an English-medium school but that there will be a high number of Welsh speaking students at the school.
If you are new to Wales, you may not be aware of traditions that some schools in Wales take part in.
The 1st of March is the feast day of St David, the Patron Saint of Wales. In many schools across Wales, this day is marked by special activities and fancy dress (for younger children). Some children wear traditional Welsh costumes, others may wear rugby shirts or take in leeks and daffodils (national emblems of Wales).
The Eisteddfod (pronounced: eye-steath-vod) is a Welsh festival of music, literature and performance. Some schools in Wales create their own Eisteddfod as part of St David’s Day celebrations. This can include making arts and crafts, writing or reciting songs and poems. These events and activities can take place in English and in Welsh.
The following section provides links to websites and further information that might be useful to you, including links to local authority contacts and other guidance.
See below table of contact details for all school admissions/education teams in Wales.
Need information? Want advice? MEIC Cymru is a Wales-based, free advice and advocacy service. MEIC can provide advice whatever the situation:
An online forum for Armed Forces kids from across the world, with useful information, advice, games and more:
Human rights support and advice for children and young people:
There are youth services available across all local authorities in Wales that can provide social and personal development for young people through youth clubs, residential, and street-based work. They can also provide support and advice to young people. To find your nearest service, look at your local authority website’s A-Z list of services under ‘Y’.
Information and support for Service families and eligible MOD civilians on all aspects of the education of their children in the UK and overseas:
Emotional literacy support website with online resources for teachers and support staff:
Schools inspectorate for Wales:
Human rights support and advice for children and young people:
Working to promote awareness of needs of Service children in Scotland:
Network of state schools in England providing support and advice regarding Service children and produced a handbook for schools:
For more information on education and lifelong learning in Wales, visit the Welsh Local Government Association’s website: http://www.wlga.gov.uk/lifelong-learning-culture-information
A peer mentoring initiative for Service children based in Plymouth:
HIVES are information centres available to all members of the Service community. They serve both married and single personnel, together with their families, dependents and civilians employed by the Services:
A list of support services and advice for Armed Forces personnel, veterans and their families on the UK government website:
Offering support and advice to serving and former Armed Forces personnel and their families:
Supporting army families:
Supporting RAF families:
Supporting Royal Naval and Royal Marines families:
The Royal British Legion helps the whole Armed Forces community through welfare, comradeship and representation as well as being the Nation's custodian of Remembrance:
Provides support and advice for Armed Forces veterans and their families:
A confidential support line for anyone who needs someone to talk to or help and advice:
The aim of the Community Covenant is to encourage local communities to support the Armed Forces community in their area and promote understanding and awareness among the public of issues affecting the Armed Forces community.