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Case studies

Brecon High School (Powys) - Understanding Service children experiences and challenges

Brecon High School (Powys) - Understanding Service children experiences and challenges

Brecon High School is situated in Brecon, home of 160th (Welsh) Brigade and headquarters Wales, Dering Lines and Sennybridge training camp. The school has recently moved into a new purpose-built site. The school has serving families with trickle mobility (a few at a time) across the school and they have some veterans and reservist families.

Some families are Nepalese and there is a Gurkha regiment based locally, some families decide to retire and settle in the area. The school has some children who are German speaking, who have moved back to the UK from British Forces Germany following the draw down. Separation is mainly from parents commuting to their place of work and the families staying settled in the Brecon area. There are some active deployments through tours or operations, with some parents working for short periods in Canada.

Service children bring different experiences of living abroad in different locations, they have studied different languages and experienced different cultures and Brecon High School celebrate the Gurkha culture, embracing their traditions.

Number of Service children at Brecon High School: 35 (7%)

Case study completed by: Leah Burnett, Forces Families Support Officer (FFSO)


Estyn 2018

“Positive attitudes towards equality and diversity are developed well by the school. Pupils with English as an additional language benefit from the support of a specialist teacher along with teaching assistants and make strong progress as a result. In addition, the long-established link with the local Gurkha community enables pupils to understand and value the traditions and celebrations of these families. Service children and military families benefit from the helpful work of the Forces Families Support Officer (FFSO), who enables smooth transitions when pupils join and move on from the school, as well as supporting these pupils’ wellbeing generally.’’     

What experiences do Service children have?

  • They worry about not spending a lot of time with their serving parent and not building a bond with them
  • They spend more time with their non-serving parent when the Serving parent is away
  • They do lots of activities with the Army engagement team
  • Some find it hard moving out of the patch and away from my friends
  • Some are excited about moving to a new house
  • When children are new to the school, people want to talk to find out about them, but some children want to settle in their own way
  • The teaching and subjects can be different when they move school
  • They have an expanded network of friends
  • Some can’t always manage new situations on their own and need someone to help them
  • Many get settled in a place and then have to move
  • Some have time off from school when they move and forget some of their learning
  • They often live far away from family and friends
  • They feel safe here, it is peaceful, quiet and they like the small community
  • Many like exploring a new place when they move in.

“Sometimes you can begin to forget about where you came from, the culture and speaking Nepalese.”

Pupil quote 


What challenges do Service children at Brecon High School face in education?                         

  • They sometimes have gaps in their knowledge as they have moved schools frequently
  • They might not be able to study a subject they have studied before, due to it not being available E.g. Spanish
  • Making new friends
  • Sometimes they are wrongly diagnosed with Additional Learning Needs (ALN) or none have been identified, and they need support put in place; this can be due to the fact they have moved schools frequently
  • There can be different ways of teaching from previous schools - across different schools/counties/countries
  • Option choices for GCSE can be limited; especially if the children arrive later in the year
  • Some schools are starting GCSEs from Year 8, this can be an issue when moving
  • They might have completed a topic more than once in a previous school E.g. Volcanoes in Geography
  • Learning Welsh with no previous experience can be challenging.

“If I find it hard to make friends, I might go to someone but asking for help can be hard. There is someone here I can go to.”

Pupil quote


How does the school support Service children to overcome any challenges?

On arrival – induction

  • Powys’ local authority admission form has a tick box to identify if the family has a Service background
  • Joining part way through the year can be a key indicator that they may be a Service child
  • The parents will contact reception, who will then speak with the FFSO to have support for the induction process
  • When we know a pupil is arriving, we liaise with the family in advance and support with learning/identify any resources to start the curriculum change
  • Speak to receiving schools regarding levels and support the child has had and gain assessment data
  • FFSO will liaise with key staff and provide support
  • The school sends a map of the school/timetable/list of clubs/uniform list – FFSO has a template of information for the family and child
  • The FFSO will have a phone conversation with the previous schools’ teachers to get to know the child before arrival - informal discussion/record any key information
  • Assessments in English and Mathematics to ascertain level
  • Networks have been established with schools in Wiltshire where many Service children are coming from.

Support during their time at the school         

  • Regular communication with the Service children and parents
  • Create a personal profile for each child
  • Speak with teachers/head of year to identify any concerns
  • When issues are identified, we use resources to overcome any gaps
  • Assessment forms are completed
  • Development profiles list Service child scores e.g. CAT/LNF (year on year)
  • Gain regular feedback from children/parents
  • Monitor attendance
  • Counselling is made available from external agency
  • Wellbeing department organize support when a Service child is feeling ill, suffer from anxiety, not engaging with lessons or if disability/counselling support is required
  • MPCT mentoring and group sessions are held weekly at the school
  • Engage with Royal Navy/British Army/Royal Air Force engagement teams to promote positive aspect of the Armed Forces.

Moving on

  • We talk about the process with the child and discuss what they want the new school to know about them
  • We look at the new school website together and help the child to understand what to expect
  • We find out if any children from Brecon High School have been to the new school before and buddy these children with the moving child, to provide support and a buddy group as necessary
  • We always make a follow up call to the new school after a few weeks to find out how the Service child is settling in.

How does Brecon High School work with the Local Armed Forces community?

  • Army Welfare Service run a lunch club funded by the Armed Forces Covenant; including activities where they learn new skills such as food technology and gardening club, learning with friends and socialising
  • Provide networking and support to Nepalese community through English as an Additional Language (EAL) programmes
  • The FFSO builds links with feeder schools in the cluster, through visiting the schools regularly to run reading activities
  • Strong relationship with a key contact at 160th (Welsh) Brigade
  • Army Engagement team provides talks, events and visitors to talk about life in the Armed Forces
  • Remembrance events are held annually and involve activities with the local barracks
  • Local cadets and reservist are involved with the school
  • The Nepalese culture/language/traditions are celebrated through various activities which engage all the whole school community


What did the pupils say about their parents deploying?

“You get to do lots of activities with the Army when they are away.”

“You get used to it.”

 “I was young when my Dad was away, I didn't spend much time with him and the bond

wasn’t there between us.”

“I got jealous because when my Dad was away, he got to swim with turtles.”

“I get to spend more time with my mum when Dad is away.”

“Nothing bothered me.”

“I worry about my Mum, as she is left behind when my Dad goes away.” 


Date produced: December 2019

Case studies

Examples of how schools are identifying the need of their Service children and supporting them.

Service children’s quotes

"As soon as we get used to a house, you get moved - I’ve been to four schools and moved six times."


"I lived in Nepal, then we went to Brunei, then Malaysia."


"In my eyes you have hundreds of friends in different places."


"I’m used to moving now and mixing with the children... I’ve done it so many times it’s just a normal thing now."


"It's ok talking over skype and that but sometimes you just want a hug when Dad is away."


"I’ve enjoyed going around to lots of places around the world, its adventurous and exciting."


"In my eyes you have hundreds of friends in different places."


"My mum got a chalk board and it says how many sleeps on it with chalk, every minute it’s getting closer for him coming home."


"I don’t want him to get promoted... I want him to get promoted but I don’t want to leave."


"I might be going to boarding school so that I don’t change schools every few years."


"I've been to seven different schools; I’ve not stayed put in one school long enough."


"He has been away for six months and he is back for two weeks, then he goes away again."


"My parents were in the Army. My mum is a like a nurse and my dad went to the war in Afghanistan. I actually didn’t really know what he was doing so I was like, ‘Cool Dad, go there’, but then I found out and thought, 'Thank God he came back alive.'"


"He signed off last week, so he will be done by the end of this year. He’s done 24 years. I find that better because he will be around a lot. He likes watching us playing rugby, so he will get to see us more."


"I’m going to a new place entirely. They don’t know anything about me and that’s a big restart and that’s really good for me."


"I moved to Wales because my dad was posted in the Army. I thought I would get bullied and I was shy when you meet new people, but I made some friends."