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Case studies

Mount Street Infant School (Powys) - Understanding Service children experiences and challenges

Mount Street Infant School (Powys) - Understanding Service children experiences and challenges

Mount Street Infant School is situated in Brecon, the home of 160th (Welsh) Brigade and Headquarters of Wales, The Infantry Battle training barrack and close to the Sennybridge training base. 50% of the Service children are Nepalese due to the Gurkha regiment based in Brecon. MOD housing is fragmented across Brecon; children can be spread out across the different housing areas and sometimes further afield. Some Nepalese families have decided to settle in Brecon, following transition out of the Armed Forces.

The school benefits from opportunities to celebrate the Nepalese culture, including Dashain and Tihar with Khukuri dances and traditional costumes. The school has also been successful with several funding grants to develop outdoor and indoor projects across the school to support Service children.

Number of Service children at Mount Street Infant School: 32 (22%)

Case study completed by: Fiona Coombs, Deputy Headteacher

Estyn 2020

“The pupils have an exceptional understanding of equality and fairness. For example, nearly all pupils welcome and befriend the many new pupils that join during the year, so that they settle and integrate quickly and happily into their new school. Most pupils develop very good levels of emotional resilience, for example, by maintaining contact with friends who move away from Brecon due to their family’s military service commitments.”

 

  1. Challenges that Service children face
  2. Challenges in supporting Service children
  3. Identifying Service children’s needs
  4. Support strategies
  5. Sustaining support
  6. Links with the Armed Forces and local community.

1. What challenges do Service children and families face at Mount Street Infant School?

  • Deployment of a parent, causing separation within a family
  • An awareness of parent deployment. Parents will let the school know if the serving parent will be absent for an extended period but for shorter absences the school is not always informed
  • Mobility, where Service children trickle in and out of school across the year and stay approximately two/three years
  • Many children are learning Welsh for the first time
  • Experiences of different curriculums prior to starting at the school, with different learning objectives and subjects
  • Gaps in the children’s ability to approach learning using problem-solving skills
  • Separation from friends when they move on, affecting the Service and non-Service children staying at the school

2. What challenges does Mount Street Infant School face in supporting Service children?

  • Lack of thorough documentation from previous schools, especially if children have Additional Learning Needs (ALN)
  • Absence of information from previous schools
  • The need for settling in time to build friendships and join new clubs
  • Some planned moves don’t materialise; when time has been spent preparing the Service child to move school
  • Service children can leave without prior notification
  • The change in dynamics of a class/cohort as children arrive and leave
  • Parents embracing the learning of Welsh
  • Anxiety from the parents, about the different school curriculum, when they have come from a different country.

Estyn 2020

The emotional and behavioral support provided for pupils is outstanding and reflects staff knowledge of the needs of individual learners. For example, its understanding and support of pupils who have recently joined the school and need time to settle and adapt to its routines and expectations is very strong.”

 

3. How does Mount Street Infant School identify and monitor Service children’s needs?

On entry/admission to the school

  • All parents who wish to consider our school for their children are encouraged to visit the school prior to admission, providing an opportunity for us to learn about the needs of the child and family
  • The school secretary initially assists with ‘information gathering’ for Powys local authority admissions and for school information, where Service children are identified.

During their time at the school

  • All staff liaise closely with the parents within the first month to ensure the children are settling in well; any issues are discussed and resolved
  • We allow a settling in time during the first few weeks, before any formal assessments
  • All staff monitor the emotional wellbeing of Service children and offer support
  • The school uses INCERTs’ programme tracks data and curriculum outcomes, which is updated regularly across the year
  • Baseline assessment is undertaken for reception age children
  • Assessments are undertaken at the end of Year 1, including standardised spelling, reading and mathematics
  • Assessments at the end of Year 2 are undertaken, including teacher assessments/national testing
  • The school uses daily, ongoing assessment through high quality teaching and learning activities to assess and review children’s progress. This also involves the children using self-assessment to support the process.

Estyn 2020

“The school provides an exceptionally calm, nurturing family atmosphere and an inclusive environment so that nearly all pupils want to come to school and feel happy and safe there.” 

4. What strategies and support activities are available at Mount Street Infant School once a need is recognised?

  • Groups of learners are targeted by the class teacher and Learning Support Assistants (LSAs) as part of daily learning opportunities
  • Nepalese support across the school is available with an LSA – we assess children’s learning needs and provide appropriate intervention
  • The staff encourage the development of friendships
  • A buddy system is in place to support new children settling in
  • All staff understand the needs of Service children and support the settling in and moving on systems
  • Staff with a Service background are employed across the school, which adds additional support and understanding
  • A Mandir is available in the school, which is a place of worship for Nepalese children
  • The school has links with the Gurkha community to share events from the culture and celebrations
  • Service children are part of the eco-community, where they work collaboratively and build leadership skills to impact on a sustainable school environment, which resulted in the school achieving the platinum eco school award
  • Through pupil voice activities and personal and social development learning, the school listens to the needs of all children and takes action on the points raised
  • The school has ‘Rights of the child’ ambassadors across the school including Service children
  • Each class has an area on the website to share information about the class for families and children
  • Curriculum information is available on the website for parents
  • The communication system available for parents called SCHOOP shares daily information, messages, photos from the school
  • Leaving cards are made for those moving on as a memory to take with them.

Estyn 2020

“Many older pupils take on leadership roles as members of the ‘Criw Cymraeg’, the eco committee or as digital leaders. They understand their roles and support the school proactively. For example, the eco committee carry out audits and question staff and pupils about their use of energy.”

 

5. How does Mount Street Infant School ensure sustainable support for Service children and families?

  • All staff have access to training to support mental health and wellbeing of pupils and key staff are responsible for coordinating these activities
  • The school is currently developing a therapeutic approach to help support children with their emotional and social development
  • The ALN Coordinator is developing the Thrive ethos and support across the school and is now qualified to deliver ‘Thrive’ training to all staff
  • Emotional Literacy Support Assistants (ELSA) are available across the school for children
  • Play therapy support and strategies are in place across the school
  • The training and strategies are providing support for the wider school community and groups
  • All the above leads to a sustained understanding, with key staff supporting the whole school and training for mental health and wellbeing needs.

Estyn 2020

“Leaders are skillful in accessing additional funding from a range of sources, which have a positive impact on the school’s provision. For example, they accessed funding from the Ministry of Defence to provide additional support for pupils from service families, particularly those of Nepalese origin, and to build an outdoor classroom.”

 

6. What links does Mount Street Infants School have with the Armed Forces and local community?

  • We have links with the feeder school and hold joint events
  • A teacher supports the toddler group that meets at our school and leads an outdoor learning session in our school woodland
  • The school has close links with the pre-school provision and is aware of the Service families, supporting specific needs as required
  • Our Armed Forces governors attend and support special events across the school
  • Staff are invited to Service events and celebrations at the Army barracks, including Dashain, Christmas etc.
  • We regularly liaise with the Nepalese and Barracks Welfare Officer
  • The school has strong links with the local Barracks to ensure we are aware of planned moves, deployment etc.

Date produced: January 2020 

 

 

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."

Aiden

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

Ashim

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

Chloe

"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."

Chloe

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

Georgia

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

Harry

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

Ieuan

"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."

Mia

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

Oliver

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

Ryan

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

Shana

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

Sianed

"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.'"

Sanjog

"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."

Lewis

"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."

Piaras

"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."

Dan