Our story starts over 200 years ago
RCET owes its origins to the Highland Society of London. In 1808, its members decided to launch an appeal to raise money to house and educate the many Scots children orphaned by the Napoleonic War. Eight years later, sufficient funds had been raised and the Caledonian Asylum, as it was then known, was established by Act of Parliament on 14 June 1815. The Act provided for the incorporation of a “Charitable Institution called The Caledonian Asylum for supporting and educating Children of Soldiers, Sailors and Marines, Natives of Scotland and of indigent Scots parents, resident in London, not entitled to Parochial relief”.
The first Asylum was opened in December 1819, in Hatton Garden, and was replaced in 1826 by a newly built Asylum in Copenhagen Fields, Islington. In 1852, Her Majesty Queen Victoria became Patron and the Asylum was renamed the Royal Caledonian Schools. The Caledonian Road in Islington is named after the Schools.
Moving out of London
By the end of the 19th Century, it became clear that the existing building was inadequate and in 1897, the Directors were authorised to move the school to the northern suburbs of London. In 1902, a new purpose-built residential school opened in Bushey, Hertfordshire. The Second World War had a considerable impact on life at the Schools. One bombing raid led to the destruction of the chapel in 1941 and in 1942, newly arrived American troops began to make use of the gym and other school facilities. After 1948, as a result of the reforming 1944 Education Act, children continued to board at the school but were educated at local state schools.
A momentous decision
The 1990s represented a period of decline. In 1989 there had been 124 children enrolled, but by 1994 this had reduced to only 54. It is estimated that between 1819 and 1995, approximately 10,000 students spent time at the Schools. In 1995, the Directors decided that the Trust’s objectives could be better met for a modern era as a grant-making body. The Bushey premises were sold and the proceeds invested to produce an income which allowed for educational grants to be made to qualifying individuals and organisations.
Following further investment in 2012 we launched an Education Programme, which is still running, to support practitioners to provide better and more consistent support to Armed Forces children with the unique challenges that they can, and do face with their Education.
In the same year we changed our name to the Royal Caledonian Education Trust to better reflect the work that we do in continuing to support the educational and wellbeing needs of the children of Scots who are serving, or who have served in the Armed Forces.
In 2016, after 201 years, the Trust moved all its operations to Edinburgh.
The Royal Caledonian Education Trust now tends to go by RCET: Scotland’s Armed Forces Children’s Charity in recognition that we are the only charity existing solely to support Armed Forces children in Scotland.
In 2018 RCET expanded its reach by launching both a Youth Participation Programme and recruiting a Policy & Research Officer. These roles represent an important step forward in listening to the voices of Armed Forces young people & working with them and for them to effect positive change for their community.
In 2019 RCET became a Children’s Rights organisation renewing our commitment that the rights of Armed Forces children, including the right to be heard, are central to everything that we do.