How Highland Council are Helping Armed Forces Children to #DreamBig

As part of our #DreamBig series this year we’ve asked our friends at Highland Council to talk us through what they’ve been doing to ensure that all Armed Forces children in their area can reach their full potential & be whatever they want to be. Lou Kinnear, of the Positive Relationships Team, Care and Learning, Highland Council, tells us more about their approach.

Children & Young People of Armed Forces families are part of “All Highland’s Children”: supported and integrated within the Highland Practice Model that addresses the needs of children at both universal and targeted levels. The resources that we use promote inclusive, positive and connected societies where children and young people are supported to be the best that they can be.

This is an important approach because although many Armed Forces children, are resilient, they often tell us that when they move to a new area they feel disconnected from their local civilian population.  This can cause some struggles when settling into new schools with new curriculums and making new friends. Creating an inclusive, positive and connected local community that they can be a part of, which is understood by professionals and peers, is crucial in helping them to achieve their full potential.

To support this further the Military Liaison Group (Education) was formed. This group promotes wider understanding across the Highland region of the specific needs and challenges that may arise as being part of a military family.  By engaging with and understanding our Armed Forces Community – whether that be Serving, Reservist or Veteran – the MLG can help support positive community integration. The vision of the group is to promote understanding and best practice in supporting the service community in an educational context across local communities as well as ensuring equity and equality in education for Armed Forces children and young people.

The Group’s membership includes Staff from Highland Council Care and Learning Team, School Senior Management Representation, Highlife Highland Partners, members of the Armed Forces Community, the Armed Forces Veteran Champion for Highland Council, the Skills Development Scotland Champion, colleagues from the Army Welfare Service and colleagues from the third sector including RCET itself, Poppyscotland and the Family Federations.

The MLG promotes a Highland wide strategic approach to embed and sustain good practice across the authority.  Examples include:

  • A tri-service quarterly MLG (Education) Newsletter is produced and distributed widely across Highland and Armed Forces networks providing updates, information and promoting the voice of Highland’s Armed Forces Community.
  • An informative one-stop Highland Council Armed Forces Website that provides advice, support and signposting to families, children and young people and educators. 
  • School and Early Year’s Enrolment Forms have now been reviewed to increase identification of Armed Forces learners and this is also promoted within the Head Teachers Guidance for Enrolment. 
  • Specific training to support awareness and understanding has been developed and delivered by the MLG partners for school staff and wider community organisations.

Gaining the voice of children and young people is key and feeds into the work that MLG undertakes, to ensure a wider understanding of how best to support and meet their needs.  Current ongoing work is focusing on developing a “Learning and Knowledge Hub” which will sit on the website and will be split into four areas:

  1. “Key Messages for Educators”, based on the voice and needs of local children and young people
  2. “The Emotional Cycles of Separation”, a training pack for educators
  3. “Voices from our Highland Armed Forces Community” providing views and key messages from the community itself.
  4. “Further Information” providing links to resources, training materials and key support services from organisations such as RCET.

A further project Highland Council is currently developing is a Welcome Pack for Families to support positive school transitions, including a transition checklist that promotes partnership between families, school and welfare. There will also be a Welcome Pack for Children & Young People. We want to promote a real sense of belonging when families are or will be coming into Highland, ensuring that information and support specific to Highland is available to all so that we can build important early relationships and strengthen our partnerships with families.

Lou voiced that “At Highland Council we believe that the resources we deliver and produce, and the important work that we do through the Military Liaison Group (MLG) allows us to get it right for every child or young people in their area (GIRFEC) allowing them to thrive, flourish and to Dream Big whatever community that they come from.”

If you would like further information or to discuss any of the above further please get in touch with MLG (Education) Lead louise.kinnear2@highland.gov.uk or click here to visit Highland Council Armed Forces website.