PM pledges #163;200 each for 36,000 armed forces pupils
Millions of pounds of new funding for schools with pupils from families serving in the armed forces will pay for vital bereavement counselling and extra tuition, heads have said.
They also welcomed the "premium", which will support those with parents serving in war zones. Each of the 36,000 children from service families attending state schools across England will now be eligible for #163;200 a year.
Schools within military areas often face distinct problems for which they currently receive no extra cash. Pastoral support, for example, is used to help pupils settle in when they have been forced to move to other areas suddenly. Their schools also call in counsellors if parents are killed or injured.
Announcing the cash while on a trip to Afghanistan last week, prime minister David Cameron said the Government wanted to "go the extra mile" for service families and to make sure "their children are given the support they need at school".
Members of the Service Children in State Schools working group, which was set up by the former DfES, have been lobbying the Government for this funding for several years.
At Lympstone Primary School near Exmouth, Devon, 20 per cent of the pupils are from service families. Their parents are often stationed on the nearby Lympstone Commando barracks and one boy's father recently died in Afghanistan.
Teachers run after-school groups where children can talk about their fathers and they have also been trained in how to settle pupils who arrive in the middle of the academic year. After the recent casualty, the school employed bereavement counsellors, who worked with a whole class and teachers.
"Something like that has an impact on all the pupils. This is just one example of the 'hidden' differences service pupils bring to a school," said senior teacher Emma Jones. "Being a school with a high level of pupils from service families does make a difference."
A third of children at the 550-pupil Goosewell Primary in Plymouth are from service families.
"If there are just one or two pupils their needs might get overlooked. This funding will pay for support to children and their families and we are very grateful that the Government has recognised the importance of this issue," said head John Stephens.
A spokeswoman for Plymouth City Council, which has an extremely high proportion of its pupils from military family, said: "Attainment levels for service children are now high in Plymouth and this is due to the special consideration given to their needs.
"The new funding will mean that schools can continue and broaden the excellent support they already provide for these children. This will lead to even more focused work to ensure positive outcomes for this vulnerable group continue to improve.
"We are looking forward to further strengthening our extremely positive partnership work with the armed forces and school leaders."