Service Children's Education: the Military Covenant with a smile - RSA

Service Children's Education: the Military Covenant with a smile

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  • Education
  • Schools

RSA Education has begun a new partnership with Service Children’s Education, the agency responsible for the children of Ministry of Defence personnel, service and civilian, who are based overseas. SCE currently provides education for over 10,000 pupils in 38 schools in nine countries.

To begin the partnership, I spent two fascinating, inspiring days at JHQ, a garrison in Rheindahlen near Dusseldorf that serves as the central headquarters of the British Forces in Germany. JHQ will close next year, and the start of this process has been wonderfully documented by pupil Callum Kelly through his Gold Arts Award.

We are working with SCE to help them think through their education offer during a time of considerable change for the organisation, and plan some projects that connecting their schools to our work on Opening Minds and the Area-Based Curriculum. This builds on some fantastic work SCE schools did through Creative Partnerships, including this animation that connected primary pupils at St Patrick’s School to their grandparents back in the UK.

Overall, I was struck by both the deep similarities and the subtle but significant differences between SCE schools and schools back here in England. Staff attrition is lower but pupil turnover much higher; teachers are ‘deployed’ as civil servants; headteachers do not have control of their own budgets, but, with the power of Commanding Officers, can issue parking tickets, and are informed immediately if their teachers ever have contact with the Military or host nation’s police!

It is clear that SCE schools are delivering a high quality education for their pupils. Their schools, leaders and teachers have expertise, especially around mobility and bereavement issues, as well as around closing schools properly, that the rest of our system needs to learn from. The Year Six and Eight pupils I spoke to handle their own regular ‘redeployments’ with resilience (as well as with Skype and Facebook). The two schools I visited were a highly creative and clearly deserve their Artsmark Gold awards. Windsor school has taken on the challenge of disconnection and isolation to make sure that, despite being on a garrison, their students experience as many external learning opportunities as possible. Teacher Chris Scholl’s Comenius project has connected pupils to other countries, and to help them explore aspects of their own identities.

The passion that the two remaining JHQ schools showed for ensuring a fantastic final year for their staff and students is extraordinary. The schools wish both to carry on as usual, and mark the end of the schools and JHQ through celebration as a ‘teachable moment’. We are exploring options for a Heritage Lottery Fund project, led by schools, but exploring the history of the whole garrison.


In many ways, SCE operates like an old fashioned local authority, in the best sense of the word. The inspectors and advisers have the up to date knowledge, resources and authority to make a real difference to school improvement. Schools appear to have the autonomy they need to do the job well, without some of the burdens that control over budgets, staffing and governance bring. With a reduction in schools and personnel this may change in the years ahead, and SCE is already thinking deeply and carefully about new structures and partnerships. However, there is something precious and special about the existing infrastructures and relationships, and even some of the quirkier rules and regulations, linked to their ties to the Ministry of Defence. We hope that, in the year ahead, RSA can help SCE and its schools to design their own future, rather than have an outsourced solution thrust upon them.

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  • I have an idea! Writing! I feel this is the natural next step, to the drama and dance opportunities that SCE pupils and staff have enjoyed, in partnership with UK organisations, such as Globe Education. 

    At Bielefeld School, we have been developing children's abilities in capturing and utilising the vocabulary-rich 'talk' that stems from these experiential learning opportunities, so children can really begin to develop the quality of their writing. As a staff, we have been investigating Pie Corbett's 'Talk for Writing' strategies, to great effect. Having browsed the Ministry of Stories website, Joe, I think if we could start a project like that out here, we could provide a real oasis of creativity; a total contrast to the austerity of our surroundings 'behind the wire' for our children to develop their ideas for writing. I'd like to visit the project in East London, to see if we could recreate a similar experience for our children. 

  • The best way to meet the needs of SCE great teachers and pupils is for you and Joy to collaborate!Two creative minds working together.  Whatever journey you decide on will make an inspiring difference just look the blog as an example!

  • Steve

    I am particularly interested in the connection you have with Kosice, which is where one of Comenius partner schools is located. We are keen to continue working with our partners there especially since in 2013, our final year, Kosice is one of the European Capitals of Culture. Our ideas are just beginning to take shape and possibly you might be able to tell us more as to why Kosice was selected and how the city will celebrate this very special event. Our partners in Kosice are talking about a European conference as part of the celebrations: do you have any information on this that could guide our discussion at this stage? 

    The idea of getting some of our students past and present who were involved with the original Comenius project, round a table to establish parameters to our common participation in this project is an interesting and exciting one. I wonder what your thoughts on this might be?
    Many thanks
    Chris Sholl
    Windsor School


  • Joe - the map of JHQ that you took on our foyer wall (in blog text above) is now in our 'Ark Tate' display space at one end of the school.  This is two linked rooms of creative enquiry displayed and piecing together the history of JHQ in a fairly loose sort of way.  We don't actually mind if the children have not got the history exactly right, so long as they have been moved by the human connections and feel part of a larger positive emotional picture that will stay with them when all this has gone (next year in JHQ case).  The gallery includes the time capsule we unearthed and more artefacts from the period 1954 to now (conveniently close the Queens' reign); the children have been treated to visitors who remember all sorts of events and happenings here.  Paul Cunningham's recent account of the JHQ IRA bombing had Y1/2/3s on edge of their seats.  

    We have celebrated the history this term, while there are enough folk still here - and plenty on camp with memories going back more than a couple of years to draw on.  Even so we have lots of gaps - since the corporate memory is full of spaces. 

    During our final year we want to look forward, we would like links with Stadt Monchengladbach (MG) - after all - JHQ is theirs - and we would like to leave some legacies ... artwork in the Rathaus?  3d work in the grounds?  Maybe link one of our local partner schools into the project?  I'd like the children to be proud of the contribution BFG and the British Forces presence in general has made to European and human understanding.  I'd like them to return to UK, but never to be content to 'little Englanders' .... or over-parochial about any aspect of the Celtic fringes, either. 

    Look forward to meeting you again - regards - Mike