Professor Alison Baverstock, founder of the Reading Force charity, and Professor of Publishing at Kingston University, has campaigned to have the specific needs of Forces children incorporated into teacher training programmes across the UK. Through working with Kingston’s School of Education these have been added to the PGCE syllabus at Kingston – and the initiative is now being more widely shared across higher education.
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This shortlisting is in the ‘Widening Participation’ category and is for ongoing support to the military community. Firstly for Reading Force which was set up by Professor Baverstock from Kingston in 2011 and secondly for the work on improving awareness among teachers of Forces children, and how to better support them.
The two initiatives are closely interconnected.
Professor Baverstock commented:
“Reading Force taught us that Forces children are less likely to go to higher education than their civilian counterparts, so it seemed logical to extend understanding of their particular issues and vulnerabilities – as well as the many positives they bring – to those likely to be teaching them in future. Kingston’s School of Education was a very willing partner and we worked together to embed the programme – which is now being more widely shared. With the Forces New Accommodation Model likely to result in the wider geographical spread of Forces families in the UK, this is timely – and also increases an awareness of career opportunities for teachers in training.”
The Reading Force charity supports serving and ex-serving Forces families to share books and chat about them as a way to stay close and connected during deployments and to enjoy books together when at home. The ‘read and chat’ initiative gives books and special scrapbooks to tri-service families and is proven to help improve communication within families.
There are an estimated 130,000 children from Forces families in schools across the United Kingdom. Current teacher training courses cover how to recognise a child at risk or spot those with learning difficulties but there was no introduction to the significant population of Forces children, who formed a significant population.
In the first 2019 teacher training seminar at Kingston University, PGCE students heard from policy makers, education and military professionals, about issues facing Forces children, how they can be supported as they transition between schools, how to reach and engage Forces parents, and how to connect Forces children with their peers in school. This work is now being shared within universities more widely; a significant development of the support available to Forces families.
Professor Baverstock commented:
“The military community tends to go under the radar. Their default mode tends to be not to make a fuss and just get on with it. Whereas there are issues that Forces families have to contend with (e.g. moving house, change, deployment of parents) I am so pleased that the opportunities created by having Forces families in a school are being recognised as part of this programme (e.g. a living geography lesson, empathy with the lives of others, the encouragement and development of resilience). I think there are benefits for all involved.”