Around four out of ten military service children who have the ability to progress into Higher Education were unlikely to do so, according to new research undertaken by the University of Winchester and funded by the Ministry of Defence…

Despite a similar achievement level to their non-service peers up to GCSE level, it appears that fewer service children go onto study at university. Additionally, children’s intent on going to university was found to be unaffected by their housing status, parents’ education and the number of schools they have attended.

The challenges and opportunities for supporting the educational progression of children from military service backgrounds is to be explored at The Educational Progression of Children from Military Families conference at the University of Winchester (23 June). The event will see the launch of free resources available to schools, colleges and universities to help improve their practice and outcomes, in the hope of building a better support network for service children.

These findings come from a year-long research project by Dr Judith McCullouch, Senior Lecturer in Education, and Michael Hall, Widening Participation Outreach and Evaluation Officer, at the University of Winchester. They gathered data from service children and their parents; analysed literature and large national data sets; listened to feedback from military service children about what they need from their teachers and schools; and interviewed undergraduate students from military service families.

“The experiences of military service children give them unique strengths, including the independence and resilience needed to flourish at university,” explained Dr McCullouch. “We must work together to ensure that these children are able to access the opportunities they need and want in order to progress through education. What is missing is a coherent, systematic approach to monitoring and supporting their educational progression.

“Collectively, we could do more to recognise the responsibilities of, and pressures experienced by, students from military service families. This would include ensuring that they have the right support and opportunities to make the most of their strengths in moving to and through higher education.”

Philip Dent, Visiting Research and Development Fellow at the University of Winchester who has been leading the project, added: “At the heart of the research is the message that universities and colleges have an essential role in working with schools, local authorities and the military to find out where these children are and support them to see higher education as a viable option and a fantastic opportunity.”

Consequently, the University of Winchester is keen to create an alliance of organisations with the aim of supporting service children to translate their experiences and assets into top qualifications and successful careers, including access to higher education. Alongside this, the University will continue to work with the Ministry of Defence to further their research into where these children go after school, and why.

The Educational Progression of Children from Military Families conference takes place from 9am-3pm on Thursday 23 June at The Stripe, King Alfred Campus, University of Winchester, Sparkford Road, Winchester, Hampshire SO22 4NR. An expert panel will be chaired by Professor John Denham, Chair of the Southern Policy Centre and former Secretary of State.

Other panel members include Professor Les Ebdon, Director of Fair Access to Higher Education (OFFA), and representatives from the Ministry of Defence, Army Families Federation, United States Air Force and a local school as well as a University of Winchester undergraduate student from a military family. The event is open to members of the public but booking is essential. To find out more and book places