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Thursday 28th March 2019

A Kingston University and Reading Force seminar to help trainee teachers and more experienced educators understand the needs of Armed Forces’ children as they progress through the school system has been hailed by a senior Government policy advisor.

Dr Diana Beech, who supports Universities Minister Chris Skidmore, praised the push to place more emphasis on meeting the needs of Forces’ children at the session held by the University’s School of Education. “This Kingston University initiative is wonderful,” she said. “There are so many under-represented groups in education, so anything that can be done to help them realise their potential is enormously encouraging.”

Kingston University has become the first teacher training provider to embed the teaching into its PGCE curriculum. Its focus on Forces’ families has also received ringing endorsements from Children’s Commissioner for England Anne Longfield OBE and Head of the British Armed Forces General Sir Nicholas Carter. Both believe it will give a significant boost to the estimated 130,000 Forces’ children in schools across the United Kingdom.

The seminar saw around 200 teacher training students, policy makers and education and military professionals hear from speakers including Dr Beech, Kingston University publishing expert and Reading Force founder Dr Alison Baverstock, Dr Rachael Gribble from King’s Centre of Military Health Research and children who had experienced growing up in a Forces’ family.

Current teacher training courses cover how to recognise a child at risk or spot those with learning difficulties. Dr Baverstock said the University and Reading Force have teamed up to seek the same focus for Forces’ children, who regularly have to change schools and experience a parent being away from home, sometimes for long periods of time.

Dr Baverstock understands the importance of this strand of activity from personal experience. An Army wife for more than 30 years, she has managed the transition between different homes and schools for her four children. “Armed Forces’ children have to move around a lot and this can be unsettling for them so they need support from schools. At Kingston University, we’re very proud to be the first to embed this teaching in to our PGCE curriculum and I feel this support is something that will benefit many children in the future.”

PGCE Primary teacher trainees Mitchell Lomath, 25, and Melisa Topal, 23, believe the introduction of the new teaching approach will benefit their careers. “It’s important to know how we can support Armed Forces’ children once we begin teaching. It’s not something we had considered previously but it definitely needs addressing as it affects so many children’s wellbeing,” they said.

Head of the School of Education Marcus Bhargava, who opened the event, expressed his pride at Kingston being the first UK teacher education provider to offer a session of this kind. “We have a long-standing commitment to educating our trainee teachers in the field of special educational needs and inclusive practice, while also helping them to recognise and mitigate against the barriers different groups of learners face,” he said.

See also: Education

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