Life on the Move: Service Children’s Education & SEND provision.

Written by Gemma Carr

In the third blog written by one of our PhD students, Gemma Carr introduces herself and her important research into the experiences of Service (Armed Forces) Children and Families of moving schools, with a particular focus on the experiences of children with ‘special education needs and disability’ (SEND). Gemma is supervised by Dr Angharad Beckett and Dr Lisa Buckner.

The dandelion is the flower of the Service Child. Like dandelions, Service Children spread their roots no matter where they live, they are resilient, and they flourish amongst us no matter what their environment.

Gemma sits on the bottom of a staircase. She is smiling.

Photo of Gemma Carr

The military is something which is very close to my heart and I began to explore this area during my undergraduate years, identifying areas which have lacked analysis. In particular, there is a dearth of research centring on the experiences of Service Children and how their families negate relocations and school allocations. Recent research has demonstrated that 40 per cent of military families relocated on average three (or more) times over a five-year period (Ministry of Defence, 2016, p.1). Military personnel are subject to move at any given time, meaning that moves to new areas often occur mid-term. Having to negate a move to a new area requires forward planning and sourcing new school placements is a large part of the process for families. The Army Families Federation (2018, p.7) report a 63% increase in enquiries relating to school admissions and appeals with a considerable proportion relating to the Hampshire and Wiltshire areas. Inevitably, the ongoing drawdown of troops from Germany has had a significant impact on the issues experienced by military families when relocating from overseas. In comparison to civilian families, military families cannot choose the location they reside in, and are therefore restricted in the schools they can choose for their children. These issues are further exacerbated where a Service Child has been identified as having Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND). In some instances, military families may be required to relocate before the process of a SEN assessment has been completed. When this occurs the process will begin on arrival at a new school meaning there are significant delays in Service Children with SEND receiving the support they require.

Although research surrounding military families has gathered pace over the last decade there are several gaps in knowledge which we can still learn from. Most importantly, the lived experiences and voices of military personnel and their families are underrepresented within academia. As a large institution it is important to acknowledge and understand the complex mechanisms of the military milieu, and enable personnel and their families to have their voices represented outside of their communities. My PhD research aims to explore these concerns and experiences of military parents and to map the barriers they encounter when applying for new school placements. Obtaining data in this area, I believe, will facilitate Local Authorities practices and procedures at not only a local level, but also nationally. Having national guidelines for admissions for Service Children may alleviate some of the potential issues experienced by military families, and most importantly, for those Service Children with SEN, prevent delays in receiving the support they require and have a right to receive.

Army Families Federation. 2018. Army families’ concerns, Jan-Jul 2018. [Online]. [Accessed 21 November 2018]. Available from:

Ministry of Defence. 2016a. Future accommodation model survey 2016. [Online]. [Accessed 29 December 2017]. Available from: