Returning to the UK from an overseas assignment can leave you with mixed emotions and so many things to organise! If you have children, you may have questions about their education, access to childcare and the support available to help you transition back to the UK. With some schools and childcare settings being full and different curriculums and qualifications offered in different areas of the UK, we recommend you research your options early and contact the relevant organisations to discuss provision and your transition back to the UK.
Visit the Childcare and Early Years section of our website for guidance on different types of childcare and links to support you in finding childcare providers in your new location. Please be aware that some childcare settings are oversubscribed with long waiting lists which may present challenges for families relocating to a new area. If you are moving back to the UK, we recommend you investigate childcare options early to help secure a place that will suit your family’s needs – visit the local authority (LA) website for information on childcare providers or contact the local HIVE or Community Development Officer (CDO) for guidance. If you are struggling to access childcare places, feel free to get in touch. Unfortunately, we cannot guarantee that we’ll be able to find a place for your child, but the RAF Families Federation collect evidence on where there are challenges with capacity to enable us to engage with the MOD, RAF and LAs on this.
As education is a devolved matter, Government funded early education and childcare provision varies across the UK. The Childcare Choices website has information on Government help with childcare costs for parents and is a good starting point to find out what you may be entitled to. As the entitlement to Government funded support may change as RAF families relocate to different areas of the UK, we suggest you research the support you may be able to access, as well as cost and availability of childcare places before accepting a new assignment.
The RAF Families Federation website has information on primary and secondary education and further and higher education to support the RAF community.
If you are returning from overseas, we recommend you research education providers local to your new unit early and investigate how school admissions applications are administered in the area. You may be aware that school admissions processes vary across the UK – some schools conduct their own admissions and in other areas applications for school places are coordinated through the local authority. Visit the School admissions section of our website for information on admissions in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
We understand it is not always easy securing a place for your child at your preferred school. The School Admissions Code (England) states that for families of Service personnel with a confirmed posting, or crown servants returning from overseas, admission authorities must: “allocate a place in advance of the family arriving in the area (as long as one is available), provided the application is accompanied by an official letter that declares a relocation date.” We are aware that admissions authorities may have different parameters of what they consider to be ‘in advance’ and we suggest you engage with them early to discuss this and request support and guidance regarding school admissions applications if appropriate. Please note that the Armed Forces Covenant will not guarantee you a place at your preferred school, but it will help to ensure you are treated fairly and not disadvantaged compared to civilian families.
Education overseas can be very different to what we have in the UK. We suggest you engage with prospective new schools to discuss your child’s needs and experiences to help find a place for them in a school that you feel can support them appropriately as they transition back to the UK. School curriculums overseas can vary greatly, and it may be helpful for a new school to understand what your child has already covered in school to identify any differences and/or areas where they may need extra support, if appropriate. This may be particularly important if your child is about to commence examination courses such as GCSEs, A-Levels or equivalent. If you are moving to Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales, you may find the information in the Devolved Administrations section of our website helpful.
Moving back to the UK from your overseas posting when you have children with Special Educational Needs and/or Disabilities (SEND) can add to the worry and anxiety. If your child has SEND and has received support or a diagnosis overseas, please be aware the support available to them when you return to the UK may not replicate what you have been able to access overseas. Please see the Returning from overseas health care advice for guidance on returning to the UK and a health care planning checklist to support you with the transition. You may find the article we published on Guidance for RAF families with SEND returning to the UK helpful to help you plan for your move to the UK.
The MOD Education Advisory Team (EAT) provides expert and impartial advice about the education of service children and guidance on school admissions, appeals, Special Educational Needs and Disabilities and Continuity of Education Allowance. If you need support, the EAT can be contacted via email at: [email protected].