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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 September 2006, 00:27 GMT 01:27 UK
Services pupils 'need more help'
Children of service personnel often move at short notice
The government must do more to ensure children of armed services personnel move smoothly between schools, MPs say.

The Commons defence committee found pupils had problems with the curriculum when transferred around the UK and that records were often updated only slowly.

Chairman James Arbuthnot said some of the UK's 90,000 or so services children may be "falling between the cracks" in the education system.

The Ministry of Defence said it would "carefully study" the MPs' findings.

'Same quality'

The report says: "Moving schools is stressful for all children and frequent moves can have a significant detrimental impact on young people, particularly on their willingness to form friendships with their peers."

The committee found it was "self-evident" that service children needed "at least the same quality of schooling" as those who were not required to move so often.

Communication between government departments and agencies was "often poor".

As a result, schools were given short notice of postings and there were delays in the transfer of student records.

The Department for Education and Skills (DfES) and MoD did "not seem to take the interests of service children sufficiently into account".

Mr Arbuthnot, a Conservative MP, said: "We demand a lot of our service personnel.

"They deserve to have confidence that their children's education will not suffer as a result of frequent moves and service overseas."

This mobility could interfere with results for GCSEs and A-levels and equivalent exams, he said.

'Left behind'

Mr Arbuthnot said: "Generally schooling of service children seems to be working very well, despite the huge problems that are inevitably caused by turbulence, and some schools have creative ways of dealing with that.

"But we got a sense that service children may be falling between the cracks of departmental and agency responsibilities, and as a result they can get left behind.

"This must be urgently addressed. We owe them better."

Services parents needed "reliable and accessible information" to help make decisions about schooling and that a website with these details was "essential".

In 2004, the English education watchdog Ofsted estimated there were 90,000 service children in UK schools.

But the MPs discovered there was no "clear working definition" of this group.

They said the failure to identify the number of such pupils within UK schools was "unacceptable".

An MoD spokesman said: "All children deserve the best possible start in life and the children of those serving in the armed forces must not be disadvantaged."

He added: "We recognise the importance of DfES and MoD working closely together to get the best possible educational service for the children of those serving in the armed forces.

"We have done so in the past and will do so in the future, including our consideration of the recommendations made by the committee."

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