Topic briefing

Children from military families

Published 27 July 2020

The issue

Children from military families have low participation rates in higher education. Various factors can affect access to higher education among children from military families including mobility, separation, wellbeing and caring responsibilities.

This short film was made by young people from Colburn Catterick Garrison in collaboration with the Uni Connect York and North Yorkshire partnership.

In the film young people talk about how they feel about their hopes and plans and how they fit in with the communities around them. It aims to challenge stereotypes, raise aspirations and highlights the importance of community engagement. 

Key facts

  1. Fewer children from Armed Forces families progress to higher education than their peers. The participation rate is estimated to be 24 per cent compared to a national average of 43 per cent.
  2. Limited or constrained mobility among this group can lead to disrupted schooling. For example, there may be fewer opportunities for extra-curricular activities or opportunities to meet pastoral needs. Students who move between schools may face inadequate transition arrangements and differences in their curriculum.
  3. Challenges to wellbeing may also affect their experience of education. For example, the deployment and return of serving family members can disrupt study or lead to emotional and behavioural difficulties.
  4. Students with serving parents often also take on caring responsibilities. The Children's Society notes that young carers in military service families are less likely to be identified as young carers, and therefore less likely to receive support.
  5. There are localities with higher concentrations of students from military families than others, notably in the vicinity of military bases. However, service children are likely to be educated in schools that are within reach of all higher education providers.
  6. Initial OfS analysis of the 2020-21 to 2024-25 access and participation plans indicates that there is a need for better understanding of the very specific and complex barriers faced by children from military families in accessing and succeeding in higher education. Although children from military families are mentioned in several plans some of the approaches to meeting the needs of these groups are in the early stages of development or are yet to be scoped.


There is no official definition of a service child. However, the Service Children’s Progression (SCiP) Alliance defines a service child as:

‘a person whose parent or carer serves in the Regular Armed Forces, or as a Reservist, or has done at any point during the first 25 years of that person’s life’.
Published 27 July 2020

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