Primary & Secondary


We all take our children’s education seriously, but what sets the experience of a Service child aside from their civilian friends?

Another posting equals another new school. Service children can attend upwards of five different schools up to the age of eighteen, and children also have to cope with leaving friends behind and making new ones with each move.

However, Service children are often more adaptable, independent and flexible than their civilian friends, having grown used to change and the broader view of the world that this has given them.

For information about all types of education for children moving to or in an overseas location, please see our Overseas Education & Childcare page.


01   Differences between education systems

Education is devolved and England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales all have slightly different education systems, delivered in slightly different ways.

School years may be categorised differently and depending on when your child’s birthday is, you may find that they start at a different time.

There are also different public examinations.

Moving from Scotland to England or from England to Northern Ireland? There is specific education information that you need to know.

Please note that MOD Schools follow England so you can use this as a general guide if your child is going to attend an MOD school in another location.

School Year

England: Early September to approximately the third week in July.

Northern Ireland: Early September to end of June

Scotland: Mid-August to mid-June

Wales: Early September to approximately the third week in July.

Please be advised that these are approximations only and parents/carers must check with the individual school for exact dates as these can vary even within the same town.

Year Group

Children born between these dates will typically be in the same year group at school in that area. There are some regional variations with regards to children born near the cut off dates and parents are advised to look at Local Authority websites for clarification.

England: 1 September through to 31 August

Northern Ireland: 2 July through to 1 July

Scotland: 1 March through to end of February

Wales: 1 September through to 31 August


England: Year 11 – GCSEs / Year 13 – A Levels

Northern Ireland: Year 11 – GCSEs / Year 12 – AS Levels / Year 13 – A Levels

Scotland: S4 (approx. age 15) – National 5s / S5 (approx. age16) – Scottish Highers / S6 (approx. age 17) – Scottish Advanced Highers

Wales: Year 11 – GCSEs / Year 12 – AS Levels / Year 13 – A Levels. The Welsh Baccalaureate is also available to students at most sixth forms and colleges.

Inspecting Authority

England: Ofsted (

Northern Ireland: The Education and Training Inspectorate (

Scotland: Education Scotland (

Wales: Estyn (

Compulsory School Ages

England: 5-18 Years. Post 16 has to include a recognised form of education.

Northern Ireland: 4/5 – 16 Years

Scotland: 4.5/5.5 – 16 Years

Wales: 5 – 16 Years


England: Service Pupil Premium – £310 allocated to the school for each Service child on roll which is used to benefit all the Service children in the school. See our Service Pupil Premium page for more information.

Northern Ireland: For funding information please contact the NI Children’s Education Support Officer at

Scotland: The policy of ‘Getting it Right for Every Child’ ensures that every child has access to the support they need.

Wales: SSCE Cymru has a list of support available

Education Comparison Table

We have produced a table showing comparative school years for children within the different state education systems of the Devolved Governments and also state boarding school.

Remember that often the curriculum is different as well as the number on the classroom door, and so it is not easy to compare like with like.

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02   Universal Infant Free School Meals

Universal infant free school meals (UIFSM) enables schools in England to provide free school meals for pupils in Reception through to Year 2.

The offer is different for each of the devolved nations:

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03   Authorised absence

According to the Gov.UK website, there are two reasons that children can miss school:

1. If they are ill
2. If you have advance permission from the school

Army families tell us that they have been fined for taking their children out of school in term time for the purposes of reuniting the family.

Whilst understanding that the head teacher must make the decision on this, we strongly believe their decision should be fully informed.

If the soldier has R&R or POTL coming up then apply in advance for the head teacher to consider the circumstances i.e. that leave isn’t flexible and cannot necessarily be taken in the normal school holidays.

Several things will be taken into consideration, including the number of days your child has missed so far that year and exams or tests.

Authorising absence is the school’s decision, not a parental right. Local Authorities (LAs) can issue penalty notices and fines; look on your LA website for more details.

If you have been refused authorised absence for this type of leave, please let AFF know and contact

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04   School transport

With an increasing demand on school places, you may find that your children’s school place may not be in the nearest school; transport may be an issue.

Here is an outline of the basics regarding free school transport entitlement from the Department for Education (DfE) that covers England and Wales. Scotland’s regulations are similar, and in Northern Ireland (NI), the ages are divided at the end of primary school.

The general walking distance measurement is two miles for children aged under eight, and three miles for children aged eight and over (apart from NI).

This distance is not the shortest distance travelled by road but the shortest route along which a child, accompanied as necessary, may walk with reasonable safety and may include footpaths and bridleways; this could explain why you may have been quoted different distances by the Local Authority’s (LAs) admissions team for the purposes of catchment area, and the LA school transport team.

The regulations also make it very clear that children should be able to reach school able to benefit from the school day without strains or stresses from the journey and in reasonable safety and comfort.

If you chose the nearest school and you have been allocated a school further away, you may be eligible for free transport for your child.

Check your LA website for more details and if you have an issue with the LA’s decision, you should contact the LA school transport team and they will assess each case individually.

AFF believes that all school aged children should have easy access to school. We have heard from parents unhappy about their very young children travelling to school in a taxi on their own, and about the time it takes a child, particularly a young one, to walk over two miles.

AFF recognises that as parents, we have the responsibility to get our children to school. When moving to a new area, this should be one of the top considerations when applying for school places, however sometimes we may find that our children are given places in schools some distance away.

AFF is actively working on these issues and highlighting them to relevant departments. To discuss this further, email

Useful links:

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05   Early Mover Status - as part of a unit move

Early Mover Status (EMS) is for families who wish to move up to 12 months early for a unit move as part of rebasing.

This could be for educational reasons, for example because you have a child in Year 9 and would like to start them in their new school for the beginning of Year 10 which requires moving several months before the unit.

It could also be for families who are joining a unit that is about to move again as part of rebasing, and this would be to avoid moving twice in quick succession.

If you would like to find out more about this, the information is in JSP 752 chapter 7 or email us at

It is very important that, if you claim CEA for any of your children, you remain within the eligibility rules for accompanied Service, so check this out first before making any plans. For further support on this please email

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06   I have a child studying for public exams - can I stay in my SFA?

Service parents who are due to move on assignment when their children are in their A Level years, or undertaking or preparing for GCSE or AS exams in local state schools, may be able to retain the Service Family Accommodation (SFA) which they currently occupy, to allow the child to complete their exams.

If you have a child in school year 9, 10 or 11, or year 12 or 13, then this may apply to you. See AFF: Housing – How to apply for retention for more information.

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07   Service Children in State Schools (SCISS)

AFF is represented on the National Executive Committee of the Service Children in State Schools support network. This board is made up of representatives of head teachers, MOD, family feds and local authorities.

We discuss the best ways to support Service children in schools and host conferences around the country to share knowledge and information that will help schools achieve this.

Is your school a member of SCISS? Why not pop in and find out.

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08   Elective Home Education (EHE)

Have you just moved and found there to be no suitable school places? Is your child on a waiting list and you are reluctant to start them in a different school temporarily? Have you just moved somewhere for a short time, or are you about to move just after the start of school? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then the option of home schooling may be for you.

Education is compulsory for children from 5 to 18 years old in England. School is one of the options.

Section 7 of the Education Act 1996 describes it as “efficient, full-time education suitable to the child’s age, ability, aptitude and any special educational need they may have either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.” This is the case in England and Wales. Northern Ireland and Scotland are slightly different.

Useful things to know:

  • You don’t need to let anyone know or ask permission if your child has not been to school before, only if you are taking your child out of school or de-registering them, in which case you should inform the school and the council. If you’re removing them from a special school, or if they have a school attendance order, you must ask permission from the council. Most councils would prefer to be told if you move into their area and may want to make an informal enquiry on the education that your child receives.
  • You do not have to keep to the same hours as schools and you do not have to follow the national curriculum.
  • If your change your mind or your circumstances change, your local Authority will be willing to offer a school place.
  • Home Education Consultants provided by the Local Authority, websites, blogs, books and local groups can all help.

Think about this in advance and think to the future. Do you want to do this forever or just for a short time either the length of posting or until a certain age? Will you be able to cope with the time and input that this will require? And finally, what about your child -what would they prefer?

For further information about EHE please email

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09   Consider becoming a Parent Governor

Are you interested in being involved in the policies, recruitment and budgets at your local school? Do you have a bit of time to spare to volunteer for this vital role?

There are school governor training courses that you can attend – some are one day courses available at the weekend.

As a governor you will be involved with budgets, targets, policies and recruiting. Posts vary in length from school to school.

To find out more about becoming a parent governor, see

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