Your Canada posting

A families’ guide to living in BATUS

Overview

Whether you are housed in Ralston village, Medicine Hat, Calgary or Cochrane, the opportunity to live in Canada holds many benefits for embracing a different culture, travel and adventure sports, with some of the best skiing in the world.

With temperatures ranging from summer highs of 30C, to winter lows of minus 30C, and spectacular scenery, it is a great place to explore.

However, due to its unique setting, it can also feel an isolated and remote location for those who are not prepared. There are a few things to take into account before accepting a BATUS posting.

Please check our COVID-19 section for up-to-date information, as the coronavirus outbreak may affect the advice given on this page.

Contents

01   Everyday life

You will be in a different time zone to the UK (7 hours behind), so communication links with family and friends in the UK need to be planned.

The local supermarket is a 45-minute drive away in the town of Medicine Hat. There is a Canex store in Ralston village, which offers basic essential food items, but the choice is limited and the cost is expensive.

With limited public transport, some members of the community struggle if they can’t drive. Transport is provided three times a week to Medicine Hat and will drop you off in a variety of locations. It is on a ‘book-up’ process so if no one books it, the run will not happen. Information is provided by UWO as part of your welcome brief about this service on arrival in BATUS.

02   Housing

There is a separate housing policy that is unique to BATUS. Allocation is based on family size rather than rank. The houses are fully furnished with adequate furniture, and are warm in winter and cool in summer. Most houses have a basement for additional space.

03   Spousal employment

Employment opportunities are limited for spouses, Government employment is only available to Canadian citizens.

Dependant work visas are required, which can be a lengthy process; however, they can be actioned in advance of arrival. The main opportunities to work on camp are in the Canex or within childcare settings. If you plan to work from your home, you will need to apply for a business licence. Please note that if housed in Medicine Hat you will not be able to run a home business from these properties as they are leased on different contracts to the houses in Ralston and landlord liability will not allow any home based businesses to be approved. The Base Commander will need to sign off on any plans to work from home in any capacity if housed in Ralston.

If you are hoping to work in childcare, Canada insists that you have an open work permit and for that you need to have completed a medical. Many spouses complete the medical in the UK which means that, upon arrival in Canada, they can immediately acquire the permit ready to start work. The medical costs around £400 and unfortunately this is a personal cost and will not be refunded by BATUS.

For spouses seeking employment with children in the pre-school sector, it is also essential to bring transcripts and parchments of any UK qualifications. Both parts of the qualification are required to show the specific units that have been passed. If spouses don’t have or can’t obtain their qualification parchments and transcripts (if their educational establishment is no longer in existence, for example) then to be employed at either of the pre-school establishments in the village, they have to take the Level One childcare qualification, which is a free online 50-hour course organised through the Military Family Resource Centre in Ralston village.

If you are hoping to work in such fields as medical, dental or social care, then there are specific challenges regarding recognition of UK qualifications, so contact Elaine Giles at the Military Family Resource Centre vfp.coord@gmail.com.

There are two organisations which employ the majority of spouses seeking employment in Ralston Village. Both organisations fall under the Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Service (CFMWS).

Personnel Support Programmes (PSP), which employs spouses in areas such as recreation, demands ‘UK reliability screening’ of every applicant for any job to accompany their application. This screening can only be obtained from within the UK. However, the second organisation (the Military Family Resource Centre) does not require that screening.

See also the Army&You website, which has an article on the Ralston Learning Lab.

If you are considering undertaking employment or training during your posting to BATUS or have any questions, contact our AFF Regional Lead Canada on canada@aff.org.uk.

04   Education and childcare

The key aspect to note is that children are taught within the Canadian education system and they start school at a later age in Canada than in the UK.

Also, whilst the school year is the same as the UK, running from September to August, the class your child will be placed in is determined by their age on the 28 February, not the 31 August.

There is NO SCE provision for children in BATUS, but there are two dedicated SCE teachers employed to work in the school in Ralston village to ensure that an appropriate curriculum is followed.

If your child is due to start school during your tour, or is currently aged 4-6 years, then you will probably need to live in Ralston Village, and will be given a priority for a quarter there unless you state otherwise. There is no formal education provided for children of this age in Medicine Hat, Cochrane or Calgary.

  • Families based in Ralston village will have access to Ralston School, which caters for children from kindergarten to 14/15 yrs
  • Families based in Medicine Hat may opt for local schools for every stage of their children’s education
  • Families based in Calgary and Cochrane will attend local schools.

Secondary school

Generally, it is not recommended to bring children who are 14 years or above, as the local secondary schools are Canadian schools, only delivering a Canadian curriculum.

If a family has children aged 12-14 years they will be contacted to ensure they are fully aware of the differences between the systems concerning education and families will be advised to look at alternatives such as boarding school or other ways to remain in the UK with relatives etc. If a family has children aged 14-16 years, they will be contacted to discuss cancellation of the assignment unless alternative education options (previously listed) are in place.

GCSE education is not possible in Canada, nor is supported distance learning available for this age group. Support of children with Special Educational Needs is also difficult in BATUS.

It is strongly recommended that you discuss your children’s needs at the earliest opportunity with Mrs Sonia Stainton at sonia.stanton@prrd.ab.ca, or contact CEAS for further information and guidance.

In 2017, the Department for Children & Young People produced an Educational Suitability Review paper, which families can access to enable them to make an informed choice.

For families who do decide to take children older than 14 years with them, it is recommended they attend Eagle Butte (Secondary) School located on the east side of Medicine Hat.

A school bus is provided from Ralston as the journey time is about 45 minutes during the summer and can take anything up to 1.5 hours during the winter.

Childcare

Childcare in Ralston Village is provided by Kiddie Kare, through the Canadian Military Families Resource Centre. It is available for children aged 0-5 years, with opening hours Mon to Fri from 8:30am to 2:45pm. Sessions do need to be pre-booked and there may be a waiting list for popular sessions.

Educational suitability reviews

If you would like the latest educational suitability reviews for Ralston, Cochrane, Medicine Hat and Redcliffe, Alberta, Canada please contact the Children’s Education Advisory Service (CEAS).

05   Medical & dental

All entitled family members can access medical and dental care on camp.

If a specialist referral is required, you may be seen in Medicine Hat or Calgary. You will be allocated an Alberta Healthcare card, which entitles you to basic and emergency care within Alberta, but if you travel out of province, you will need to gain travel insurance similar to what you receive to travel abroad in the UK.

If you are based in Cochrane, you may be expected to come to Ralston to be seen for some medical and dental care.

The Health Visitor for BATUS families is based in Ralston Village and the ‘Healthy Child Programme’ is followed as it would be in the UK. Immunisations will be given according to the Canadian schedule but the Health Visitor can provide advice and assistance with this.

Families should note that there are no UK midwives available and the maternity system is very different from UK. However, full pre-natal and post-natal care is available under the Canadian system supported by the Health Visitor located in the village.

06   Pets

The import and export of pets between Canada and the UK/Europe is very expensive. As a general rule, the larger the animal the greater the cost will be. If you are planning on bringing a pet then it is advised that you start to research options early. You will also need to seek permission to keep a pet and not all houses in Medicine Hat will allow pets so this may limit your housing options.

07   Cars

You may be able to bring your current car to Canada on the two main sailings, generally in Nov and Feb, if space is available. However, you will drive on the opposite side of the road to the UK and your vehicle must be suitable for the harsh Canadian environment and temperatures. Most families do purchase a car on arrival – often from the family that they are taking over from or other families moving out.

08   Work life balance

As BATUS is a training area during the ‘prairie season’, some jobs require the serving personnel to spend extended times away from the family, so be prepared for single parenting on occasions.

Many families find the long summer holidays a great time to return to the UK to see relatives.

Overall, the chance to live in Canada is an amazing opportunity. If you love to explore new places and experiences, then Canada could well exceed your expectations.

If you have a question or would like to receive the latest pre-arrival information to help you make an informed choice about accepting an assignment to BATUS, please contact us at canada@aff.org.uk

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