Your Canada posting

A families’ guide to living in BATUS

Contents

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 weather temperatures ranging from summer highs of 30’C, to winter lows of minus 30’C, 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.

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 once a week to Medicine Hat and will drop you off in a variety of locations.

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 is limited for spouses and is frequently prioritised 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 license.

Alternatives to working include further education and training, and BATUS is well established for this. Medicine Hat College runs a number of full and part-time courses, which entitled family members can enrol on without paying International Student fees.

Whilst these courses don’t lead to ‘formal’, nationally recognised qualifications, they are great for personal development.

In addition, Ralston village has its own Education Learning Lab and is available for use free of charge. HQ BATUS is also a registered examination centre and is able to invigilate examinations for those already enrolled on adult distance learning courses from UK.

04   Education and childcare

The key aspect to note is that 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 is a dedicated SCE teacher 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.

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 0-3 years, with opening hours Mon to Fri from 8:30 am to 11:40 am. A point to note is that a maximum of 40 hours per month is allowed per child.

Pre-school 

Little Gophers provides structured day care sessions for pre-school children. The setting is run according to UK pre-school standards, and is informally inspected by SCE and SSAFA annually.

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 are expected to come to Ralston to be seen for medical and dental care.

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.

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.

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

Back to top

What our families say about AFF

“AFF - just a thank you for all that you do!!”

“What an awesome organisation”

“Thank you so much Army Families Federation!”

Find out more
7,151enquiries received between January and June 2018
1,354responses to our UK Disturbance Expense quick poll
27,120 unique website views during October
100%positive feedback at our Foreign & Commonwealth events