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East Midlands education sector gives a lesson in supporting the armed forces community

The East Midlands demonstrates how education and defence can achieve powerful results through working together.

With 6 local education sector institutions receiving a Silver Employer Recognition Scheme (ERS) Award, and one achieving the prestigious Gold Award in 2020, the East Midlands is demonstrating how education and defence can achieve powerful results through working together.

In April 2019, the then Universities Minister and Defence Minister called for all UK universities to step up and support ex-service personnel and their families. The participation rate for young people from military service families in the higher education sector is just 24%, compared to the rate for the whole population of around 43%.

East Midlands’ universities have led by example, with Bishop Grosseteste and Nottingham Trent University both earning Silver Awards in 2020, and the University of Leicester achieving the highest accolade, the Gold Award. But throughout the education sector, colleges and schools are also seeing the benefits of supporting the Armed Forces, in terms of recruitment, involvement with the community and the level of training and skills ex-military people and their families bring.

Bishop Grosseteste University campus

Bishop Grosseteste University campus. Copyright Bishop Grosseteste University 2020

Bishop Grosseteste University, in Lincoln, is in the heart of RAF country and therefore has a high awareness of the challenges of a military career and its effects on the family. Frequent moves, absence on deployment of serving personnel and managing home life can mean military spouses have little career stability. But it also means they have exceptional organisational skills, are flexible, and used to adapting to new situations quickly. Bishop Grosseteste has recognised this by offering an uncapped leave scheme and flexible working, which have aided staff retention.

Nottingham Trent University (NTU) ensures its wider recruitment team are aware of the relevance of military skills to the civilian work environment. Moreover, they have committed to changing and adapting recruitment and work environments to lower barriers for those who are considered disabled, which includes wounded, injured and sick service leavers. The work of its Medical Technologies Innovation Facility is helping to develop rehabilitative technologies and cell-based therapies, which will be of particular relevance to the wounded and injured veterans of the armed forces.

Enabling wider participation in higher education

Max Bardwell, Senior Business Development Manager at Nottingham Trent University‘s Medical Technologies Innovation Facility, and former Reservist, said:

The Armed Forces Covenant is fundamentally about enabling wider participation in higher education and higher education employment; by lowering barriers for those who might otherwise find it prohibitively difficult to engage. This speaks to the core of NTU’s mission and is therefore why we are pleased with being able to sign up to the Covenant.

The Air and Defence College run by Lincoln College offers a unique, employer-led, career-focused education and technical training course for 16 to 19 year-olds. It also ensures students benefit from the leadership and expertise of the armed forces by supporting service leavers to retrain as Further Education (FE) Teachers and make the transition to the classroom where they can share their expertise with the next generation.

3 child Bluey Club members hold up a flag

Proud members of the Bluey Club. Copyright William Alvey School 2020.

But it’s not just higher education that sees the benefit in working with the armed forces community, even primary schools have created new programmes. William Alvey School in Lincolnshire has over 50 children in its ‘Bluey Club’, a service set up to address the emotional and social well-being of forces children. Offering a safe environment in which to discuss feelings and experiences, their work is done through group activities, discussions and one to one support.

These leading educational establishments have demonstrated, through a myriad of practical policies, creative thinking and championing inclusivity, the benefits to be gained from engaging with defence personnel. Whether veterans, reservists, Cadet Force Adult Volunteers or the families of serving armed forces personnel, there is a wealth of talent and experience to be harnessed. And that talent needs the support of the education sector to enable it to flourish and thrive.


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