Early Years funding to make a positive impact on youngest Service children

March 25, 2024

Improved staff training, SEN support and transformed classroom spaces are some of the ways the latest Early Years awards are shaking up childcare provision for our youngest Service children.

We’ve allocated over £870,000 to 21 brilliant projects, all seeking to improve early childhood education for Service children in the UK.

Part of the Armed Forces Families Fund (AF3), the Early Years programme aims to deliver sustainable improvements to Early Years provision based on identified needs and with input from the Armed Forces community.

Enhancing training opportunities

In Scotland, we awarded Argyll and Bute Council £79,920 for their two-year project, providing a series of training and mentoring sessions for Early Years staff, including childminders, who work with Armed Forces families stationed at HM Naval Base Clyde. Collaborating with external organisations, the project will deliver innovative and practical training for the Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) workforce, developing accessible resources for both ELC staff and Armed Forces families.

Early Years Development Officer, Ailsa Dominick, said: “The funding will help develop ELC practitioners’ emotional literacy skills. The training and mentoring sessions will be focused on the needs of Naval families. There will be a specific focus on how to support each stage of the emotional cycle of deployment, therefore enhancing the quality of ELC for families across the area.”

Providing specialist support 

With an award of £24,719, Sandhurst Station Nursery will provide comprehensive Special Educational Needs (SEN) training to staff members and deliver specialised SEN training to select individuals. The project will increase expertise within the nursery to ensure there is a SEN trained practitioner present in each room at all times.

Lucy Hawkner, Chair of the Board of Trustees for Sandhurst Station Nursery, told us:

“This funding could not have been granted at a better time. A recent Lived Experience survey told us that Permanent Staff at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst need good quality, accessible Early Years provision that better covers the long working hours of a Training Establishment. This funding will allow us to safely trial longer opening hours to better serve Permanent Staff and their families. The funding will also be used to ensure all our staff receive SEN training, and to increase the working hours of our 1:1 SEN staff to better support our children with additional needs. We are so thankful to the Armed Forces Family Fund: Early Years Programme for enabling us to make these positive changes that will directly improve the lived experience of Armed Forces personnel and their families.”

A comprehensive approach

We awarded Aldershot Garrison Pre-school £33,000 for their project 360* Early Years Development, which is dedicated to constructing a holistic and inclusive educational programme.

This project aims to build an educational programme, supporting early childhood development and helping families. The programme’s main objective is to expand the range of services on offer. There will be a particular emphasis on offering parenting classes, sensory spaces in all settings and outdoor forest skills areas. This will enhance the level of support provided and extend hours for children with complex needs who are on restricted timetables.

The nursery has seen an increase in the number of children facing challenges in socialising and maintaining calm interactions. The project will provide access to quiet sensory spaces or opportunities for outdoor exploration. It will create an environment where children are more likely to flourish and transition smoothly into school.

Chief Executive, Julie Mounfield, explains: “Forest school promotes holistic development of children, it goes beyond academic learning and nurtures their physical, emotional, social and cognitive growth. During forest school sessions, children are physically active throughout. They learn to take risks and attempt new challenges they might not face indoors or traditional preschool room. This fosters resilience, problem solving skills and a sense of adventure. Forest school allows children to use their imagination and explore hands on experiences.”

Expanding support for Service children

We awarded The Peter Pan Sustainability Project £35,000 to recruit two full time staff members to open more spaces for Service children. This will give families access to Early Years education right from the moment they are posted.

By increasing their staff numbers, the project aims to enhance the service they provide to Service children and their families. It will ensure they receive the care and support they need from the moment they arrive.

Sandy Bracken, Preschool Manager, said: “The Staff, committee and families from Peter Pan Pre School Pirbright are extremely grateful to have been awarded this generous funding from the Armed Forces Families Fund, Early Years Programme. 

Peter Pan Pre School is of vital support to military families living and working in Pirbright. This funding will assist us in continuing to recruit high calibre Early Years Practitioners to educate and inspire military children through their formative years.”  

Find out more 

Check out the full list of awards made in this latest round of funding here.

Plus, did you know the Service Pupil Support Programme is now accepting applications? But hurry, the deadline to submit is 8 May!

The Service Pupil Support Programme seeks to help Service children aged 4-18 years along their educational pathway. This year, we’re focusing on:

  • closing the gap in attainment between Service and non-Service pupils, using data led evidence
  • addressing the needs of Service pupils with additional needs through early identification and intervention
  • identifying and addressing the needs of small cohorts of Service pupils within educational settings.

Full details are available on our dedicated programme page.