The SCiP Alliance has a vision of thriving lives for all children of armed forces families (including reserves, those currently serving and veterans) and believes in the power of collaboration to effect change. The Alliance’s national partnerships and network of Hubs help researchers, policymakers and practitioners work more effectively together to target evidence-based support at identified needs in a coherent system so that Service children can make informed and confident transitions through further and higher education into thriving lives.

Research by the University of Winchester (McCullouch and Hall, 2016) found that Service children are significantly underrepresented in higher education. Furthermore research by a range of partners shows that Service children can experience considerable social and emotional disruption impacting their mental health and wellbeing. The 172 stakeholders involved in the SCiP Alliance’s 2018 stakeholder consultation identified impacts such as periodic family stress, issues with continuity of curriculum and experience of frequent changes producing a transitory mindset which can affect the way Service children respond to situations, engage with school and other activities, form relationships and think about their future. Three quarters of respondents either ‘completely’ or ‘mostly’ felt that “Service children’s experiences can have an impact on their education that is significantly different from the challenges and opportunities experienced by other groups”. Service children may also accrue considerable strengths from their experiences, may have had to work harder to achieve on a par with their peers and frequently have a strong sense of identity and public service (McCullouch and Hall 2016).

The SCiP Alliance works with national partners such as the Ministry of Defence, Department for Education, Office for Students, Ofsted and UCAS and a host of HE, FE, LA and charity partners and has established a network of Hubs across the UK led by partners who are innovators in this field. The collaborative, integrated approach to bringing together researchers, practitioners and policy makers has led not only to new research collaborations and research-informed practical resources but also to systemic changes such as the recognition of Service students by the Office for Students (OfS) as a target group for HEI access. We have worked closely with the OfS to develop guidance to HEIs as they put together their Access and Participation Plans, and have recently collaborated with UCAS on guidance for HE applicants from Service families and on the introduction of a flag in the UCAS application form from 2020. This will not only allow HEIs to identify and support students but will strengthen future research by giving more accurate data on HE student numbers.

The widescale response from the sector, with partners taking a lead and developing innovative new research and practice in a coherent national network, is transforming the research, practice and policy landscape in this field and we are delighted to be partnering with the Veterans & Families Institute for Military Social Research and the Forces in Mind Trust Research Centre at Anglia Ruskin University to develop new research collaborations and to establish a SCiP Alliance East Anglia Hub.