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The Royal Caledonian Education Trust

For over 200 years the Royal Caledonian Education Trust has supported the children of Scottish serving and veteran Armed Forces families. Having recently moved North in a bid to be closer to the people it helps and, with a new chief executive at the helm, we wanted to have a closer look.

The RCET works with schools, local authorities, the military and Armed Forces communities across Scotland on initiatives to support Armed Forces Children, their teachers and their families in the school environment.
The charity was established in 1815 to support and educate Scottish children orphaned or families made destitute through loss or injury of a father serving in the Napoleonic wars. A shortage of funds raised in Scotland resulted in the first school opening in London rather than Edinburgh as originally planned but the Caledonian Schools, as they were known, were regarded very much an Institution of the Scottish nation where Scottish traditions were observed and taught. A feature in the Scotsman newspaper published on 1st December 1933 stated, “In no other schools in England is Scottish dress always worn and the sound of pipes the familiar music of the day.”

In 1996, declining demand for places saw the closure of the schools, and the charity changed its focus to providing education support and funding for children of Scottish serving and veteran families in need. This was initially from an office in London with a small team working remotely in Scotland and in April 2015, RCET relocated to Edinburgh to be closer to the people it supports. RCET Chief Executive Colin Flinn explains “Being based in Scotland gives us the ability to be much closer to the children and families we work with, and more opportunities to develop stronger connections with the wider armed forces community in Scotland.

“Our key drivers are to continue to provide vital support and to represent the voices of children and young people from armed forces families and believe we can do so much more by being here in Scotland.”
To date, RCET has given over £1million in vital grant funding to families living with poverty, ill health or disability. They have supported 800 Scots from low income families into further education. As well as providing grants to cover the cost of clothing, after-school activities, school trips, further education expenses, they also have a very active education programme.  In the last two years, the RCET has delivered vital resources and support to in excess of 15,000 pupils, and more than 100 schools in Scotland; and training and educational resources to over 500 organisations benefitting several thousand young people.
RCET offers educational resources and training for professionals and organisations in Scotland to help them recognise and support children and young people experiencing difficulties in school - particularly due to frequent mobility and during times when a parent is deployed away from home.

RCET estimates that more than 100,000 children in Scotland are in Armed Forces families.  Of those supported by the RCET grants programme, the majority are unemployed, living in debt, a significant number of parents have mental health problems, some of their children are carers for their parents.
The vast majority of children growing up in Armed Forces families don’t experience such hardship thankfully, but in those situations where you combine hardship with frequent mobility and deployment anxieties, the impact on a child or young person’s education and consequently their life chances, can be immeasurable. We are of course talking minority figures, but this doesn’t make the problem any less significant, these are in our view vulnerable and often overlooked young people who deserve the same access to education and the same life chances as every other child.

On 7 November this year, the RCET will be hosting its bi-annual Practitioner’s conference at Dynamic Earth.  The Conference aims are to better understanding the challenges facing children and young people from Armed Forces families in Scotland; share and promote good practice; and encourage and facilitate collaboration amongst those interested in the education and wellbeing of Armed Forces children.  The event is free to attend. (email conference@rcet.org.uk or go to Eventbrite for more information)
For more information about the RCET, visit www.rcet.org.ukor call 0131 240 2224