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Assignments to the USA with children during Covid-19 – educational information

Assignments to the USA with children during Covid-19 – educational information

The following update from DCYP may assist people who are considering assignments to the USA with their children, and those who have clearance but have not yet traveled with their families:

BDSUS / DCYP EDUCATIONAL INFORMATION AWARENESS UPDATE AS AT 5 AUGUST 2020

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been globally unprecedented and the situation remains uncertain. The COVID-19 pandemic in the US is still widespread and shows no signs of reducing in the near term (0-3 months). The pandemic continues to impact all aspects of day to day life and we know families are understandably concerned about children’s education for the forthcoming 20/21 school year. Defence recognises this complicates decision making for those personnel and their families considering or preparing to deploy to the US soon and that for many the situation will be deeply unsettling.

Due to the size of the US and delegation of decision making both to and below State level, varying approaches will be seen in different locations with a mixture of classroom, home and hybrid leaning. All States and school districts are routinely and regularly reviewing the situation and when State health authorities consider it safe and appropriate, schools will re-open. The unpredictability of this virus makes it difficult to predict when this will happen in each location. Decision making is also politically influenced.

BDSUS, together with the MOD’s Directorate for Children and Young People (DCYP), are committed to doing everything we can to provide advice and guidance during this time to allow MOD military and civilian parents to make informed decisions.

DCYP have conducted an initial review of the planned education provision for the Fall (Autumn) Semester in areas with the highest proportion of MOD children[1]. The primary concern of all school districts was the safety of children and staff, with their positions being informed by public health agencies. DCYP found that in all but one location the published planning for online provision established by school districts appeared adequate, meaning that it meets a level that ensures children have opportunities to engage with learning to a sufficient standard. Insufficient information was available from Clark County, Nevada to enable an informed judgement at the time of assessment.

Notwithstanding this assessment, the effect of COVID-19 on education for the Fall Semester 20/21 has been significant. Nearly all States will be required to maintain virtual lessons or adopt a blended learning format. While at present there are also no guarantees that the UK Autumn academic term will be uninterrupted, and comparisons between the US and UK are difficult to make due to this uncertainty, the transition to a new education system is challenging for children in the best of circumstances. With the current context of remote learning in many locations likely until at least the beginning of 2021, and potentially for the full academic year, schools are limited in their ability to provide new students with the normal support and induction, thereby increasing the risk of unsuccessful transitions. It is therefore important for Service and UKBC parents to carefully consider whether they continue accompanied with a planned assignment to the US, if they have children of school age.

To mitigate this risk, DCYP have identified an online tutoring programme called Tutor.com, utilised by the US Department of Defense for military families, that provides support for students in grades K-12. This tutoring service can be more flexible than traditional tutoring models, in that it responds to need rather than a rigid timetabling of sessions each week. BDSUS is urgently scoping the potential for our military and UKBC personnel to have temporary funded access to this learning capability for September. More advice on this will hopefully follow.

Parents should fully familiarise themselves with the planned format of learning being adopted by their receiving school district. They should also be prepared to support their children with home learning on arrival (as they will have been doing in the UK earlier this year).

For military personnel, parents may decide to explore other avenues for schooling their children such as CEA, retention of current service accommodation for the family etc.  BDSUS leadership will be writing to senior leaders within MOD and the single Services to encourage flexibility wherever possible, although decisions will inevitably need to be made on a case-by-case basis.  Advice should be sought on these issues from the individual’s own chain of command. Service personnel also have interim arrangements for additional allowances for children already in boarding school because of COVID-19, as per the Defence People AF Remuneration directed letter dated, 4 Jun 2020 (here).

We also recognise some parents will wish to investigate private education options within the US, for which two thirds funding is available for UKBC parents. However, it should be noted that continuity of ‘in-person’ tutoring is also not guaranteed in private schools and, due both to an increased demand and COVID-19 mitigation measures, we know that many private schools in the areas where we have personnel are no longer offering places for the 20/21 academic year.

Further advice for both Service Personnel and UKBC can be sought in the first instance from CEAS at DCYP-CEAS-Enquiries@mod.gov.uk (CEAS helpline: 01980 618244 or 94344 8244)

Or

BDSUS Educational Team: BDSUS-SpGp-HEALTHED-GROUP@mod.gov.uk

Date:  5 Aug 20