Plymouth Case Study


Plymstock School joined Plymouth’s HMS Heroes support service in 2011. Our school’s student representatives attend Heroes monthly meetings to support each other and help the city and welfare groups understand the impact of service family life on young people.  

We needed to work out how this group would work in our school. This process involved talking to many stakeholders, but was driven by the needs and of the students. We are pleased with the initiative and students, parents and staff value what we do.  

Within our school, the students are supported by a team of staff and mentors who are, themselves, a part of Service families. This was deemed as essential by our Service children; they wanted to know that the people who they dealt with understood their situation and did not ‘learn it from a book’. Our students have said that, in the main, what they need is to keep busy and focussed on their work; this was also stated by parents – a ‘carry on as normal’ approach and a light touch approach has proven the best procedure. The HMS Heroes work hard to keep those in need busy, so they have less time to worry. 

What we have done at Plymstock 

  • Weekly student group meetings – students share news, eat lunch or just chat. 
  • Drop-in facility – students can see a member of the team as they feel the need to ‘touch base’. Commander (our mascot) is ready with a listening ear. 
  • Commander – through suggestions we approached Build-a-Bear in Plymouth City Centre who agreed to make the school’s Heroes Mascot. Kim Harvey (Y11) Heroes Representative chose Ellie Goodsell and Alice Kellett (both Y7) to make the important trip. The students choose him, made him, clothed him and named him. He is appropriately called Commander. Commander attends all HMS Heroes meetings. 
  • The Skype room – we now have a Heroes room for students to access a Skype enabled computer so they can address some of the contact issues that arise during term time. This facility is open to primary schools as well. 
  • Display board – all events that we are involved in are displayed on the Heroes Noticeboard. This enables all students to know what is going on. 
  • E-blueys Support – individual time is given to students by staff and mentors to help with e-blueys, that can be difficult to write for some students. 
  • Mentors – many older students have got involved to help younger students; we have encouraged this as a way of keeping people busy. 
  • Charity events – the students have raised money for our three chosen charities through cake sales, exam pencil case sales, Hats 4 Heroes Day and many sponsored events. 
  • Student voice – HMS Heroes members are involved in House Forums, School Council, Sixth Form Senate and therefore get involved in every aspect of school life, from policy approval to staff appointments. Heroes members also direct the use of Service Child monies (eg the purchase of Skype enabled computers and the Heroes Skype Room). 
  • Events in the local community – our Heroes reps have participated in many civic events including home coming parades, Standard dedication ceremonies, Remembrance Day marches, Armed Forces Day events, the Queen’s Jubilee events, the Armed Forces Covenant ceremony and many others. Our Heroes have carried the Standard and given talks at many of these events.
  • Trips – we have taken our students and students from local primary schools on trips to local military bases including HMS Courageous, Bickleigh Barracks and Bickleigh Stables. 
  • Specific examples of these events are:
  • HMS Heroes get their own Standard from the Lord Mayor, Mary Aspinall at the Council House.
  • Our representatives were involved reading passages at the official dedication of the Heroes Standard at HMS Drake.
  • We visited HMS Courageous and had a tour of the Submarine
  • In July 2011 we launched our charity work – we raised money for our chosen Forces charities through cake sales and the sales of exam pencil cases – both events have continued.
  • Members of our Heroes Group take the HMS Heroes Standard to the Homecoming Parade of the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment in Plymouth City Centre
  • Commander (our mascot) joined our ranks in October 2011.
    • Poppy selling in Drakes Circus
    • Hats for Heroes Day
    • Parents open afternoon
    • Queen’s Jubilee celebrations in Plymouth Dockyard.
    • Trips to many military facilities during the summer.
    • Armed Forces Day events.
    • Keys to Heroes Skype Room given to group
    • Cake sales
    • Design and purchase of furniture for Skype room approved by Heroes Group members


How we help other schools: 

  • Partnership activities supporting other schools include sharing resources, good practice and expertise.
  • We have taken local primary students on trips to ease transition
  • We have shared good practice with local secondary schools both through City meetings and visits.
  • Local primaries able to use our Skype room through booking system.
  • We have met with other education authorities and HMS heroes volunteers to enlighten them on the journey that HMS Heroes has made in Plymouth.Presentation at Plymouth Inclusion Conference


  • Students and parents now feel valued and supported. This has been stated by both in surveys and phone calls. A (Y7) was a distressed student during transition as dad was in Afghanistan for her KS2 SATs and returned for R&R in her first week here. Working with her and her mum has enabled A to now be secure and confident. She now works as a mentor herself.
  • Having an internal space for Heroes meetings and mentoring helps all students either through being mentored or being a mentor.
  • HMS Heroes members have given positive feedback through surveys and discussions.
  • Data management and feedback from reports confirm this.
  • Serving MOD Staff feeling less worried and more informed about their family’s welfare. Soldiers and Naval personnel returning from deployment have said how much knowing that Heroes was available for their children helped whilst they were away.

Supporting wider network of schools helps other schools to learn from the work we do here and therefore helps other service children in the city 

Lessons Learned

Data management is a big issue – we learnt the hard way. S11 forms did not have a service child indicator and so separate forms needed to be generated. We needed to ask students if they had service links. This led to confusion – some were not service children due to nature of links but they still needed support (example brother in Army). We include all students with service links as we identified that division was counter-productive. We developed our own version of the S11; this has helped a lot in identifying students on arrival. It also enabled us to discover which service the student had links to – this is important when identifying needs. Parents leaving the services have also caused issues as the paperwork for inclusion in Census is not clear – however, this is not a Heroes issue but a national one. Identification of children across the school is now not a problem. 

Next Steps:

Development of the Skype room & support for other schools are our priorities. We have upcoming deployments all the time so  we will be busy – that is just how we prefer to be. Lunchtime club has now been increased due to demand. We now meet 3 times a week. We meet on Monday & Friday to chat and we hold our formal meeting on a Wednesday; students said that would enable them to start and end the week in a good way whilst focussing on the issues midweek. The Skype room is currently being furnished and decorated by students to give them ownership of the space. Students are delighted to have the space