We are Scotland’s oldest military charity

A short history of nearly everything

Our charity was founded in 1815 to help Scottish children and young people, whose parents had lost their lives or their injuries stopped them from supporting their families them during the Napoleonic War.

The Highland Society of London noticed many Scottish children and young people losing their father or experiencing financial hardship because a their father could no longer work to support their family. The society decided to act quickly, who launched what became our first fundraising campaign to get things started to encourage wealthy individuals and families in London to make regular donations. Once funds had been raised to get started, the possibility of setting up in Scotland was discussed but it was decided the charity should stay in London as that’s where wealthy donors were located and it was important to remain close and build relationships with them to secure the long-term income to keep things going in the future. The Caledonian Asylum was established in Hatton Garden, London just four days before the Battle of Waterloo which provided accommodation as well as a basic education in reading, writing and maths and opportunities to learn skills which would help children and young people find work in the future.

The Caledonian Asylum moved from Hatton Garden to the Copenhagen Fields in Islington, North London in 1828, which provided classrooms and accommodation for boys. In 1844 an extension was built to provide a separate school for girls.

Having made the move to Islington, North London, The Caledonian Asylum welcomed children and young people whose parents had either been killed or wounded during the Crimean War, which took place between 1853-1856. As the numbers of children and young people needing support continued to grow rapidly, a special fundraising campaign was set up to make sure support could be provided to as many as possible. Another major milestone in our charity’s history happened during this time, when Queen Victoria granted royal patronage to the Caledonian Asylum in 1852. This proved a huge achievement for all involved with the charity, which meant they had gained special recognition and support from the Queen and the Royal Family. This led to the launch of the charity’s first-ever rebrand campaign, to become The Royal Caledonian Schools.

It had become clear to the charity by 1897 that it was time to move from its home in North Islington. Within the year, a decision was made to purchase land at Bushey, to build a new residential school for boys and girls.

There was many reasons for the move from Copenhagen Fields. Having moved there in 1828, the spacious, semi-rural surroundings had become increasingly populated and urbanised since then. What’s more, Pentonville Prison was constructed next door to the Royal Caledonian Asylum in 1842, which meant the location had become totally unsuitable. The school building was also unfit for purpose and a new school, in the leafy suburbs of Bushey, was officially opened in 1903.

The new facility at Bushy provided accommodation and schooling for children and young people during both World Wars. During the World War II, it was estimated that over two hundred German bombs fell in and around the school and its chapel was destroyed in 1941. The children and young people were first-hand witnesses to many dogfights in the skies during the Battle of Britain and had the opportunity to meet many American troops stationed close by, who used the school and gym to prepare for D-Day and the liberation of Europe.

The 1944 Education Act changed the education system with England and Wales, which introduced a new system of modern, technical and grammar secondary schools and raised the school leaving age to fifteen. By the end of the Second World War, numbers of children and young people enrolled in the school was declining, which made it difficult to offer a range of new subjects suggested by the Act. Therefore, the charity handed over responsibility for the education of its children and young people to Hertfordshire County Council in 1947. From then on, the charity offered residential and welfare support to their children and young people, who now attended local primary and secondary schools.

The Royal Caledonian Schools closed in 1996. The charity decided to invest the capital generated from the sale to support the education of individual children. All of which led to our charity becoming the Royal Caledonian Education Trust.

The charity had evolved considerably by the turn of the millennium, from providing residential care and schooling to becoming a grant-awarding charity which supported children and young people of Scottish serving personnel and veterans.

The charity experienced considerable demand for financial support from Scottish serving and veteran families to cover many things, from clothing, after-school activities and extra-curricular learning experiences. The charity also provided financial support to young people who enrolled in university and college courses.

A decision was made to become an educational charity in 2010, which supported education professionals better understand and respond to unique challenges faced by children and young people as well as champion good practice in schools.

Much of this work was introduced during the conflict in Afghanistan and, as the charity continued to engage greater number of schools in Scotland, it became clear there was urgent need for co-ordinated action in Scotland to enhance education services for this specific group of children and young people. All of which led to the development and launch the charity’s education and transition services as well as its biannual practitioner conference to reach greater numbers in military and professional sectors.

The team continued to grow within the charity to provide advice, training and resources to help teaching professionals to better understand and support the needs of children from serving and veteran families. Better still, direct support was now provided to children and young people to help them overcome challenges to their education as they moved across different curriculums, when parents moved regularly across the UK.

The charity formally moved its offices from London to Edinburgh in 2016 and continued to work behind the scenes, to develop an ambitious plan to support greater numbers of children and young people in lots of different ways in the future.

Today, we are know known as Forces Children Scotland, and everything to do with our new name was co-produced with our children and young people as well as our staff, supporters and others who work with us through lots of different things.

We continue to do many things which we have done in the past. Our education and transition service, as well as our conference, still provide vital advice, training and resources to support to a wide range of professional sectors and we still provide financial support to young people gaining qualifications at university and college across the United Kingdom.

We continue to support children and young people from Scottish serving, reservist and veteran families, which is something which will never change. Today we also support the children and young people from forces families who aren’t Scottish and currently based in Scotland. We have also extended our support to the wider family, through our Family Support Services.

We have also expanded our what we do for children and young people, which now includes supporting their mental health and wellbeing, and our Youth participation Project provides life-changing opportunities to develop in confidence, learn new skills and forge new friendships through a wide range of projects which focus on shared experience, community and solidarity.

Our Youth Participation Project works closely with our Research and Policy staff to provide a platform for children and young people to amplify their unique experiences to help civilian classmates and friends as well as those supporting them or making important decisions about their future better understand what they’re going through and bring about big changes.

We listen and provide financial assistance, responding to the needs of serving, reservist and veteran families as well as growing numbers of children and young people who are caring for loved ones or members within their local community. We now support young people gaining Modern Apprenticeships qualifications as well as those at university and college.

You might be reading this as a young person or parent from a serving, reservist or veteran family or someone who supports them or makes important decisions about their future. What’s more, you might be interested in supporting our work through regular-giving, community fundraising or through a challenge event.

As you will have read, there’s lots of different ways which we continue to provide vital support to children and young from serving, reservist and veteran families. We hope we have encouraged you get involved as we write the next chapter in our charity’s proud history.