Gosport school’s new community hub will support Royal Navy families

AN INFANT school is helping naval families with the opening of its community support hub.

Thursday, 25th April 2019, 7:54 pm
Updated Thursday, 25th April 2019, 8:03 pm
Commander Jules Philo with some of the children from service families in the new service hub The Bay.
Picture: Sarah Standing (250419-7162)
Commander Jules Philo with some of the children from service families in the new service hub The Bay. Picture: Sarah Standing (250419-7162)

For many families it can be a difficult time when one or both parents are deployed on operational duties. Gomer Infant School has spent £40,000 on a new community building to provide an activity centre, meeting point and support network for their 20 service families.

Executive headteacher Debby Marshall said: ‘The facility will be used for toddlers groups, coffee mornings and after-school and Saturday clubs for parents and children. When parents are deployed on duty it can be emotionally difficult for children and partners. It’s critical to have a support network for children and parents who can empathise with being in the same situation.’

Head of school, Sarah-Jayne Aspland, added: ‘This facility is for parents and families and so today is also about getting feedback as to how else this facility can be used.’

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Commander Jules Philo with some of the children from service families in the new service hub The Bay. Picture: Sarah Standing (250419-7162)

The building, named The Bay, was officially opened by the commanding officer of HMS Sultan, Jules Philo.

Commander Philo said: ‘It’s absolutely thrilling to be here to open this facility which is going to be used by service families and provide a support network for parents and children. When deployed on operation naval personnel can sometimes be away for four to six months. For me, when I went away, it made a huge difference knowing my three children would be cared for at school and that there was a support network for my wife.’

The provision of a mutual support network for families to empathise with the difficulties of being separated has been particularly welcomed by parents.

Helen Watson, whose husband works as a Royal Navy doctor, said: ‘I already use the playgroup for my youngest child and my son, Rupert, attends the after-school club. It is a chance for parents and children in the same situation to support each other. It’s particularly important for children to have the support of their peers and talk to other children whose parents may also work away.’

From left, Commander Jules Philo, Gomer Infant School executive headteacher Debby Marshall, and head of school Sarah-Jayne Aspland Picture: Sarah Standing (250419-7148)

Jamie and Kirsty Richards, who both serve in the navy, added: ‘We use the toddler group and there is also a parent and nurturing support group. It is really important for parents and children to have this support network.’

The community hub has already been running a range of after-school clubs and a Dads Saturday Club.

Evie Bond, aged five, whose mother and father are in the navy, said: ‘I enjoyed meeting the commander and today has been really exciting. I come to service club every fortnight where I really enjoy the games and the colouring-in.’

Classmate, Jack Bretten, also five, added: ‘My dad is in the navy and the best bit about today was talking to the commander about my family. I’m really looking forward to using the hub.’

Jack Bretten and Evie Bond, both five Picture: Sarah Standing (250419-5956)

Half of the construction costs were covered by the school with the remaining £20,000 from an Armed Forces Covenant Grant – financial support for projects that are mutually beneficial to both the forces and civilian community.

Mrs Marshall stressed that the new facility will be used by non-service personnel families.