An Oxford academic and RAF Halton wife and mum has received a Vice-Chancellor's Civic Award in a ceremony at which Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was also presented with the Freedom of the City of Oxford.
The award presented to Mrs Joy O’Neill recognised her work and research with Service children which was judged to have demonstrated exceptional achievement in and commitment to volunteering.
Mrs O’Neill, who is studying for a Master of Science (MSc) in Learning and Teaching at Oxford’s Kellogg College, was one of seven recipients of the awards.
Professor Andrew Hamilton, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, said:
It is my great pleasure to present awards to seven students who have made a special contribution as volunteers - and in some cases not just as volunteers but as founders of new voluntary organisations.
Mrs O’Neill is one such founder and is responsible for setting up the Service Children Support Network, a not-for-profit social enterprise which works with schools, education, health and welfare professionals and military charities to support children whose parents are in military service.
With over 2,500 RAF personnel serving in Buckinghamshire, the number of Service children in the county is high. And, with the frequent postings of their parents, Service children often face upheaval and families face the struggle to place their children in the schooling system at each new location.
Mrs O’Neill set out to smooth this process for Service families and initiatives taken forward by the Service Children Support Network have included the introduction of the Pupil Premium in Buckinghamshire which was then rolled out across the country.
This was swiftly followed by a similar initiative for Early Years Providers and Mrs O’Neill and her team also worked on the Transition Passport which is used nationally to smooth the entry process for Service children into schools.
The initiatives began with Halton Community Combined School in 2008. On the doorstep of RAF Halton, around 70 per cent of the school was made up of Service children. In 2011 the school was rated by Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills) as outstanding - a sure measure of Mrs O’Neill’s success in her endeavours.
Ofsted went on to cite Buckinghamshire as one of the most proactive and trailblazing counties in England for support to Service children.
Approaching the end of her MSc, Mrs O’Neill is intending to study for a doctorate.
We’ve done a tremendous amount already but we’re not about to rest on our laurels; we’re constantly looking to move forward and find new intitatives to make the lives of Service children easier.
When asked about her award Mrs O’Neill said:
We were presented with our awards in June. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was there to receive an award and we got to spend the day with her. I sat next to the President of Harvard for lunch and the writer known as John le Carre for tea… so a very, very good day!
Importantly, the work that has been done by Mrs O’Neill and her team in Buckinghamshire is catching the attention of other counties who are keen to emulate the same level of success. With approaches from the USA and Canada there is no doubt that Mrs O’Neill is helping to change the world for Service children.
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